“Peace, in the Midst of Fear” 03/22/2020

Sermon for Sunday, 03/22/2020

Texts: John 20:19-23

Theme: “Peace, in the Midst of Fear”

One of the expressions I have used quite often in the past few weeks is “uncharted territory.” There is no denying that these are strange and perilous times. Our world as we know it has greatly changed, so much so that we are still trying to figure out and navigate our way. And all of this comes as a result of this unimaginable threat to our lives posed by this deadly virus. Indeed! It is scary.
This is very similar to the experience of the early disciples in our text. For three years, these disciples had left home, families, abandoned their means of living and committed themselves to Jesus. They saw him heal the sick, and raise the dead, making them to build their hope in him, but right before their very eyes, their Master was shamefully arrested, falsely accused, mockedly tried, wrongly convicted, and criminally executed. The world as the disciples knew it, changed immediately. Their hope was crushed. Everything was now different.
In addition to the irreparable loss they sustained thru the death of their Master, was also the threat to their lives, resulting into deep fear and uncertainly.
Church, anytime our safety and security is threatened, when we become vulnerable to something that has the potential to end our life, our natural human response is fear.
That is why in his book, The Denial of Death, the renowned American cultural anthropologist and author, Ernest Becker writes, “The idea of death, and the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else.”
And these disciples were no exception. The threats to their lives were real. The Jewish authorities who had handed over their Master to be crucified were still out there. They had been with Jesus in public and were recognizable, as evidenced by the little girl’s identification of Peter at the fire, saying, “He was with him,” prompting Peter’s denial (Luke 22:56). The disciples were terrified.
That is why our text this morning puts it so succinctly, “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples met were locked for fear of the Jews,……”
Like these early disciples, we too find ourselves in a perilous time. Like them, there is a real threat to our lives. A disease, an unseen enemy, is taking lives in the tens, hundreds and thousands, and it has the potential to take ours as well.
When we listen to the death toll, the age range, the underlying health effects, and even now that the virus has begun to defy early scientific findings by taking the lives of young people, we are gripped by fear.
And let me say that fearing for your life in this crisis does not make you a faithless Christian. It does not mean that you don’t have the Holy Spirit, or the anointing; it does not mean you don’t believe in the power of God. What it means is that you too are human, and this is what it means to be human, just like the early disciples.
No wonder why when Jesus entered behind the locked doors, he did not rebuke the disciples, for he understood their fear. He knew that what they needed most were words of comfort and assurance. Thus, his first words to them were, “Peace be with you.” And This is exactly what you and I need most right now.
We need the peace Christ offers, in the midst of our fear. And let me say that this does not mean that the virus will instantly vanish; for Jesus’ peace is more than the absence of threat to our lives. This peace, God’s “shalom” is more than that. It gives us wholeness; restoration; hope, health and inner peace, even in the midst of our crisis.
Someone might be saying, “Albert, how can I be at peace, when I fall into the population at risk, or when the stock market is crushing, and I am losing all my investments. Aren’t you following the news?”
“I get it and the last thing I want to do is to underestimate the effect of this crisis on the life of anyone. But I tell you what! That there is life, laughter and smile beyond crisis. I say this not just based upon a book that I have read, or story that I was told, but as real life experience of a survival of a brutal civil war, who lost everything except my life and the rag on my back on that fateful day. But today as I look around, I can testify through the grace of the Almighty, that there will still be life, laughter and joy for us. when the dust settles.
Once again, I get it; that there may be different variables at play in different situations, but the hard truth is that as human beings, there are just some things at some point in life, that you and I won’t have control over, and at those moments, the best we can do, is to let go, and let God take charge.
Remember, “weeping may come through the night, but joy comes in morning (Proverbs 30:5b)”
It is my prayer that each of us listening or reading this message, will live, and smile and laugh again, when all is said and done. And that is when we all shall have been sustained by Christ’s Peace, even in the midst of our current fear.
As I close this morning, let me ask you of two things: Pray and heed the advice of our medical personnel on the frontline. “As they stay on the frontline for us, let us stay home for them”
God bless you.

“On Beyond” 03/08/2020

Sermon for Sunday, 03/08/2020

Texts: Genesis 12:1-4a; John 3:1-17

Theme: “On Beyond”

