From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
If money doesn't grow on trees, how come banks have branches?
Two guys stole a calendar---they got six months each...
We got rid of our vacuum cleaner---it was just gathering dust.
"...whenever Moses entered the Lord's presence to speak with Him, Moses removed the veil until he came out, and when he came out...they saw that his face was radiant..." (Exodus 34:29-35)
"...exalt the Lord our God and worship at His Holy Mountain, for the Lord is Holy..." (Psalm 99:9)
Gracious Lord and God,
All honor and praise belong to you, Lord, as we step into your sacred space on this memorable Sunday morning. On this day we remember the transfiguration of Jesus, and rejoice in the privilege giving you high, exultant praise as we worship.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Grace and peace to you on this very special Sunday as we are reminded of Jesus being glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration. What a foretaste of the glory to come for all of us that anticipate Christ's imminent return.
After reading Luke's account of this powerful and dynamic event (Luke 9:28ff.) it had the great effect of uplifting me today. Indeed, I'd been burdened by our news reports from the great country of the Ukraine. I hadn't prior been aware of how negatively it'd affected me. Now, I'd have to say, I was heavily burdened and part of me, continues to cry out to Jesus. I just can't help it. I'll need worship today...
Priscilla and I have a special regard for the people of the Ukraine, because, in the early 1990s, Priscilla was instrumental in bringing a fine gentleman we knew into a personal relationship with Christ Jesus in Peru---though Canadian---this man was "Ukrainian to the Bone", loveable, and just a fine human being. He was delightful, but troubled.
That being said, he had a huge reserve of spirituality that was released when he made his confession for Christ---and focused in on what God had to say about his situation. I truly believe that the best of his Ukrainian Orthodox background became released as he personally surrendered to Jesus. It was a powerful reserve that immediately took hold of him and made him joyful, without a care. Yes, the hurt would return from time to time, but prayer times and conversation with us really brought him through rough moments. We thought in time he'd return back to Canada, but he remained in Peru and made a very successful life there. Later, he married a wonderful Peruvian Christian lady and has had a more rewarding life there in Lima than he ever had in Canada. I can only say---God has His way in our lives...
From a slightly different vantage point I wanted to share something that brings together the story of this gentleman and the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain.
Our friend, of course, never experienced transfiguration, but, in the introduction he received to the Jesus of the Scriptures, he experienced definite transformation. He didn't "get religion", so to speak---but rather, a powerful dose of the Holy Spirit which made him literally glow. His personality radiated energy. He immediately began to experience "glory" in his daily living. Nothing could hold him down. As long as Jesus was with him, he was simply okay, no matter what was happening. He was able to let go of the things that held him captive prior. In the midst of overwhelming burdens, his relationship with Jesus was all he needed to be motivated daily and take on all challenges. Priscilla and I were just amazed at the transformation.
We live in a world that has the tendency to bring us down, because of the reality of human sin in the world all around us. The Book of Revelation suggests that the world is indeed Satan's realm (ch. 12).
However, as our dear friend would affirm, God is in control, nonetheless, and we need to commend all our concerns, our fears, our unbelief, into His almighty hands. He's so faithful to perform...but we must trust Him with all our hearts, and know, He answers prayer and loves it when we call upon His name. Tell Him what's going on, what you need, He'll be faithful...
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Psalm 104 always makes me smile. It really is a song of praise, and now with our worries of climate change, drought, Omicron, war, and goodness knows what else, it is so encouraging to read this Psalm that envisions and celebrates God riding across the sky in a chariot, clothed in the grandeur of light, water, and wind. This Psalm reminds us that God cannot be stymied.
Later in the Psalm we read of God putting springs into dry riverbeds to water mountains and to tend to birds, badgers, mountain goats, prowling lions, and yes, even humans. It is a great Psalm of life, and I give thanks that God holds all creatures. This we can trust.
Let us take time to look around. To look out of the window. To give thanks for flowers, birds, and one another. We may come away with the sense that God is still on the move, working miracles, and bestowing life. Let us trust that we, too, are also on the move with God. Let us accept the blessings, and give thanks that God continues to gather us in that beautiful wild chariot. We have a place, right there with God. Blessed be.
