Saturday, September 19, 2015

Church Has Left the Building Campaign Sermon 2: Living Outside Barriers

Living Outside Barriers                                                         9/20/15

Psalm 2, Acts 2:1-47

2nd in the Church Has Left the Building sermon series

Barrier:  a material object or set of objects that separates, demarcates, or serves as a barricade

Barriers in the Psalm:

Human conspiring and plotting outside of God’s will

Assuming God’s plan is to bind with chains and fetters

That God does not know or that God will not be triumphant

Choice to not heed God’s warnings

Distance, as opposed to reverence and refuge


Barriers in Acts:

Vs 15  people incorrectly assume drunkenness instead of Spirit filling

Barrier:  closing ourselves off from the start to God’s work

Taking down the barrier:   Behold the works of God, use your eyes


Vs 17-21, 25-28, 34  Pentecost work easily fit the story that preceded it

Barrier:  not placing experience within context of God’s story

Taking down the barrier:  Know the Lord and his story, use your mind,


Vs 19-20, 40   God will judge all wrong, and we are to forsake what separates from God     Barrier:  being too worldly, unaware of God   Taking down the barrier:  Be aware and accountable, use your smell


Vs 26  We have been given the gospel, we are not hopeless

Barrier:  Hopelessness

Taking down the barrier:  Have a glad heart and sing, use your mouth


Vs 37  Hearing the gospel of salvation and repent of all that separates

Barrier:  not acknowledging when you are wrong

Taking down the barrier:  Believe in the Lord, use your heart


Vs 42-47  There are so many wonderful things to that Christians can do and be together.  Concentrate on these things.

Barrier:  breaking down community

Breaking down the barrier:  Love the Lord, use your hands and feet to serve community

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Church Has Left the Building Campaign Sermon 1: Living Outside Our Assumptions

Living Outside Our Assumptions                               9/13/15

Week 1 of Church Has Left the Building Sermon Series

Acts 1:1-11, Luke 7:1-10

Whenever I have an experience that is new or unusual, I will offer the joke, “if I had a dime for every time that happened, I’d have a dime”.  Today’s word is “assumptions”.  If I had a dime for everytime I made an assumption, I would be a wealthy man.  And my guess is that you might be too.  It is something that we do as people.

What are some of the negative types of assumptions that people make?

The word assume is a very interesting word, for it has several different definitions.

The original meaning is “to take up, or in”, and so companies assume another companies debt when buying them out.  The family cook might assume feeding dinner to their children’s friends over for a playdate.  A grandparent might help assume the cost of a college course for their grandchild.

For today’s purposes we’ll use the most common understanding of the word assume;  to “take as granted or true, to suppose”.  An assumption is “a fact or statement taken for granted.”  This is an interesting definition, because if something is a fact, you might feel safe building your life upon that fact’s reality, because facts are accepted and agreed upon by society.  But a statements are different from facts.  That is, you might be assuming a statement that is on far more shaky ground.

In Scripture, the only use of the word assume is in the sense of taking over or in.  For example, The Levites assume responsibility for worship in Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. 

But for many, the trickier, difficult and complex issues arise from taking something for granted.  Taking something for granted, making an assumption, can lead to a lot of problems.  And if we make assumptions about how to live a good life, or about God, or about God’s family and are wrong in our assumptions, spiritual unhealthiness can sneak in. 

Bad assumptions can lead to dysfunction and distance.  If someone reacts negatively to your assumptions, they might lose some trust, or not want to speak to you. Making assumptions eventually leave us lacking, empty, frustrated, and sometimes, foolish or embarrassed.   The stakes are higher, and the consequences more tangible for our faith and Christian life.  So we need to view everything in light of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

As Christian’s our call is to worship God, follow Jesus Christ and experience the Holy Spirit. We are called to be people of grace and truth.  Jesus Christ is full of grace and truth.   Truth allows us to rest secure and be at peace.  It also provides a foundation when things do not go our way, or challenges arise.  And when we work with all types of people in the church that have different knowledge, context, history and yes, assumptions, a little grace is needed along the way. 
Jesus Christ is our model:  he was full of grace and truth.  And he lived this duality perfectly.