The title of our sermon this morning is borrowed from Dr. Seuss’ first book, “On Beyond Zebra!” In this story for kids, Conrad Cornelius o’ Donald o’ Dell is learning how to spell.
His friend and teacher begins with the first alphabet, “A”, and Conrad knows it is for “Ape. The friend moves on to “B” and Conrad also knows it is for Bear, and C is for Camel. Conrad knows further that H is for Hare and M for Mouse. The teacher then moves onto R, and Conrad has no problem knowing that it is for Rat, and he rejoice with these words, “I know all the twenty-six letters like that…. through to Z is for Zebra. I know them all. I know everything everyone knows. From beginning to end. From start to the close, because Z is as far as the alphabet goes.”
But just then, Conrad almost fell on his face on the floor when his friend picks up the chalk and draws one more letter, a letter Conrad never dreamed of before.
Then Conrad’s friend says to him, “You can stop, if you want, with Z. Because most people stop with the Z, but not me!” He continues, “In the places I go, there are things that I see that I never could spell if I had stopped with Z. I’m telling you this because you’re one of my friends. My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends.”
In the biblical stories before us, God, the Father and Jesus Christ, the Son, are taking both Abram and Nicodemus on beyond what seems to be a dead end.
Genesis 12 is a transitional passage; it transitions from a messed-up state of things. God’s perfect creation in Genesis 1 & 2, had been decimated and the aftermath continues up to chapter 11. Sin had ruined the whole creation and humans, the crown of the God’s creation had been cursed and expelled from God’s presence. It’s like everything had collapsed.
Then comes Genesis 12, a pivot on which God’s salvific plans for us turns. God takes the initiative and moves on beyond the Fall, and calls a single individual, Abram, to embark upon a journey.
This man is seventy-five. He is not thinking about embarking upon a journey. If anything, he is now looking into the rear mirror of life, yet God called him to take a step on beyond his home, his family and comfort zone. Abram’s journey will eventually lead to the salvation of the whole world. It would lead to the repair of the damage done in the Garden of Eden and restore broken humanity back to God. He would be a blessing to many; for he became the instrument through whom God initiated his redemptive plan.
On our spiritual journey, sometimes we set our cutoff point. We set how many times we would attend service monthly or yearly, and/or how much money we give to support the ministry, or how much service we provide, and no more.
You may be one of those who, for example, who may hold the position that only Sunday morning worship is mine to attend, when I have chance. Nothing else! But the truth is, God has no cut off point for us, as long we are alive. When we think we have reached our Z, God invites us to move on beyond.
The same can be said of Nicodemus in our gospel reading this morning. As a leading religious teacher of the Jews, he must have felt that he had learned and knew all there was to know about God. All he wanted to be told by Jesus was what he needed to do to earn his way heaven. But Jesus challenged Nicodemus and even challenges us this morning, that divine truth is not static.
The fact that this learned teacher was puzzled by Jesus assertion, that “ no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again” is an indication that no matter how old we are, or how long we have been on our Christian journey, and how much we think we already know about God, God still has something to teach us. God is still inviting us to take us beyond where we are.
This is why the Apostle Paul could write these words, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. “
God is reaching out and inviting us each day, especially during this Lent. Would you heed his call as Abram, or would open yourself up to what God has to teach us through his word? Would you move beyond your Z? For on God’s journey, Z is not the final alphabet. We must go on beyond.
Farther on in this story, Conrad’s friend tells him, “If you stay home with Zebra, you are stuck in a rut,” but “when you go beyond Zebra, …. There’s no telling what wonderful things you might find yourself spelling.”
Lent is a time when we embark upon a journey with Christ; a journey that must take us beyond our normal spiritual endpoint. It is a time that calls upon us to carry out spiritual disciplines, like, Prayer, Fasting, Bible Reading/Meditation, Worship and Helping the needy.
Quite frankly, these spiritual disciplines may not be our regular practices, but during this time of Lent, we are invited to move on beyond our normal limit. It’s a season to spend time with God and allow his spirit to work in and through us.
“In the places I go, there are things that I see. That I never could spell if I had stopped with the Z.”
We might never fully be who God intends for us to be if we just remain within the fences, we have built around ourselves. God wants us to step outside of our comfort zone. Step out. Come to Lenten service on Wednesday, though it may be beyond your terrine. But come!
Remember, “when you go beyond Z, there is no telling what wonderful things you might find ourselves spelling.”
Move beyond your usual limit and let God take hold of you during this season.
God bless you.

“Our Journey of Loss, Pain, Grief and Healing # 1” 03/01/2020

Sermon for Sunday, 03/10/2019

Text: 2nd Samuel 12;15-23 Luke 16:16-20;

Theme: “Our Journey of Loss, Pain, Grief and Healing # 1”