Holy One, we sing your praises, even if it is only in our hearts. Yet, we know if even one of us sings, you hear a grand choir. We are grateful to be a part of your good creation.
Yes, we yearn for peace in this world. However, we also know peace begins with us. So, as the psalmist sings, we rejoice in your love and in your presence right here today. We give you our thanks and praise.
In our hearts we fly to and in your love as we sing,
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"...we shall bear the likeness..."
"Come back to your senses as you ought." (1 Corinthians 15:34)
Gracious God, We want to praise you this day for a "new teaching" that we may well miss if we're not paying attention. You want us to believe and understand that all things work for the good of those who love you, just as Saint Paul has written. We have the notion that good situations are good situations, and that bad situations are bad.
Before this made sense us, but now, our thoughts and perception have been transformed by a new way of perceiving reality. Indeed, as we commend ourselves into your hands, and even sometimes before we do so, we eventually recognize that you are in control of all things, including the details of our lives. You don't cause bad things to happen, but you allow them.
In pleasant circumstances you bless us. In unpleasant and challenging times you teach us and direct us. Even as we submit ourselves to you, you do not exempt us from difficulties, painful experiences, and even tragedies.
Thus, we praise you no matter our circumstances. It is the only way to look at ourselves and life. It may take some doing at times, but we trust you, Lord, and believe your Word.
Thank you, Father God. As you didn't allow your only begotten Son to be exempt from suffering, and even dying on the cross, only to be raised up, thus, you will call us to follow the path that the Lord Jesus trod...and yet, know, that victory lies ahead.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Along the way we may find ourselves feeling the way Jesus felt when, knowing what was about to happen on Calvary, (on the Mount of Olives), He asked the Father:
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet, not my will, but yours, be done." (Luke 6:42)
How is it that we can be human---with all our self-imposed preferences, desires, dreams and goals---and yet, sense that the Lord God has a plan for us that will satisfy us completely and make our life truly something remarkable?
Yet, even being a Christian, and reluctant, we have a better plan for our lives, let's put that Bible thing on hold...
...some day, Lord---some time...now...
Contemplating the idea of obedience to God in the midst of truly dark circumstances, and trusting God anyway, i.e., "...but deliver me from evil..." (Matthew 6:13b), I'm reminded of one of my very special portions of the Scriptures, that being, Genesis 37-50, the story of Joseph.
In my view, initially, Joseph wasn't the very nicest of brothers. Rather than supporting his eleven brothers, he turned out to be their "tattletale". Genesis 37:2 says, "...he brought their father a bad report bad report about them..." They hated him.
Joseph was sold to Potiphar. Potiphar trusted Joseph and put him in charge of everything in the household. Joseph was a handsome young man. Potiphar's wife went after him and Joseph refused her. His owner put him in prison, trusting his wife, rather than Joseph.
In prison, eventually, Joseph was made responsible for all that was done there. In the prison the Pharoah's cupbearer and baker offended their master and they were put in prison where Joseph was. At one point each had a dream which Joseph interpreted.
The chief cupbearer was restored to the Pharoah's household. Joseph said to him, "...when all goes well with you, remember me and show kindness to me...mention me to Pharoah and get me out of this prison..." The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.
Two full years went by. It happened that Pharoah had two dreams. His mind was troubled. He passed along the details of the dreams but his advisors couldn't interpret the dreams. At this point the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph. Pharoah sent for him and he appeared before Pharoah. He told Joseph about the dreams and Joseph told him the dreams were about an upcoming seven years of famine.
Genesis 41:39-41: "...then Pharoah said to Joseph, 'Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.' So then, Pharoah said to Joseph, '...I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt...' Then Pharoah took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger."
There is no indication from the Scriptures that Joseph ever complained about his predicament or misfortune. What Joseph went through, time after time, situation after situation...he bore waiting for the Lord's deliverance and blessing.
The Lord was with him despite the fact that Joseph was not exempted for terrible suffering and misfortune. As a seminary professor once said to us, "...Joseph got sour lemons...and he always made lemonade..."
