Friday, November 30, 2007

Sermon - "You Can’t Take It with You", given by Ruth L. Foss, Sanbornville United Methodist Church, Wakefield, NH, September 30, 2007

1 Timothy

There is an old song that goes Money makes the world go around…the world go around …the world go around. Money makes the world go around…that clinking clanking sound” from Cabaret. /it reminds me of how society is today. If you don’t have money…you have nothing, are nothing, you have not accomplished anything in life. What a way we live today...all stressed out because we have too little money and stressed out because we have too much and have a new set of issues we have to deal with because of it. How can we find balance…find peace…be truly happy in this life we live?

The Epistle reading from 1 Timothy this morning is a wealth of information for us. It tells us of the problems with earthly treasure but it also tells us what the true treasure we should be looking for…aspiring to find. It is a road map for us on the road of “Christian Perfection” that John Wesley talked about so many times. It gives us a guide line to live by.

The text tells us that “there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment”. We need to be content with what God has given us. Oh sure…someone else might look as if they have more than us but…what is the cost they are paying. Someone might have a better job than us but at what price. Are they in poor health because of the stress of their job? Do they have quality family time…do they even have a family…because of their jobs demands? Are they truly happy in their life or are they just “faking it until they make it”?

This reminds me of one of my favorite Children’s movies…have any of you ever seen “Finding Nemo”? It is a story of two clown fish in the ocean…Marlin, the dad, and Nemo, his son. It is all about their adventures in the ocean. Well…there are these seagulls in the movie…they crack me up every time I watch the movie. My daughters always say “here’s your favorite part mom.” Every time they see something they consider food, they are always going around saying “mine…mine…mine…” This reminds me of how some people are in this day and age when it comes to possessions. Everything is “mine” and if it is not “mine”, they have to figure out a way to make it “mine.” What a sad way to live…having to posses all that you see and not being able to enjoy what you have.

We brought nothing into this world and take nothing when we leave and go onto glory. Everything we have is a gift from God. God has “loaned us” what we have and when we are gone…it goes to…it is gifted to...someone else. The only thing that we actually bring into the world is our sinful nature but praise be to God and God’s great mercy…we are forgiven through the blood of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ and we are able to go on to Perfection and glory.

We need to be content with what we have…food…clothing…roof over our heads…our Spiritual gifts. Everything is a gift from God and when we are not content with what we have…we walk that fine line of telling God that He is unfair. It’s like saying that management is unfair to its employees. We need to be careful of this attitude because what God gives us…God can take away. It’s His right…it belongs to Him anyway and then where would we be. We would have even less than what we were complaining about in the first place.

This reminds me of children. Being a mother of 3…I have seen the “management is unfair attitude with my daughters.

Ø Story of someone having more than the other.
Many of us fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge us into ruin and destruction.
Ø We need to keep up with the Jones’
Ø We have credit card debt
Ø We love money more than our fellow man
Ø Having more stuff but being stressed out because we have to get more stuff or have to keep our stuff safe from harm.

I was watching “the Chronicles of Narnia” with my oldest daughter the other night. I don’t know how many of you have seen it but it is a great movie. There was a character in the movie named Edmond.

Ø Edmonds story.
Many people…in their eagerness to be rich have wandered away from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains. Unfortunately we see that even in some of our churches today. They are more concerned with the growth of their church that they don’t see the people in the world around them. They don’t see the lost chances to minister to those right in their own backyard. They miss the opportunity to share the love of Christ with those closest to them.

This reminds me of the Luke scripture we read this morning about the rich man and Lazarus.

Ø Luke Parable paraphrased.
This story illustrates how difficult it is to love God and your neighbor when our treasure is great wealth and possessions. You will love one and hate the other…you can’t have it both ways.

What can we do to avoid the fate of the rich man? How are we to live in a world that is obsessed with money and power? In today’s Epistle from Timothy…it tells us what we should do and how we should live our lives. It is found in vs. 11-12 and 17-19. We are told to flee from all this…this way of thinking. We are to purse righteousness, godliness, faith and love. We need to pursue endurance and gentleness.

We as Christians…are to fight the good fight…look to eternal things not the temporal things around us. Temporal tings are nice but…they don’t last very long…they are here one moment and gone the next. Eternal…heavenly things…are made to last an eternity.

WE are not to be arrogant or put our trust and hope in the wealth we have…be it either money or power or Spiritual gifts. These were given to us by God…not of our own making. God provides us with everything for our enjoyment. We need to be rich in good deeds and be willing to share what we have…what God has so richly lavished upon us…to those around us. We need to reach out to those around us with these wonderful…undeserved…gifts and not keep them to ourselves.

We have a choice to make in life…we can either be like the rich man in Luke’s Gospel lesson and receive our reward in the temporal world or we can share what we have therefore storing up our reward in heaven. We can either be like society with its “dog eat dog” way of living or follow the example of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ and His “all for one…one for all” attitude that leads to eternal glory.


Sermon - "The Art of Forgiving", given by Ruth L. Foss, Sanbornville United Methodist Church, Sanbornville, NH, November 25, 2007

Luke 23:33-43

Have you ever done anything for someone out of the goodness of your heart? How about for someone who has done you wrong…someone who has made fun of you and mocked you…someone who has stolen from you…or even someone who you know has done something wrong to someone you love? If you’re like me…it is a hard thing to do. How about forgiving someone who has done you wrong or someone you love…or even someone who you don’t even know who does something wrong…something evil to someone else? To truly forgive someone who has done wrong is a tuff thing to do. It’s our human nature. We want to see someone pay for what they have done to us or those we love…they deserve whatever they get for what they have done. But here…on the cross…Jesus shows us a different way of life. We are shown a radical forgiveness.

Jesus’ ministry on earth was pretty radical to begin with. Instead of fighting we were told to love one another as ourselves…instead of cursing our enemies we were told to pray for them…instead of thinking of our self first we were told to think of ourselves last…the last shall be first and the first shall be last. And now…here on the cross…we are shown that we are to forgive…even unto death. Jesus’ words from the cross found in vs. 34 “Father, forgive them: for they do not know what they are doing”…ushers in a new way of life for us as Christians. We are shown…no we are commanded…to forgive no matter what.

But…in these passages from Luke…I see another thing that we should do. We need to not only forgive but we need to truly forgive. When the thief asked in verse 42 “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”…he is asking for Jesus’ forgiveness and to be remembered by him. Jesus in turn completely forgives him of his sin when he tells the thief “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

I can only imagine how that thief felt when he was totally forgiven of his sins…to know and trust that he would be in Paradise with the Messiah. He knew that he deserved the death that he was facing. He knew he had done wrong in life. But …he also knew who Jesus was and that only he could truly forgive him of his sins.

My husband Ray wrote a poem about this conversation on the cross. I think it fits well with the scene that was taking place there. It is called “Asking for Forgiveness”. It reads:

In the pain of the cross,
shared by each of them, he asked
he asked for forgiveness
of the king, on the cross beside him
asking for forgiveness, for entry
through the narrow gate
the way to heaven
through the son
And the King forgave
promised him grace
and presence in paradise
that very day
What a joy that must have been
in the midst of the pain,
the humiliation, the taunting
he was to see the savior
in paradise, in forgiveness

What a joy…what freedom…this criminal must have felt on the cross…Freed from sin by God himself. WOW!

In giving forgiveness to others…we not only free ourselves from the burden of anger, of resentment, and yes even from hatred…but we also free the person who is asking for forgiveness from their sin of doing something wrong to us…from the guilt they are feeling. Let me give you an example…Someone comes and asks you for forgiveness…You say to them “yah whatever” and go about your business. Is that true forgiveness…or are you just brushing them off? Now let’s try another way…Someone comes to you and asks for forgiveness…you look at them and say something like “I forgive you, I don’t like what happened and it may take me a little while to get over it, but I do forgive you.” In this case…you are forgiving them but you are also letting them know that what they did hurt you but you are willing to work through it so that you can be at peace with what they did within yourself. This gives both you and the person who is asking for forgiveness a feeling of being free.

In reading this account in Luke…we see that both of the criminals asked to be saved. The first did so out of unbelief (Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!)…the other out of faith (Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom). The first acknowledges no wrongs and criticizes Jesus…the other his guilt and Jesus’ innocence. The first received nothing…the other all that he asked for. In order to receive forgiveness we must ask for it. We need to admit we are wrong and want to make amends for what we have done. I would like to share with you another poem…yes it’s by Ray…it is about the moment when we face our sin and ask for forgiveness. It’s called “Jesus remember me”

The sinner, in a moment of awareness
of truth about himself,
the man who was God beside him
an innocent man on the cross
“Jesus, remember me
when You come in Your kingdom!”
A prayer like none other,
but one we share, at whatever moment
when we face our sin
and beg for the grace offered
available from the father
by the blood of the son
the lamb on the altar
given for our redemption
once and for all time
In the asking, he, like we
are saved

Forgiveness…why is it so hard to do? Why do our ego’s get so bruised? Why do we do things to each other that we need to ask for forgiveness? Well…we live in a fallen world. We are told by society to look out for number one…you need to be on top no matter what…just do whatever you need to do to get there. Never admit you are wrong and when you are wrong…blame someone else (boy that one’s been around since Adam and Eve). As Children of God…as Co-Heirs with Christ…we too are called to a radical ministry. No one said it would be easy but if we are to be transformed into the likeness of Christ we must keep trying to make the changes that need to be made. We need to renew…uncondition…our minds and recondition them in the likeness of Christ.

We also need to learn to forgive ourselves in order to be able to forgive others. We human beings are sometimes reluctant to accept forgiveness. WE continue to recall our sins and failures, unable to forgive ourselves even when God has forgiven us. We know that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, but we often act as if we are unforgivable…disbelieving that God’s anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a lifetime. If we can’t forgive ourselves…how can we extend forgiveness to others?

So…how do we begin on this road of radical forgiveness? One way I have found is to pray for those who hurt you. Not just pray that they will see the wrong that they have done but also for God to soften your heart towards them…for God to reveal any part that you may have played in the situation…for God’s grace to forgive. Another way I have found is a great visual. It was in one of the devotionals I read from the Spiritual Formation Bible. It was very powerful to me and I hope it helps you too.

If there is a person that you cannot forgive
Open your arms wide
Breathe deeply and let Jesus pray within you:
“Father, forgiven them; for they do not know what they are doing”

Believe me…this is a powerful way of asking for help to forgive. It reminds you that you have been forgiven for your sins and that you should do the same for others whose sin is more than likely less than what Jesus went to the cross for you.

Forgiveness…it is a hard process but with the grace of God all things are possible…even forgiveness from the Cross on Calvary.


Sermon - "Shaken but Not Stirred", given by Ruth L. Foss, Sanbornville United Methodist Church, Wakefield, NH, November 11, 2007

(Read Haggai 1:15b-2:9)
Wow…a moving and a shaken…when our God moves…when our Creator creates…there is a whole lot of shaken going on. Is our God awesome or what? (Glory to God) I can only imagine the scene when God moves in this way. I am sure that during the creation of the world…God spoke…the earth trembled…and came into being.

In the scripture from Haggai…I am sure that the Israelites too were shaken during this part of their history…but shaken in a different way. They were finally able to start rebuilding the temple…but the task…what a task they had. There was the temple of the Lord…laying in ruin…nothing but rubble…sitting on the ground in front of them. How were they going to take on this task?

I am sure that there were many people in the remnant that remembered the temple the way it was. They probably had some wonderful times there and remember it in its grandeur (This had been Solomon’s temple after all…can you imagine how it looked in its day?). There also must have been some of the “old timers” that remembered how the temple was and now…here was this new building being built and…it wasn’t the same. Now…as they looked upon the rubble of the temple…they became discouraged…all those memories…lying in ruin. They must have been shaken to their…very…core.

I am sure that many of us today can relate to …empathize with…these remnant people of God. That phone call in the middle of the night…the telegram we receive from a relative…that test result we were expecting. All these things…and many more…can shake us to our very core. We look at the rubble of our lives and we too wonder how can we go on? We remember how it used to be but cannot have the past back…we must press on.

Not just the personal things in our lives can cause us to shake. How many of you like to read the news paper or watch the news on TV? I know with me…I am not happy with all that I see and hear. There is death and destruction all around us. There are wars, abuse, slavery and the like in the world and truthfully church…it shakes me to my very core. I think to myself…how can something that God meant to be beautiful turn so ugly? The problem is so wide spread how can it ever change? How can we…as Christians…take courage in this day and age? When I begin to ask these questions to myself…there is one piece of scripture that stands out in my mind that gives me hope. It is found in Jeremiah 29 vs. 11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God is in control…even when we don’t see it. He is working out His plan…even if we don’t understand it.
The next thing that God says…through Haggai… is a message of hope for Israel…as well as for us today. God tells the people to take courage…work…for I am with you…for I…am…with…you…according to the promise that I made when you came out of Egypt. What hope that must have given them…the Lord their God was with them…and the Lord keeps His promises! What hope it gives us today when we stand before our temples in ruin? We can take hope for the Lord is with us… always. Not only did the Lord promise to be with them…He went further to bring them hope. God tells the people…His chosen ones…that “My spirit abides among you; do not be afraid”…do…not…be…afraid! How much hope that must have given the Israelites. Their God…Yahweh…was abiding among them and they had no reason to fear….this still holds true for us today. Our God…our creator…our sustainer is with us…He knows our fears, our anxieties, our hopes, our desires and He will see us through…and lead us into the new place He has for us.
I know of a woman who had a “shaken but not stirred incident in her life. She has been an inspiration for me most of my life. She was diagnosed with breast cancer about 4 years back. Her life went into a tail spin; she was shaken to her very core. She had the standard questions for God that all of us would have when something like this happens in our lives. Why me God? I have been a good person…why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this? But through this all she kept telling me…it will be alright…God has a reason for everything…I don’t understand the reason but I know He has a good one. As I saw her go through this phase in her life…I never saw her stop praying and relying on God for strength. Then when they told her she was going to have to have her breast removed I thought for sure this as going to be the end…she was going to turn from God. But even though this…she kept saying there was a reason for this and never turned away. She was shaken…but… not… stirred. She has been cancer free for a little over 3 years now and she did get to see how God can use a bad situation for good. Last summer her daughter had her own cancer scare…she too, like her mother, was shaken but not stirred…but she was able to be there for her daughter and give her strength. She was able to truly empathize with her daughter and help her through her trying time. Her daughter did not have cancer in the end but her daughter will never forget the strength she saw in her mother during that time.

We are God’s children and “Dad” tells us not to fear…He is with us. God is not like our earthly dad’s…who from time to time may disappoint us…God is he dad we have always dreamed of…He is “super-dad”. Like many fathers, He is there for us through thick or thin. He wants fix the problem, like a lot of dads, if we will just let Him work out His plan. Unfortunately…things have to be completely taken down…changed…in order for it to be built up by the Lord. Better than it was before.

We are the children of God. In 2 Thessalonians 2…Paul is talking to the people in Thessalonica…in vs. 13b…Paul states that “from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth”…this stands for us today also. Christians…are the chosen ones. God chose us! What a concept! We were loved into existence by God! For God so loved…loved…the world…that He gave His only…His ONLY…begotten Son. We are Loved…we are loved with an agape love…a never ending love…we…are…loved! We are so loved that God lovingly…tenderly…breathed the breath of life into us. Nothing other than His Word did His breathe life into. We were loved into existence.

In my seminary studies this fall I learned a new word that just blows me away. I learned it in my Hebrew Bible class. The word is “rauh”…it means the breath of God…the spirit of God! Even the word itself sounds like a breath…rauh! We have God’s breath…a piece of God…within us. Wow…how awesome is that?!

How can we find our strength to go on in this fallen world we live in? Where does our peace and assurance come from? In Ephesians we are given a glimpse of where we can find peace and stability in these troubled times. In Chapter 2 vs. 14a Paul states that “He himself is our peace.” And again in vs. 17 Paul states that “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” It is through the blood of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ that we find our peace and stability…through the Blood of the Lamb that we are able to stand firm in this day and age. John 3:16b tells us that we are saved by the blood of Christ…that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. We are adopted into the family by God through Jesus. We can stand firm and hold fast to what we know to be true. God is ALWAYS with us and is in CONTROL!

We live in a fallen world. There is so much around us that makes us loose heart sometimes. We see all of the evil things of the world and at times it may look like evil will prevail. But fear not says the Lord. I am with you always and I am working out my plan. When things look dim…we need to look at the big picture instead of the small one in front of us. We need to try and look at a situation…the world…through God’s eyes. He has promised that He has a plan for our lives. God is in control and has his hand in everything that is going on. Let us not lose faith and be dismayed. It’s ok to be shaken but let us not be stirred from our sure foundation found in the Word of God and His son Lord Jesus Christ. Let us rebuild the temple of God by the new blueprint that He has given us not by the old one that came tumbling down.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stopping a Train Wreck, in Progress

Some days, some of them
are like stopping a train wreck,
already in progress, the sequence of events
long since set in motion
inexorably leading to the crash
the carnage, the debris field
the disruption of the lives
the lives of all involved
The task is to find a way, even at the last moment
even as the brakes are screeching, screaming
the sparks flying and the faces turned to see
to find a way to jump the tracks,
to move the switch, to steer the speeding train
away from the brink of disaster
and find another track

November 27, 2007 8:36am

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Uncomfortable Names

Other names from other scripture
bended with the letter to the Colossians
revealing a more human picture
the man who was the Christ
the Messiah, seen through other eyes
a refugee in a foreign land,
King and rebellious child, disobeying his parents,
staying in the temple, without permission
wandering in the wilderness, in the land, without home
a drunkard, a provocateur,
challenger of the order of the day
All images of the Son
for whom and through whom
all was created, the universe begun
the first born, the head of the body,
the church, the good shepherd
and the narrow gate, the way
the living water and
the bread of life
The lamb on the cross
and on his royal throne
waiting with outstretched arms
for us all

November 25, 2007 5:40pm
Based on Colossians 1:11-20 and the sermon,
“Imaging Jesus”, by the Reverend Lori Eldredge,
Wesley United Methodist Church, Concord, NH
November 25, 2007

Seeing God

In seeing Him,
we see God
in imagining the face of Jesus
we get an image of God
an approximation of the infinite
contained within flesh and bone
Born in the stable, anointed by the dove
transfigured on the mountainside
made whiter than white
the face of Christ
weeping for Lazarus,
cursed by the crown of thorns
forgiving even at the moment of death
hanging, dying in shame
crucified by the crowd
in forgiveness an image of God
who is love

November 25, 2007 5:50pm
Based on Colossians 1:11-20 and the sermon,
“Imaging Jesus”, by the Reverend Lori Eldredge,
Wesley United Methodist Church, Concord, NH
November 25, 2007

Radical Imagery

Provocative imagery
In the words of the scripture
And the words of the pastor
Describing the Christ
For the readers in Colossae,
The listeners in Concord
Words to reassure, give hope,
To be sure; but there are other,
Complicated, fighting words,
When honestly written, uttered
For a loving purpose
We are challenged from our complacency
Emboldened with a richer image
A Christ who is more human perhaps;
But is that a bad thing
When juxtaposed with the awesome images
Carved into the scriptures,
A summation of Genesis, the Gospels
Many of Paul’s letters,
All synthesized in the regal imagery
Challenged by the pastor’s words,
Reflections in society’s mirror
In seeing the whole Christ,
Our risen, loving Savior.

November 25, 2007 4:50pm
Based on Colossians 1:11-20 and the sermon,
“Imaging Jesus”, by the Reverend Lori Eldredge,
Wesley United Methodist Church, Concord, NH
November 25, 2007

Other Names

Amid the name of triumph
Of love, of caring, the names of the king
Were other names, troubling, incongruous, jarring names
For the king this Sunday, from the pulpit, from our pastor
Names of shame, of conviction, of accusation,
But these were the names of the Christ
Before the reverence, before the resurrection,
before the Pentecost, long before we walked the earth
Drunkard, homeless, refugee
They too were part of his story, not just king, Emmanuel,
The Good Shepherd. Hard words to hear; but worthy of thought
Of utterance, of contemplation this Christ the King Sunday
This year in worship, provocative words
Challenging words, in imaging Jesus
A fuller, whole picture, of our Savior,
Our brother, first born of the resurrection
The head of the body of the church
Seated at the right hand of God

November 25, 2007 4:30pm
Based on Colossians 1:11-20 and the sermon,
“Imaging Jesus”, by the Reverend Lori Eldredge,
Wesley United Methodist Church, Concord, NH
November 25, 2007

Our Collective Prayer

It was in the sharing
around the meeting table
our joys, what we were thankful for
this week before Thanksgiving
our collective prayer to God
more than the sum of the parts
together a holy whole
of our love, our hope, our faith
our awareness of the blessings of this place
this country, this church,
our families, the communion of saints
all the means of grace around us
in our fellowship
in your world
for that we give you thanks
oh Lord, Amen.

November 25, 2007 12:30pm
Our Collective Prayer
about the sharing of things we were thankful for
at the start of Church Council, 11/19/07,
Wesley United Methodist Church
Concord, NH
edited November 27, 2014
A Simple Thanksgiving – v2
Thanksgiving Day
December 7, 2007
A Simple Thanksgiving
about the sharing of things we were thankful for
at the start of Church Council, 11/19/07,
Wesley United Methodist Church,
Concord, NH
This poem is based on comments of Dan Haines,
Chair of the Evangelism Commission

All of my poems are copyrighted by Raymond A. Foss, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014. All rights reserved. Contact me at Ray Foss for usage. See all 33,930+ of my poems at Poetry Where You Live.