We are now in Lent, a forty-day period (besides Sundays) when Jesus Christ journeys to the cross. During this time, Jesus will experience moments of loneliness, isolation, betrayal, false accusation an unjust trial, torture, execution, but at the end, he will be restored and victorious. We too go through similar journey from time to time.
In this four-week sermon series entitled: Our Journey of Loss, pain, Grief and Healing, “I invite us to journey with Jesus during this Lenten Season as we capture and recapture our personal journeys of Loss, Pain, Grief and then healing and restoration.
As human beings we were wired to attach. We are attached to the people we love and care about, and vice versa. They include our family, and friends and the many others who surround us. Not only humans but we are also attached to things: our homes, our pets our vehicles, our cell phone, our jewelry, our kid’s toys, and every other thing we love and assemble around us.
Whenever we loss a person attached to us, we are hurt, and we grieve. This also goes for material loss. Although human beings must take precedence over materials, we grieve over the loss of things we love, because God has given the material world to us to enjoy. That is why in the book, All Our Losses; All Our Griefs, Mitchell & Anderson write, “Our attachment to objects is an affirmation of our linkage with the whole of creation given to us by God as a sacred trust. To be human is to be griever of all kinds of loss, they write.
We see this in the passages that were read this morning. In 2nd Samuel 12:15-23, David, the most favored and powerful King of Israel, the man after God’s own heart, is down flat on the ground grieving because his son with Bathsheba is sick and at the point of death. David is about to lose someone he dearly loves.
Grief resulting from loss does not spare anyone, regardless one’s status. It brings us down to our knees and puts a hole in our heart.
The text says the elders came and tried to talk to David to get up from the ground, but David won’t. He would not eat or even have his bath.
Likewise, in our gospel today, Jesus is preparing the disciples for his death. He tells them, that in a little while, they will lose him. When the disciples ask what he means, he tells them, after a while, you will not see me, and you will weep. In the last sentence, he says “you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.”
Grief is not a sign of weakness as some may think. It is our emotional response to loss of someone or something we love and value.
Some of us here this morning have lost love ones: our spouse, dad, mom, other family, and dear friends. We have lost cherished relationship through divorce or death. For those of you married and are in church this morning with your spouse, one of you will one day lose the one seating beside you this morning. In his book, A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis writes, “When two people marry, each one has to accept that one of them will die before the other.” This affirms our mortality.
When we experience loss, whether human or material or relationship, it alters the landscape of our life. We begin a journey from that point of loss, to pain, through grief and then arrive at healing. But is depends on how we respond to our loss.
In the book, A Grace Disguised, Jerry Sittser tells us that, “it is not the experience of loss that becomes the defining moment of our lives; it is how we respond to the loss that matters.”
Let’s look at David’s case. When the servants saw that the boy had died, they could not break the news. But when David saw them whispering, he asked them. “Is the child dead?” They said yes. David got up from the ground, took his bath, changed his clothes, went into the temple and worshipped. He then went into the house, sat at the dining table and began to eat. The servants were shocked. They asked him, “Why are you acting this way? When the child was still alive, you wept and would not eat, but now that he is dead, you get up and eat?”
David’s response is very important this for us morning. He replied, “While the child was still alive, I fasted, I wept. I thought the LORD would be gracious to me and let the child live. But now that the child is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back? From David’s response, let’s draw two important lessons about death and grief. The first is that death is inevitable. Those we love and care about will someday leave us no matter what. Due to our desire to still be attached to them, we may pray, fast, vow to make amends, but when the time reaches, we will lose them. This can be hard to take for some people. It causes them to get angry at God and even abandon their faith. Some blame themselves that if they had just done this or done that, the person who would not have died. But the Bible reminds us that there is a time for everything; a time to be born and a time to die. But the good news is we will see them again. Death for us is a transition to another form of life. The second truth in David’s response is that loss through death is irreversible. He asks the servants the rhetorical question, “Can I bring him back?”
On this journey, this is the stage of Acceptance. It is when we accept the reality that, “yes, mom is gone; or dad is gone; yes, I am now a widow, or a widower, or accepting that your job is no more, or you are now finally retired, or my house is mine no more, or this relationship or the marriage has ended. Don’t live in denial.
But we don’t arrive at this point so easily because we were wired to be attached. It takes a whole journey, not a trip. There is a difference between the two. A journey has a beginning and a destination, and all along the way, we are being shaped by different experiences that help make us a better and stronger when we finally arrive. If we don’t embark upon this journey and travel it well, we may never arrive at the point of healing from our loss. When we do, we experience healing.
Jesus told his disciple, you will grieve but after a while, you will have joy. This is so because we are not alone on this journey. God is with us at every point of our journey, although sometimes he seems distant. But he’s not. That is why David could write, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no even, for the LORD is with me.” God is with us on this journey.
Some of you have traveled this lonely journey, and some of us will in time to come. I therefore urge you to stick with me for the next three weeks as we journey together on this series that takes us from the point of Loss to Healing.
God bless you.

“Held to a Higher Standard” 02/23/2020

Sermon for Sunday, 02/23/2020

Text: Matthew 5:17-30

Theme: “Held to a Higher Standard”

Does anyone here have a relative or a close friend who is an Adventist? I asked because perhaps that person could bear me witness this morning.
For a brief period my religious upbringing was associated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church, because the earliest missionaries of the SDA Church to Liberia started their work near the Barchue’s home territory. As a result, many of my dad’s family are Adventists. That includes some two to three years of the early stage of my life.
The SDA Church tends to observe the Jewish Laws very closely. I am sure this is the case with Adventists in the US. We did not eat catfish and all fish without scales. We didn’t eat pork and all animals with hooves. From 6:00 PM Friday to 6:00 PM Saturday, no one could go to the creek to get drinking water, even if it meant death from thirst of a person, because it was the Sabbath.

This rigid demand for the Law was a constant source of conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders of his time. The Jews held that the Law was divine, and that in it, God had said his last word. They argued that out of the Law, it must be possible to deduce rules and regulations for every possible situation in life. So, they produced over six hundred laws from the Law God gave them.

First instance they took the Fourth Commandment which tells us to labor in six days and refrain from work on the seventh day, because it is the Sabbath onto the Lord. The scribes would ask themselves, “what then constitutes work? They would go on listening all the acts in their minds that constitute work. An example was, one could not lift a child and carry him on your shoulders. That would be a violation of the fourth commandment. By the time of Jesus, the Law had become a burden for the people.
For the Jews, what mattered most was adhering to the do’s and don’ts written in the code, but for Jesus, what matters is God’s purpose for the law, which is for us to live in harmony with God and with each other.
For instance, when his hungry disciples picked some grains to eat on the Sabbath, in Mark 2:23 ff, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” In part of his response, Jesus told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” This means that the Law was sent by God for the good of human beings. We were not created to be objects of the Law.

When Jesus healed the crippled woman on the Sabbath, in Luke 13:10ff, the leader of the Synagogue warned, “There are six days for work. So, come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath. “In part of his rebuke to them, he said,” Does not each of you untie your donkey on the Sabbath? What more about this woman who is also a daughter of Abraham that Satan had kept bound for eighteen years to be set free on the Sabbath.”