His brothers wanted to kill him. They sold him into slavery. His owner rejected him upon his wife's lies though he was totally worthy of trust. He was sent to prison. In time he was put in charge of the prison. His time in prison was the springboard for him to have audience before the most powerful human being in the world. Once despised, sold, enslaved, betrayed, and forgotten, Joseph became the most powerful human being in the world in terms of his function.
In a powerful way, he became a "savior" for Egypt and the world, having gone through the very worst a person could experience. A simple, profound faith provided the crowning touch...
The dream he had about his brothers came true. They eventually had to come to him and bow before him, as Joseph had dreamed, because of the world famine to ask for food. They found out that "this all-powerful man" was the same person (their own brother) they had wanted to kill and did sell into slavery. You can just imagine what they thought they had coming...
So, you'd think Joseph would've wanted revenge on his brothers. No. He delighted in seeing his brothers and and wanted to see his youngest brother, Benjamin, and his father---Joseph could no longer control himself... he was overcome by his feelings...to see his family once again...
The words Joseph spoke to his brothers when they realized that this was Joseph touch our hearts and cause us to reconsider all positive and negative experiences in our lives...
"...I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you..." (Genesis 45:4,5)
The story of Joseph is, without doubt, one of the great pieces of world literature as well as divinely-revealed truth. How essential it is that every human being be exposed to Genesis 37-50. There is no other story that can so powerfully motivate us to receive and accept an informed vision that includes the affirmation that---there is no failure in a life with God!
The crowning touch is the fact that Joseph didn't hold a grudge against those who had done him wrong. We have to admit. Joseph either finally got his program together, or had it together all along. We can do the same. The standard is not that set by the world, but by God, through the ministry of Christ Jesus.
I love the story of Joseph. The bottom line for us is that we can learn so much about coming to terms with the things that have happened in our lives. We can grab on to the notion that God is not trying to pick on us. He will allow the things that happen---for a purpose---and our completion and success in life will be, so to speak, to "go with the punches", and trust that God is allowing it to happen for a special purpose. I am convinced that in our humility and trust in the Lord, we will become:
"...more than conquerors through Him who has loved us..." (Romans 8:37)
During difficult and troubled times, you have someone who prays for you and hopes the very best for you always. May the Lord bless you richly!
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Scripture: Mark 5:26-29
Then Jesus said, “This is what God’s kingdom is like. It’s as though someone scatters seed on the ground, then sleeps and wakes night and day. The seed sprouts and grows, but the farmer doesn’t know how. The earth produces crops all by itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full head of grain. Whenever the crop is ready, the farmer goes out to cut the grain because it’s harvest time.”
I visited a skilled nursing community yesterday, and when I opened my Bible, this parable surfaced. I have always loved this text because I love road trips when my husband and I can drive through well tended farm land.
I could forget Covid, and the drought seemed far removed.
That is the way God works. If we stay alert, we can savor these moments of Sabbath that God so freely offers. Yes, it is easy to fret about the future and regret the past. Sometimes things seem so serious. That is when a God moment happens. That moment could happen when we look out the window, or receive a phone call from someone we care about. It can happen when we find ourselves laughing unexpectedly.
All we need to do is to give these moments time to unfold, and then remember to harvest them. That is, may we remember to experience them, and yes, to reach out with a prayer of gratitude.
I leave you with the lyrics of the first two verses of the wonderful hymn, "For the Beauty of the Earth":
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe,
"The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt, who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
"...if Christ has not be raised, your faith is futile---you are still in your sins...then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost...if only for this life we have hope in Christ...we are to be pitied more than all human beings..." (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)
"...the people tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all..." (Luke 6:19)
"...he is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season..." (Psalm 1:3)
& A SPIRITUAL REFLECTION
"...if you look at a tree and see a tree, you haven't really seen a tree... when you look at a tree and see a miracle... then, at last, you have seen..." (Rabbi Abraham Jacob Heschel)
In the midst of pre-occupation with precaution — and fear — related to valid concerns regarding the present pandemic, I must say, these are exciting as well as distracting times. The positive things which happen in taking precaution and developing new ways to communicate — and reaching out to those in need -- have the effect of advancing in our minds what is possible for us in difficult times. I was so pleased to hear of Simone Biles comforting note to Mikaela Shiffrin upon her failed attempts to get Gold during the games. I love this sort of "reaching out".