Assumptions can box us in.  But God wants us to live boldly in this world for him.  We are to be godly, to be Christ-like, to be Spirit filled.  We are called to be different than the people who have no hope.  We are called to shine for Christ.  

What we announce is not our assumptions, but the truth, and grace, of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.

What do we know from Acts:

            Jesus gave instructions to his disciples by the Holy Spirit

            Jesus showed himself to his chosen after his suffering

            Jesus gave many convincing proofs that he was alive

            He appeared to his disciples and spoke about the kingdom of God

            Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would soon come

            Jesus redirects the disciples regarding what God will make known

      (they had a big assumption regarding how Israel would rule the nations)

            Jesus declares that his disciples will be witnesses throughout the earth

            Jesus is taken up into heaven

            The 2 men declare that Jesus will come back from heaven the same way he went

               to heaven

This passage also speaks to us about what we have in Christ, not what we might assume, but what is really ours, what is real, and true, and certain!

    The Holy Spirit’s instruction to us as disciples

    Jesus Christ as the Living, resurrected Lord, having endured the cross

    The presence of the Holy Spirit

    The need for faith  (we don’t yet know how the final reveal will look)

    The call to witness to Jesus Christ 

    The promise of his return

 We might assume we have to figure out everything for ourselves, but the reality is that the Holy Spirit teaches us about Jesus Christ.

We might assume that Jesus is just a spiritual concept, but the reality is he is alive.

We might assume that if we do good, then God will think we are good enough, but the reality is that by faith in Jesus, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in our hearts.

We might assume that we know it all, but the reality is that it takes faith in God, and trust that God will accomplish his purposes.

We might assume we can just do little things to help the cause, we can fit God’s service in when convenient for us,, but the reality is we are to speak and bear witness to Jesus Christ.  Everything should be done for God’s glory and with God’s glory on the forefront of our hearts, minds and souls.

We might assume how the world will look at the end of time, but the reality is that Jesus has promised to come again.

And so our call toward being people of grace and truth, just like our Lord is, should make us bold, not defeated.  It should make us confident, because we can do all things through the one who strengthens us.

Today’s gospel less on speaks to a Roman military figure, with authority endorsed by the Empire.  A Centurian was in charge of 100 roman soldiers. How do we see faith at work for the Centurian? 

The centurian seems to have built a successful and good life when we meet him

            He has a good reputation before trouble comes (7:5)

            Kept his ear to the ground for opportunity:  He heard that Jesus was there (3)

            Cares for his servant, servant’s life  (which was probably surprising for his

                position and context)

            He has good relationships with the people who are controlled

            Humble (7)

            He understood the power of power (say the word, and he will be healed)

The faith is astounding to Jesus because the Centurian’s assumption is really a fact:  Just say the word Jesus, and he will be healed.   God’s word was sufficient to the Centurian.            

Culturally how do we build on more solid ground than assumptions:

Time   (which speaks to commitment, we show what we really value by giving

             our time to it)

            Communication  (understanding what is important, and making the effort to talk

                                        about important matters)

            Consistency   (how we do what we do)

            Clarity of mission (why we do what we do)

Living Outside of our Assumptions means we are living upon God’s Holy Word, Thy Word is Truth.  Jesus Christ is full of truth.  The Holy Spirit will be our counselor and will guide us into truth.  

We should be gracious when we trip over assumptions.

We should be full of truth so that we move toward all that God has for us.

We should live in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Background on The Church Has Left the Building Campaign
*Program started by Woodside Presbyterian Church in Yardley, PA 6 years ago.  Their pastor wanted to emphasize that Christians “be the church”.

*One Sunday a year, participating congregations worship outside their sanctuary and their worship is participating in a Christian mission or work project.

(ideally, all projects can be seen by people who do not have a church home)

*Over 40 churches in NJ and PA participate in this program

*This is Stockton’s 3rd year.

*Each year, there is a theme for the Church Has Left the Building program.

                   This year, the theme is Living Outside the Box.

          We will use the Book of Acts as the basis for our sermons.

*There are 8 sermons between now and November 8th on this theme.  All worship continues at our regular 11am time.

*This year, on the weekend of Oct 24/25, there will be a chance to participate in one of several projects that help get the message out about Jesus Christ as Lord and God’s love for people.