The way Jesus treats the issue of the Law , coupled with Paul writings, that “we are no longer under the Law but under grace(Romans 6:14) has made some Christians to wrongly believe and act as though a Christians can live anyhow he or she chooses. It sounds like we Christians now have no moral obligation when it comes to God’s Law.

But to the contrary, Jesus tells us in this text, that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Therefore, you and I still stand accountable before God to live right in keeping with God’s. What the Law does not do is that it is no longer the precondition to be accepted by God. Grace is, through faith in Christ. But when it comes to obeying God’s Law, we are expected to do so. In fact, Jesus raises the bar for us. He tells us that unless our righteousness exceeds the Pharisees and Scribes, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Once again, the Pharisees and Scribes were only concerned with the outward action. But for Christ, harming someone does not reside only in the commission of the physical violent act, but our inward attitude toward the person is also under scrutiny. This is a new Standard, a higher standard that Christ holds us to.

We may not physically murder a person, but our angry and dehumanizing words can be equally damaging. Sometimes we make the excuse, by saying “but I haven’t killed anyone.” Yes, you have not struck anyone dead, but Christ says that your words, especially angry words can be equally harmful and damaging to someone’s life, and for this, we are held accountable.
Proverbs 18: 21 says “Life and death are in the power of the tongue. But it’s no secret that in today’s world of Social Media, it’s no longer only spoken words that do harm. Written words are dangerous as well.

I guess we all have heard the terms, “cyber bully”

A new study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying and 10 to 14-year-old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide. This is where we are guilty of murder, when our words ruin or destroy someone’s life.

The same goes for adultery. Jesus said ‘you have heard in time of old, that thou shall not commit adultery, but that is not enough. I say to you, If you desire in your heart to go after a woman that belongs to someone else and convince yourself that that is the right thing to do, you are already guilty, whether you carry it your plan or not.

Hay, if you love your brother as you love yourself, Christ is saying not only is the act of sexual relations with his wife prohibited, but the thought should not even be entertained. It should not even cross your mind.

This is the righteousness that surpasses the righteousness of the pharisees and scribes. This is the higher standard to which Christ holds us. This is the fulfillment the Law, which will make us live in harmony with one another.

God bless you.

“Choose Life” 02,16,2020

Sermon for Sunday, 02,16,2020

Theme: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Theme: “Choose Life”

I want you to imagine this morning that today or the next few days being your last here on earth, and there you find yourself surrounded by those you love and care about. What would be your last words to them? Will you encourage or challenge them? What would you say to your wife, kids, grand kids, other family and friends and others who know and believe in you?

Sensing that his death was near based upon the threats and attempts on his life, Martin Luther King, Jr., the renowned civil rights leader, on April 3, 1968, spoke these final prophetic words to his fellow African Americans fighting for racial justice.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop…..And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land…. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

On April 4, the very next day following these words, Martin Luther was assassinated.

Like Luther several centuries after, our text this morning consists of Moses’ final words to the Israelites. For forty years, Moses had led them through thick and thins. He had watched the entire generation that left Egypt die out gradually because of their lack of faith. So, this message was addressed to a second generation of Israelites. They were the children of those who left Egypt.
In this sermon “The Great Farewell Address of Moses,” as one of my commentaries calls it, which covers Deut. 29, 30, Moses reminded the Israelites of how God had been faithful to them, and how God had won great victories, provided and sustained them over those forty year. He reminded them of how God has given them the Ten Commandments and other Laws, and explained God’s expectation of them, and told them obeying those laws was the key to their success in the Promised Land. He told them that they would live long and prosper if they obey. But he also warned them of the consequences, if they disobey and went after other gods. That would mean death and destruction for them.

Now in the concluding part of this long sermon, (30:15-20), which is our text this morning, Moses is standing and looking across at the Promised Land, and looking back at those forty years as he recounted all that God had done for them.

Do you look back at your life at times to see how far God has brought you? In the midst of all the challenges, health and otherwise, here you are here today. In Liberia we say that you are still being counted among the living. Sometimes in order to appreciate the present and be grateful, it takes a moment of reflection. You probably want to look back at those moments when you or your love one was on that hospital bed, wondering if you or your spouse would ever make it, but here are you today. Looking back at my own life is our source of strength on my faith journey.

The first part of our text (v.15-17), focuses on choice and promise. He tells them, “See today, I set before your life and prosperity, and death and adversity. If you obey the LORD’s commandments, by walking in his ways, then you shall live and prosper in the land you are about to crossover to, but if your hearts turn away from God and follow other gods, then death destruction will be upon you.

Moses tells the Israelites that look, you have a freedom of choice, given to you by God, but know that your choice has consequence. I call upon heaven and earth to be our witnesses, that today, I have set before you, life and death, blessing and course.

Every day, we face choices. From restaurant menu, to grocery shopping list, from private school voucher to health care, to political platforms. We are a people inundated with choices. Therefore, a text like this may challenge our cherished value of freedom and autonomy and even present God as an autocrat. But no! God’s law especially the Ten Commandments, is not a burden; it’s not ordinance of a dictatorial God bending us to his well, nor is it so much about personal perfection, as it is about a covenant relationship with God and our relationship with one another.

God’s intention is that the Israelites and even we today will live in covenant relationship with him, which calls for loving God and loving others. Every time we disobey God whether by neglecting him and choosing something else above God, or when we, for instance, violate our marital covenant with our spouse, we fracture our relationship with God and with one another and there is a consequence.

Therefore, in his concluding lines, Moses urged the Israelites and urges us today, to choose life. We choose life by loving the LORD our God, by walking in his ways, and holding fast to Him. And the fact that we are urged to choose life is an indication that God’s desire for us is to be blessed and not cursed, to have life and not death.

Choosing life calls for obedience to God’s Law, which Jesus summarized into only two: “Love our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind.” And the complementary law to this is, “is to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

We choose life when we worship God regularly with all of your heart, pray genuinely, love and serve our church, and believe that God’s loves US. We choose life when we give to the poor and needy, care for the hurting, treat others fairly, share our food with the hungry and give clothes to the naked.

Therefore, as you leave from here this morning, remember that God, through the words of Moses, is urging us this morning to choose life.

God bless you.

“Our Identity and Role in this World” 02/09/2020

Sermon for Sunday, 02/09/2020

Text: Matthew 5:13-20

Theme: “Our Identity and Role in this World”

Quite often when a question of the identity of a person is asked, at the time our first response is the person’s name, but name does not say a lot to a person who does not know the person he or she is about. At times the second thing that is stated about the person in question is connection with someone that is known by the inquirer. For examples, he is Joe’s brother. But the most important aspect that says something more about a person’s identity is his or role or function.
For example: he is a medical doctor, or a teacher, or a minister, or a teacher. Our role gives a bigger of picture of who we are. It says more about our place in the society or the world at large.
So, when Jesus told his disciples, and by extension, you and me, that “we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, what did that really mean? Note that he did not say, you should be, or you ought to be, but you are. He says, “you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” This is a metaphor. Certainly, he did not mean that we are shakers sitting on the kitchen counter or on the dining table, or that we will be a light bulb hanging in the garage.
Jesus meant more than that. He used these two images: salt and light to tell us who we are and what our role is in our community and the world at large. It applies to us both as a community of faith and as an individual Christian.
By saying, “we are the salt of the earth, Jesus means that we have several crucial functions, as did salt during his, Jesus, but for the sake of time, let me lift up only two that are relevant to our time.

  1. Salt was used and is used for preservation
    In ancient times, salt was used to keep things from going bad. We in Liberia like many places where there is not much access to refiguration, use salt and heat from the sun or fire to preserve fish or meat. Without salt, many things would rot and decay.
    Talking about salt as preservative, Plutarch writes, “meat is a dead body and part of dead body, and will, if left to itself, go bad, but salt preserves it and keeps it fresh, and is therefore like a new soul inserted into a dead body.”
    Therefore, when Jesus calls us the salt of the earth, he means that we his followers must have some antiseptic influence in life and society in general. Jesus means you and I must be the cleansing antiseptic wherever we find ourselves. We must be the person whose presence defeats corruption and makes it easier for others to be good.
    In our current age where the values from older generations have come under question, in an age of moral relativism, Christ calls us to be the salt that prevents things from going bad.
    The second which is the most important role of salt in all times is to give flavor so that the tasteless will be tasty. Imagine what your meal will taste without salt is what our world would be without Christians.

This was not too different from the time

fish and meat in the absence of refiguration.

Light does not keep its own illumination.

  1. This image is suggestive that Jesus gave his early disciples, and by extension, all of us, a distinctive capacity to elicit goodness

identity, through our role and function in this world. In short, Jesus has told us through these words, who we are and what our role in our community and the world around us.
By saying we are of the earth, Jesus meant three things.

response but names don’t say much about us to someone who does not know us and really want to. Sometimes the next thing that follows is a link or connection of the person being asked about to someone who is known. Oh! He is Nelson’s son, or Sarah’s sister. But the most common and powerful means of telling our identity is our role, our function, or what is it that we do. She is a doctor, or he is a university professor, or a banker, and so on.
This is exactly how Jesus tells the identity of his followers. In the gospel lesson just read, Jesus tells us who we are and what our place or role is in our community and in our world, despite all that is happening around us. He says we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In these words. When Jesus described us as salt, he did not mean that we are shaker of salt sitting on the kitchen canter or on the dining room table waiting to be pour into food.
He was letting all Christians know of their irreplaceable or indispensable role on this earth. He was letting us know how much the world will depends on us; how crucial our role is as a Christian and as a church. He was telling us that we had to maintain who we are and not get lost among the many different tastes that are being made available.
Now, let’s consider how important salt is to us now and in ancient. One would say that the most important use of

We can get to the crucial role Christ as given us when we explore the use of salt, not just in our time, but in ancient times, especially at the time Christ was written.

Jesus tells our place and our role, and indispensable one too, in this word.

In the first description, Jesus says “we are the salt of the earth.” He did not say the salt in the ……………. On someone’s dinner room table, but the salt of the earth.

e person does. He is a doctor; or a banker, or a minister. This tells of the person’s role or his or her function.

One of the pertinent questions we human beings are faced with is the question of identity. The question of identity is easier to answer when asked by someone else, than when it is a self- asked question, like “who am I?” Knowing our identity is closely linked with knowing our place or our role in wheresoever we find ourselves. As a result, this is a question that people have struggled with for ages.

In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, tells us who we are, and from that, it’s easy to tell what our role is on this earth. Like he always did, Jesus used two metaphors to tell our identity: The salt of the earth, and the Light of the World.

These two metaphors tells us how indispensable we are to God’s creation.

A title is called but it gives the role we perform, or things we do.

Theme: “Our Identity and Role in this Broken World”

It defines who we are called to be in this community and God’s world

What the world is like? And why the world needs salt and light?

Scripture teaches us that the world is God’s creation.

“The Art of Following Jesus” 01/26/2020

Sermon for Sunday, 01/26/2020

Text: Matthew 4:12-23

Theme: “The Art of Following Jesus”

The expression “following someone” literally means to walk, drive or to travel, behind someone. But in our day of social media, the word has taken on a cheap meaning. It now means to have access to the persons posts, without any obligation to them.
But when Jesus called his disciples and told them to follow him, he meant more than just walking with, or behind him, or having access to his twitter feed or Instagram, if he were here today. When Jesus told his disciples, “Follow Me,” he was calling them to what Dag Heward-Mills calls “The Art of Following.
In his book, “The Art of Following,” Dag defines this expression as, copying, emulating, imitating, or trying to be like someone.
Hence, Paul’s advice to the believers in Philippi, found in Philippians 3:17, “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. (NLT). This is the art of following Paul.
When Jesus called his early disciples, and by extension, you and me, he called them and us, to copy, to emulate, to imitate or to pattern our lives after him. He called us to something very radicle that he himself started.

Verse 12 to 17 of our text tells us that when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been put in prison, he left his home Nazareth, moved to Galilee, and made his home at Capernaum. This was not cowardice, but a radicle and strategic move. It was radicle in the sense that Jesus left his familiar surroundings, his comfort zone, and ventured into the unknown.
Strategic in the sense that Galilee was a center of diverse people, including many Gentiles, who would most likely be receptive to new and bold ideas. These were people who had been detected by orthodox Jews. This was a clear indication that Jesus came as a universal savior.
The text says that Jesus’s presence brought light into that territory; for “the people who had long dwelled in darkness, saw a great light.” Jesus’ presence in Galilee fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah 9. His presence was the dawning of a new day for the people. Our presence anywhere should bring light.
There in Galilee, Jesus launched his ministry, calling people to repentance. Repentance for its part, is more than remorse or guilt. It is a revamping of life and reorientation of choices and decisions. Only the presence of God through Christ, can make this change possible in life of the person.
To this task, Jesus called others, including us, to join him on this mission. From verse 18-22, he called two sets of brothers: Simon, called Peter and Andrew, then James and his brother, John. He called them, not just to follow, but he called them to the art of following him. That meant to copy, emulate, imitate him.
This means the disciples had to make a radical decision. They turned their backs on their homes, left their lucrative fishing profession, family and friends. They were demonstrating the art of following Jesus who had given up everything and would eventually give up his life for others. This is the art of following Jesus.
This is what we too are called to. Sounds tough and scary, but it requires each of us to step back from something and embrace what Christ calls us to. He told the disciples, “I will make you fishers of men.”
What have you stepped back from since following Christ? What have you given up? What are you willing to sacrifice? Following Christ is a radicle decision that we make, whether we realize it or not.
But let me say this. Not all of us are called to be a Melville B. Cox, the North Carolinian Prelate who left his comfortable home here and took up assignment as the first Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary in Africa, (Liberia), and planted the Methodist faith. Cox died of malaria within four months of his arrival in March 1833. As your fellow United Methodist, I stand here today as a living testimony and fruit of the seed Melville Cox planted in Africa/Liberia over 187 years ago.
And not all of us are called to be a Mother Theresa, who left her relatively wealthy family in Eastern Europe, took a vow to serve the poor and moved to India, where she dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor, the sick and the dying. Not all of us is prepared to go to this length
But in our art of following Christ, each of us has been called to copy, emulate, and imitate Jesus Christ. We are called to follow the example of Jesus, mostly by loving others.
Love is the center of the Christian faith. Love of God and love of our fellow human beings. While some of us may be able to go an extra mile to show this love beyond our borders, many of us can do so right here and now by loving and caring for the poor and needy of our community.
Programs like “Feed A Neighbor,” Keep Kids Warm, our Summer Bag Lunch, the Baby Bottles, etc, are means through which we demonstrate our Art of Following Jesus.
This love is not just sentimental. In the art of following Jesus, this love gets our hands messy for others at times. It took Jesus to the cross; it must cost you something. It is through this, that we are known as true followers of Christ.
As you leave from here this afternoon, remember, you are not just a follower of Christ, but one called to demonstrate the art of following Christ, through our love and service to others.
God bless you.

“At the Font, We Signed Up for Something” 01/12/2020

Sermon for Sunday, 01/12/2020

Texts: Acts 10:34-44; Matthew 3:13-17

Theme: “At the Font, We Signed Up for Something”

We come to talk about our baptism and its implications for us as followers of Christ. This is a very important subject of our faith; so important to the extent that we are often reminded, “To Remember our Baptism”. But quite often, what follows the baptism of many of us Christians suggests quite the opposite.
The common mistaken notion that many of us hold about our baptism is captured in this story about Kyle, a 5th grader and his family, who came to a congregation. They attended church sporadically, so pastor Rodgery was more than a little surprised when Kyle and his parents agreed for him to join the other 9th graders for confirmation class. He and his parents came for the orientation meeting and agreed to the covenant to participate in two retreats, a mission activity, work with mentor, and weekly classes for study and exploration. Kyle was serious in attending and missed class or events rarely. He quickly became a significant part of the group and developed some wonderful friendships with the other 9th graders who barely knew him. Since Kyle had not been baptized, he was not only confirmed, but also baptized on that Pentecost Sunday. It was a marvelous celebration for all the confirmands, their families and their mentors.
But, according to Pastor Rodgery, when she missed the kids in the weeks that followed and started checking on them, she writes, “they all seemed surprised that I was calling and checking up on them.” She continues, “I distinctively remember Kyle’s mom saying, Oh, well, I guess I thought Kyle was all done. I mean he was baptized and confirmed and everything. Isn’t he done?”
Here lies the problem. Too many of us seem to think that the baptism of an infant, or young adult or an adult is the culminating activity of faith and then we are done. No! We are not done; It’s just beginning; we, at this point, are now signing up for something. At least this is the understanding we get from our gospel reading this morning. The baptism of Jesus Christ was not the end of his ministry, but rather the beginning.
Like Jesus, when we are baptized, God recognizes and takes ownership of us. He says, “this is my son; this is my daughter.” Then he sends down his Holy Spirit upon us, to empower us for his mission here on earth.
Following his baptism, in chapter 4, that follows our text, Jesus was taken to the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and forty nights and was tempted by the devil. Right after that, Jesus began his ministry by first calling his disciples.
Luke’s version of the gospel recalls that after his temptation, Jesus, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, returned to Galilee, and report about him spread, as he began to teach, in their synagogues, and was praised by everyone.
In our passage of Acts 10, it’s Peter’s testimony of Jesus’ ministry; that after being anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus traveled around doing good and healing everyone who was sick. Then he finally gave his life for you and me. This was what Christ signed up for.
Similarly, at the font, we too assigned up for something; we signed up for a mission, God’s mission.
The church has done well in summarizing the things we signed for:
-To renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world and repent of our sins.
-To accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
-To remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representative in the world.
Being Christ’s representatives means we are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, to continue the work of Jesus in our community.
But the unfortunate thing about the church today is that so many of sign up at the font, only to leave or watch from a distance.
The findings of research conducted by the Pew Research Center a few years ago found that only 22% of American Christians attend worship regularly; 25% seldomly and 28% never attend.
We can never carryout the mission of Christ we signed up for at the font in this manner. Continuity is the hallmark of the Christian life. That is why Jesus said,
“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). Being baptized and confirmed is not a status we obtain, but a mission we sign up for.
May you continue to remember your baptism and fulfill the task it places before you.
God bless you.

“Blessed for A Purpose” 01/05/2020

Sermon for Sunday, 01/05/2020

Texts: Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18

Theme: “Blessed for A Purpose”

Many stories have been written over the years about people who had great means of wealth, yet they lived and some even died in poverty. It wasn’t that they did not want to use what they had, but they just weren’t aware of what they had.
This is what Paul tries to prevent from happening to us, Christians. In this book of Ephesians, Paul unveils the encompassing resources and richness is at our disposal. It is intended to prevent us from living in spiritual poverty by making us aware of the richness God has made available to us through Jesus Christ.
From the very first chapter, especially in our text, we encounter this message. Here Paul begins to unveil God’s bountiful blessings to us when we writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
The Christian is not bankrupt nor ought to live in spiritual poverty, because God has poured upon us every spiritual blessing through Jesus Christ.
The first blessing we see in this text is that God chose us; then he predestined us to be his children, and in him we have redemption. This redemption is found through no other means but only through the blood of Jesus. We then experience the forgiveness of sin, according to the richness of God’s grace.
Quoting the words of William Barclay, who writes, “There are certain things which a man can discover by himself; but there are certain things which are beyond his obtaining. A man by himself can acquire certain skills, can achieve a certain position, can amass a certain amount of this world’s goods, but by himself he cannot save himself. These spiritual blessings are beyond our ability to obtain.
God’s calling, choosing, adoption, redemption and forgiveness are all God’s rich heavenly blessing to us, but God does not bless us just for blessing’s sake. God blesses us and saves us for a purpose, and that is to be his representatives in this world.
There are two ways we are called be this. The first, according to this text, we must live a holy and blameless life.
The words, “holy and blameless” mainly refer to our relationship with God. Blameless for example, comes from the Greek word,”amomos”, and It relates to sacrifice. According to Jewish law, before an animal was sacrificed, it had to be inspected and if any defect was found on it, it was rejected as unfit as offering. Only the best was fit as offering to God.
When this word “blameless” refers to us Christians, it means not only what you give to God, but you as a whole person are an offering to God. It means that every part of your life, work, pleasure, sport, home life, personal relationship must be an acceptable offering to God.
The second purpose of God’s blessing to us is to make Christ known to the world, by bearing witness of him as John the Baptist did in our gospel. Our gospel said John himself was not the light, but he came to bear witness of the Light, Jesus Christ. This is why God calls and blesses us.
But closely linked to these spiritual blessings are also God’s day to day blessings upon us. Like our many spiritual blessings, so is being alive each day, let alone for 365 days is not our achievement. Just how God has saved from the power of sin and eternal death through the work of Christ, he also saved and brought us through into a New Year.
It’s never by chance or luck that we made it through last year. It is God’s doing; it is God’s mercy; it is God grace. Just look back and imagine the many family and friends who did not cross over, but God brought us across
This is not because of our perfection, or that we are better than those who have gone ahead, but it is because of God’s grace made available to us. It because God is not done with us yet; And the reason? Perhaps you still have a charge to keep and a God to glorify; perhaps you have not finished your course or completed your race set before you. This is the purpose of God’s blessings upon us.
Therefore, none of us can lay a claim to God’s blessings upon us. He bestows them upon us based upon his love for us and he does this, so we can serve him in this world.
Let me conclude with one of my favorite Psalms, 116:12-14,17, which sums up this whole message. This Psalmist begins by asking himself a question that we too should be asking ourselves:
“12 What shall I render unto the LORD for all his blessings toward me?
Then he finds the answer in the flowering verses.