After being militarily in Afghanistan for over twenty years, we've disengaged. In addition, for the first time during our lifetime we're seriously considering the value of a constitutionally democratic republic. Sometimes we've wondered if our people are ready to discuss and understand the issues involved. The conversation nationally has become literally explosive. All of us know what's been going on! As we consider both sides of today's issues thoughtfully, we often fear the worst will happen. These times have the function of bringing us to our knees.
We may be wrong but there seems to have been a decline in being informed about government, how it works, what part we play in it, and what we need to do to preserve a wonderful legacy of government in the country we live in.
At Holy Cross Lutheran Church, in Pacifica, California, we've attempted to prepare our community for this time and moment. We've presented annually for decades "Independence Sunday". We've invited the finest nationally-known Christian scholars in the areas of Political Science and American history to give solid informative, inspirational messages with the colorful format for worship. Judge Quentin L. Kopp, bless his heart, has been a regular speaker for literally over a decade. We usually have a jazz band on hand to liven things up, playing music essentially, not only American, but also sacred.
It seems also that our national governmental traditions have lost meaning to a certain extent in more recent times among the vast number of our people.
Are we wrong? Do school systems really teach "Government" the way they used to when we went to school in the 50s?
I suppose we could go on...
But, from my point of view, there is something which underlies the issues involving government, and sports, and international intrigue, and revolution, and entertainment, and the music that moves us.
Our neighborhood used to be "safe haven". Just recently we've had two burglaries and several incidents of people trying to open doors and look in windows, right within blocks of our house.
It causes a person to ask "What is going on these days?"
Hold on! Pause for a moment!
These are not just the behavioral patterns of our time only, nor our views of the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of our government and our representatives in Washington D.C. This kind of behavior, these attitudes toward the obvious shortcomings of our government have been around ever since the establishment of the United States of America. The men who founded this nation upon the principles of the American Constitution, as well as a Bill of Rights, were persons of keen awareness of the human condition. They were men (backed by profound women as wives) who were grounded in Scripture and therefore produced a document to curb the power-hungry, greedy persons who would seek to destroy what they had wisely birthed.
Chief among them was James Madison of Virginia. He was the prize student of the "grandfather" of the Constitution, the Reverend Dr. John Witherspoon, teacher of fifty-two of the signers of the Constitution, and fellow signer.
As a nation we have departed from the remarkable spirit of the American Constitution based upon the Judeo-Christian faith and its presuppositions regarding society and human conduct. In one sense, we can read the words of the document, indeed, we can be educated and have other sophistication, but to conceive of the more profound underlying meanings requires a biblical mindset.
We need to consider an essential underlying factor — biblical faith.
We need the biblical mindset.
So, do we really go back and start over? Do we demand of those who don't understand or have insight into the very real facts of American history and our former dependence upon the Bible?
The answer is "No".
We don't go back because we can't go back. We need to move forward recognizing where we are, whether folks around us are churched or not. I'm going to say something that will get me in trouble with some people. We need to start where we are and do what Christians need to do, first and foremost, that is, become profound students of the Bible. Too many Christians these days are influenced by clergy and lay leaders who teach and preach using their own material, though they claim otherwise with Bibles in their hands.
Too many believers these days have had to say, "I really don't want to be called 'Christian' any more, because too many of those who call themselves Christians fail to apply the principles of the Bible — and I know — none of us is perfect. However, I'm comfortable declaring that I am a serious follower of the Lord Jesus Christ!"
"That's alright with me---you know, I follow Jesus, too!"
Let me share some insights from the Scriptures for this Sunday.
As we turn to Jeremiah 17:9,10 (RSV) "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt, who can understand it? 'I the Lord search the mind and try the heart, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.'"
I cannot tell you how powerful these verses were for me when I finally — really — looked at it and thought deeply about it. I had not thought the Church was correct in saying that human beings were desperately sinful from birth. After all, consider a newborn baby, so sweet, so innocent — but then — if baby doesn't get his or her milk bottle on time, basically, watch out!