There may be more projects that arise, but I will be highlighting 3: one each from the Shared Staffing partners (Stockton, Mt. Airy, Titusville)

          Sat. am:  Titusville will be sewing dresses for children in Bahamas

                         (where Titusville sends a mission team every year)

          Sun. am:  Stockton will put together Operation Christmas Child


          Sun. afternoon:  Mt. Airy will lead a worship service at Nursing Home

*Stockton, on Sunday morning October 25, will have a brief commissioning service at 11am.  We will then go into the Main Hall to put together the shoe boxes…Unless, you chose to go to another work project. 

*Participants from all of the NJ churches will gather in the evening of 10/25 at Hopewell Presbyterian for a pizza party (5pm) and worship service (6pm). 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

State of the Union II

State of the Union II                                      9/6/15

Genesis 32:22-32, John 2:1-11

Jacob:  Out of struggle and difficulty, came a blessing from the one he wrestled

Jesus:  His power blessed others

Last week, for our State of the Union sermon, we looked at two believers from Scripture, Jacob, and his dream of the angels ascending and descending from heaven, and Nathanael and his call to follow Jesus Christ.

In the stories of Jacob, we see an element of guile, but Jesus Christ says that Nathanael has no guile.  Jacob vows to follow the God of his fathers, depending on God’s fulfillment of his conditions.  Nathanael’s response to Jesus is simply “You are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel”.   We then unpacked the idea of the Lord’s presence and promise, as well as our responses to these certainties.

Today, we return to Jacob, whose dream last week occurred early in his separation from his family after his conflict with his brother Esau.  In today’s reading, Jacob is prepared to meet with his brother.  Messengers came to Jacob to say that Esau and his 400 hundred men were coming to see Jacob.  This causes Jacob great anxiety, wondering if his family will be destroyed.  He prepares a series of gifts to present to Esau, so that by the time the brothers see each other, the path might be clear for reunion.

Jacob sends the last of his family across the river:  because, if Esau can’t find it in his heart to welcome his 11 nephews, and niece, then what chance does Jacob have?  After sending them across the River Jabbock, Jacob quickly sees that his night is just beginning.

The Scripture simply says that Jacob then wrestled with a man all night.  It seems that this man could be Jesus Christ.  This idea is called a theophany:  an appearance of God in human form.  The Scripture says that Jacob saw the face of God, and yet his life was spared.  Elsewhere in Scripture, the LORD says that no one will see his face and live (Exodus 33:20)  The New Testament says that it is Jesus Christ who, fully human, is sent as the face of God so that humanity might one day look upon the face of God the Father, On that day, we can look because we are redeemed, forgiven and made holy through Jesus Christ.

It is important that Jacob wrestled.  He wrestled all night, with a pause for short conversation part way through the match.  He was tired and exhausted.  This mysterious man did not win his match against Jacob  In fact, at one point, the man touches the socket of Jacob’s hip so that he might have an advantage.  Yet Jacob continues his wrestling.

He wrestled, before an anxious meeting with a brother in conflict, with whom there was a long, dysfunctional, messy past.  He wrestled as he worried about his future, having sent his family on to meet Esau.

Out of this wrestling match, Jacob desires to know who it is with whom he wrestles.  And he wants a blessing from this man.  He gets the blessing, along with a name change.  “You shall be called Israel, because you struggled with God and with men, and have overcome.”  The covenant is still in tact.

Out of this wrestling, Jacob comes away with the limp.  He is blessed, but this blessing is not perfection.  He struggles on as a blessed man, ready to reconcile with his brother Esau.  Challenged, changed, blessed, transformed.

Today’s gospel story follows last week’s story of Nathanael.  It is the first miracle performed by Jesus in his public ministry, turning the water into wine.  We learn that His power blessed others.   And he saved his best for others.

Jacob:  Out of struggle and difficulty, came a blessing from the one he wrestled
Jesus:  His power blessed others

Stockton Story:  out of struggle, comes a blessing by which we bless others. 

Like Jacob, we might have a limp, we are never going to be a perfect church.   Like Jesus, we should be thinking about others, and how to bless them.  “Do unto others, as you would them do unto you”.

I’d like to share with you an overview of the traditions and events that have emerged in a common calendar year (this list is not all we do, for the record).  As we unpack the state of our union, this document lists some of our seasonal activities, the broad range of people’s that use this space for good, and a brief review of how we structure ourselves, and some potential work that could take place.  Today, the potential is offered simply so that we can pray more intelligently towards our future.


Jacob wrestled.  Stockton has wrestled. 

Jacob walked away with a blessing.  Stockton has been blessed.

Jesus blessed others.  We too should bless others.
ORDINARY TIME (FALL)           Already Scheduled for 2015
 The Church Has Left the Building
   --Sermon Series (Sept. 13-November 8)
    --Leaving the Building (Oct. 24/25):  Each of the Shared Staffing partners will
       host one opportunity (at least):  Titusville, sewing project on Sat. am 10/24,
      Stockton, Operation Christmas Child, Sunday, AM
      Mt. Airy, nursing Home worship, Sunday afternoon,
      Sunday evening combined worship:  Hopewell?
Return of Bible Study (9/11), Choir Rehearsal (9/15) and Sunday School (Sept. 27)
In the works:  10/4 World Communion Sunday Evening Pot Luck and Sacrament with churches from Dilts Easter Sunrise service.  TBD.
10/17  An Evening of Dinner and Opera:   Italian Dinner 6:00-7:30, Opera Project Concert, 7:30-8:30, Dessert, 8:30
            Tickets $20
            Excellent event to get word out
            Benefits mission projects of congregation
11/16-23     Operation Christmas Child Host Site
Other:  Nominating Committee
            Find Leaders for Session/Deacons
            Fill officers (financial secretary, treasurer, etc)
11/29   Hanging of the Greens  9:30am
Christmas Eve, ?8pm? 
Annual Meeting
2/9/16  Shrove Tuesday:  Stockton (in the past, organized by deacons), benefits Mission 
2/10/16  Ash Wednesday Worship
Next five Wednesday evenings, Wednesday Worships during Lent
Holy Week:     --Maundy Thursday (3/24)
                        --Good Friday (3/25\)
                        --Easter Sunrise (3/27)
Picnic Worship  7/3/16
worshipping together at least a second time during summer, possibly more???
Summer Institute
Vacation Bible School
Art Camp
River Churches---currently Kirkpatrick, Lambertville, Mt. Airy, Titusville, Grace,
                               Stockton, informal partners
Offering combined experiences of
Worship:  Wednesdays in Lent, Holy Week
                             Summer Picnic, 2nd gathering
            Learning:  Summer Institute
            Serving:  Church Has Left Building
Esperanza---- Thursday Prayer meeting
                        Sunday worship
Suppers Program:   Third Tuesday of each month
                                    Local chapters located throughout nation, teaching healthy eating
                                    and the importance of social element of eating.
 AA:  Mondays 8-9, Fridays 8:30-9:30

Stockton Elementary School: 
music class Monday am
back up gym class during inclement weather, tues/Thursday
special events (winter and spring concert, guitar concert, occasional assembly)

Opera Project:  rehearsal space, few times a year
Book Club:  1st Saturday of each month
Elders:  leadership board, governing and decision making body for the congregation
Establish direction and watch over membership
ask strategic questions
create budget
 Deacons:  working to nurture friendship, service and compassion
            -- exciting opportunity before them:  food cards, and distribution of funds that
                come from food cards.
 Sunday School teachers: 
            Smaller group of learners which allows emphasis on group interests, such as plays
               and performances.
Possible emerging teams?  
Not yet created, not yet in planning stage
Would ultimately succeed by broadening their work base to include members,
 Friends, partners, and the community at large.
--Side Playground Area Work Team: 
--Youth Room in Basement
                For example, a team could include:  Youth from Stockton Presbyterian, Youth
                from Stockton Community, Grace church youth group, lay leaders from
           --Capital Campaign Team---for 2016
--150th Birthday Party Planning Team for 2017  
 Down the Road:   For Prayerful Consideration
Alternative Worship Time, such as Saturday Night, accompanied by social event
     following worship
Church photographer
Church Historian;  chronicle records, members stories and memories
501 c3 for Jason School
How do we do Administration?