13 I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD.
14 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.
17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD

May we leave this place, thankful for all that God has done for us, with the resolve to consider this new year as another opportunity to serve the One who has blessed us so abundantly.

God bless you.

“Our World After Christmas” 12/29/2019

Sermon for Sunday, 12/29/2019

Texts: Isaiah 63:7-9; Matthew 2:16-2

Theme: “Our World After Christmas”

I want to begin with a story of a woman who wrote in exasperation to the editor of her newspaper demanding to know why the media always publish negative and sad stories during the Christmas holiday. As she points out, “Christmas is supposed to be a happy, joyous time.”
Yes, Christmas is usually a Happy and Joyful time for many; it’s a time when everything looks and feels different. We were just gathered with family and friends, sharing sumptuous meals, exchanging memorable gifts and having lively conversations and cheerful laughter, as the sounds of marvelous carols echoed in our ears. We have felt the glow of twinkling lights, of glimpses of angels fluttering overhead, and we also heard the announcement of peace and joy on earth.
But while some of us are still trying to take down our decorations and others like me still have them up, we awoke yesterday morning to the shocking news of a massive car bomb blast that ripped through the city of Mogadishu, Somalia, leaving 79 dead and 149 injured. These were ordinary folks like you and me starting their day. This is not the type of news we want to hear after Christmas.
But the fact remains that Christmas has not changed everything overnight. Our World after Christmas remains a sinful, broken, and cruel world. A cruelty that did not spare even Jesus, the Savior, who was born just few days ago.
This is the vital lesson that our gospel reading brings to us this morning. In this text that actually begins at verse 13, the angel informs Joseph to take the child Jesus and the mother Mary to Egypt, because Herod, who had learned of the significance of Jesus’ birth, had felt threatened and was about to unleash terror in the land. Thus, Joseph took Mary and the baby and fled to Egypt as refugees, and thank God, Egypt did not close its doors, or else, we may not have a savior today.
The text says, When Herod realized that the wise men had tricked him by not returning to show him where the baby was, what he did is unthinkable. He ordered that all children in and around Bethlehem, age two and under to be slaughtered. For Jesus would have been around that age at the time.
The passage this morning reminds us through the writings of Charles L. Aaron, Jr., that “The forces of evil and human suffering do not lay down their arms for a cease fire just because we have turned the calendar to December.”
No! our world after Christmas is one that still victimizes the poor, the weak and the innocent. Here, innocent children are being destroyed because someone feels threatened by another person, in this case, the child Jesus. So, Herod wants to eliminate his perceived threat as soon as possible.
Hence, our world after Christmas is a messy and broken world. This is the world into which our Savior has come and thank God he did. He was a refugee in Egypt until Herod’s death. Then the angel spoke to Joseph and said, “take the child and return to Israel, for the one who wanted to destroy the child is dead.”
This text is usually used on “World Refugee Day,” because it highlights the need for nations and their people to be welcoming and accepting to vulnerable people of other nations, seeking refuge, because Jesus Christ, himself, was a refugee. If no one would hear this, we Christians need to.
But it’s sad to say, that many times immigrants are vilified. It is very disheartening to hear dehumanizing remarks emanating from some quarters of this society, that “immigrants bring filth and deceases to this country.”
During our Christmas celebration, everything looked fine. Some of us succeeded in covering up our anger, pain and even grudges against other family members who offended us, so that we share the joy of Christmas with each other.
Some of us who had been suffering with pain of illness over the year, Christmas provided us a little refuge of peace and love from our family who surrounded us.
But like the little children of Liberia would say, “Every day is not Christmas.” For many of them, Christmas is that day when they get a new suit, a new shoe, and have enough food to eat, but after a day or two, they return to business as usual: going hungry again and wearing the same old clothes.
In like manner for some of us, our world after Christmas means living lonely again, or the resurfacing of the anger and pain covered against family remember at Christmas, or the thought of our illness and pain stares at us in the face.
But the good news, God is now present and is at work in our World After Christmas. Remember, Immanuel, “God with Us.
That is why verse 9, of Isaiah 63, says, “In all their (our) distress, it was no messenger or angel, but God’s presence that saved them (us).
Yes, the terrible pain may not end, violence may not stop, suffering will continue, but these things don’t mean that God is not at work in our world. God is in the midst of the suffering, bringing strength, healing and comfort. His ultimate joy and victory cannot be derailed, and you and I have been commissioned as agents of God’s Peace, joy and hope that Christ brings into this world.
May you be his instruments of the peace, joy and hope even now.
God bless you.