It is a truth which — over decades — has never proved false, which means, the Bible speaks the truth within the prophetic voice. This shocking statement in Jeremiah's prophecy, especially, as it applies to me, and with others who are supposed to provide an example for us, makes clear the overriding thing to observe. I can never be disillusioned. Through this verse, the "illusion" is gone forever. We need to be vigilant watching over the "human heart". The Founding Fathers were quite sufficiently schooled in this notion. They knew and understood that humankind without God is destined to fail personally and politically.
Also, a point of transition for me in faith was being "riveted" by Saint Paul's second letter to the first-century Christians at Corinth, in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:1-1-58. Go ahead and read the entire chapter. Carefully consider the content.
Personally, I have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I know that He died on the Cross of Calvary for my sins. I know that He has the authority by His suffering and death to forgive, cleanse, and renew me in the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, I know that He rose from the dead, descended into Hades to announce His victory over sin and death, and then ascended into heaven. He will return soon to draw us all unto Him.
What I noticed over the last half-century, as a pastoral counselor, were the large number of people who needed great clarification regarding this particular chapter of the Bible...and how it impacted them and their destiny...
The phrase in verse 14 is pertinent to explain my concern. Here's how it's rendered:"....and if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith..." (1 Corinthians 15:14)
As I've sat at the bedside of many who were about to leave this world, (and I can think of two memorable conversations) many believers I've counseling with, in preparation for the afterlife, didn't realize how important it was to have come to terms with the issue Saint Paul stresses to the sophisticated members of the mission church in Corinth. Those of course are recorded in the Corinthian manuscript we have.
Paul stressed how "essential" it is to receive the Resurrected Lord Jesus, both with heart and mind..."otherwise you have believed in vain" (verse 2). To many, the death on the cross is all there is to the heart knowledge of our faith in Jesus. The Church needs to reconsider the foundation of what is essential in order to have the assurance of everlasting life.
A person very dear to me confessed not being able to accept the fact of the Resurrection upon the very hour of his death. I invited him (within less than sixty minutes remaining in his life) to receive Jesus as the Resurrected Lord of his life, not as he should, but as he was able. He died with the assurance of faith and, dear friends, I will see him in the sweet by and by.
In short, we need to continue in prayer for all persons and their needs of which we are aware. We need to be more focused in our praying, and expecting God's intervention, simply because we've asked.
On the other hand, despairing because of a nightly encounter with the breakdown of the latest news is never going to essentially change anything. We need to reinvest our lives and fortunes in the Word, taking on a biblical mindset.
Blessings in abundance as we take on the challenges and joys of life with courage, peace of mind, and joy.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Scripture: Matthew 13:45-46
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."
While Jesus was probably talking about developing an unwavering focus on God, this evening I find myself thinking about the many people who have dedicated themselves to their work in long term care communities. How they have worked through multiple shutdowns and created inspired ways to tend to their residents. I believe that many of the staff members have viewed their work as a pearl of great price, one that is worth the investment of time and heart. I am grateful for their dedication and tenacity, and I am blessed to know some of them as friends.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Scripture: John 15:15
" I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."
This morning I read with interest a post by Father Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. In his post, he begins to explore the possibility of our having a friendship with God and Jesus. In the post he quotes author Diana Butler Bass who contends that a friendship with Jesus is actually a mark of mature faith.
Source: Diana Butler Bass, Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence (New York: HarperOne, 2021), 3–4, 14.
She goes on to say: "Friendship is contingent on love—real love: compassion, empathy, reaching out, going beyond what we imagine is possible. That is the command: love. And if we reach out in love, friendship is the result, even friendship with God.
Holy One, Holy Friend,
We yearn to be in union with you. We know this cannot happen until we have the courage to love you, and the courage to believe you love us in return. We thank you for the voices in our world that continue to remind us to love.
We pray for the people of Ukraine. We pray for the people of the Philippines, as they struggle with both Covid and the aftermath of Typhoon Odette. We pray for those in our nation who face winter storms and freezing weather. We pray for all who struggle with illness and despair. We pray for the unhoused. We pray that soon we can all be together again.
In love we pray, Amen
Love and Blessings to you all.
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors