"...for you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again of fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship...and by Him we cry, "Abba" ["Daddy"], Father..." (Romans 8:15)
"...I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down..." (Abraham Lincoln)
"...weeping may remain for a night... but rejoicing comes in the morning..." (Psalm 30:5b)
"Gracious, loving Savior God! We come to you this day as hapless, helpless sinners before you - your perfection and your glory...You offer us the bronze serpent in Jesus. We look upon Him and acknowledge several things. Sin and death have no power over us. Our gaze upon Him makes us whole, with forgiveness and great resolution for our human problem with sin in the process. We can take on each new day as refreshed, energized persons, anticipating the assurance of everlasting life, not based upon our merit, but rather based on our gaze upon the bronze serpent, Christ. Thank you, Lord, for this time of thought, regarding these benefits, and reflection. You give us only the very best...
In Jesus' name. Amen.
"O, Lord, what is humanity - that you care for us, the Son of Man - that you think of us...we are like a breath, our days are like a fleeting shadow..." (Psalm 144:3)
WHAT COUNTS IS THAT GOD'S WAYS ARE BETTER
When we think ourselves, on one hand, as deserving God's love, benefits, and assurances...or, on the other hand, when we think we cannot deserve it because of our sordid past, or what evil and unhelpful deeds we unwittingly continue to do...
FOCUS UPON THE ACTION OF GOD
Simply...stop thinking so much about yourself...let the God of the Bible forgive, restore, grant assurance, give you strength to live your life the way the Lord intended...
I'm absolutely fascinated with the narrative of the bronze serpent in the wilderness when Israel was under Moses (Numbers 21:8,9). The image has been so effective my life that I've dreamed time and time again the details of the narrative and I've awakened feeling forgiven and refreshed. Sin in my life has nearly destroyed me at times, time after time, so, the promise of the Scriptures in regard to forgiveness and redemption are quite live-giving for me.
Because of that image in my personal life, it amazes me that it shows up again in the superlative third chapter of John's Gospel. We're all familiar with what is often regarded as the most important verse in all of Scripture (John 3:16):
"...for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life..."
It has granted to me, eternal life...and that eternal life...began as soon as I looked up. That bronze serpent was Jesus lifted up for me on the pole known to us as the cross.
a thought - Eternal Life
STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT THINGS
When I received "new life" in Jesus, I also received eternal life. Eternal life for me is "heaven". I'm in heaven on earth. Daily I live within the context of peace, joy, and perfect love. But... I'm challenged because, living in this first phase of heaven, I also live on earth, and in a real world. As Jesus made a choice to provide forgiveness and eternity for me, both phase one and phase two (after this present life), I need to make my choice... to stop complaining about things...and come to terms with a very real world...without using unacceptable language and having killing thoughts about other people and my circumstances. In this regard, Saint Paul in Romans 8:28 is very helpful to me:
"...and we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose..."
Recently I ran across a terrific quote from the pen of William Law: "...if anyone could tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and perfection, that person must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you...for it is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you...if you thank and praise God for it...you turn it into a blessing..."
Please note a little gem from Charles H. Spurgeon: "...cry from grace from God to be able to see God's hand in every trial, and then, for grace to submit to it...I think there is generally an end to troubles, when we get to that..."
THE BRONZE SERPENT AND PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION
When you and I focus totally upon the "bronze serpent" in Christ Jesus we come to terms with ourselves, our world, and our destiny. We step into Eternity, the "new life" in Christ. We are solidly grounded and yet we're able and willing to adequately deal with the real world we live in. We don't complain any more because all that we encounter is the next divine step in our eternal destiny. It's a choice we make, being well informed in the ways of God. God is in charge and we are focused upon His Lordship. We look upon the bronze serpent and we are forgiven and healed. We focus upon the image of the bronze serpent and we are transformed to live out God's plan for our lives. Obviously, this is too big to pass off in our lives. All else is mere religion, having nothing to do with the saving power of Christ in our lives.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Blessings to you all and to the communities you serve! May the peace of Christ surround you and bring you joy.
Some of what happens in our lives, we really do not consciously choose. That includes both of what we call our joys and what we call our sorrows. Consequently, the first line of this scripture causes me to pause and ponder that maybe, much of what we go through, we go through as appointed ones. That we are being called to learn from all our experiences in order to produce good fruit that lasts.
Holy One, we are grateful for all the ways you feed us, even in ways we do not completely understand. We thank you for the gift of one another. We thank you that our communities are beginning to open up. We thank you for the staff members who have worked so diligently to see us safely through. We thank you for friends and family who have been praying for us. We pray that those who are suffering in this world may know your peace. We pray that all governments will keep the well being of their citizens in all their decisions. We pray for peace in this world. We pray that our prayers can be good fruit in this world.
In deep gratitude we lift these prayers to you,
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
The Whitsuntide Service will focus upon the meaning of Pentecost for you and me.
"...I will make breath enter you and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will come to life...then you'll know that I am the Lord..." (Ezekiel 37:5b,6)
"...but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth..." [Jesus](Acts 1:7)
"...they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship of the breaking of bread and to prayer... everyone was filled with awe...and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles..." (Acts 2:1-21)
"...when the Paraclete [Counselor] comes, whom I'll send to you from the Father --- the Spirit of Truth --- who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me...and you must testify...because you have been with me from the beginning..." (John 15:26-27)
"...but when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth...He won't speak on His own...He will speak only what He hears...and He will tell you what is yet to come...He will bring glory to Me by taking from what's mine and making it known to you..." (John 16:13)
Gracious, all-knowing God! We pause this morning to give you much deserved praise for your kindness and your daily provision for our lives. We are ready to shout, "Happy Birthday, Church!!!" on the occasion of the Pentecost.
We ask your forgiveness, and we joyfully receive your undeserved kindness as you grant us unconditional pardon, as we pick up the brokenness of our lives, and are restored as whole human beings through our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Thank you for cleansing us so thoroughly in body, soul, and mind.
Lord, we're ready and willing to start a new chapter in our lives. We've heard there is more than one dimension of faith in your beloved Son, Jesus. We're ready to step up in faith to take hold of your superlative Spiritual gifts and be renewed in a way we've not experienced before. We're not afraid. Send your Holy Spirit to teach us, as you touch us, and show us a more powerful and compassionate way to live and serve.
Enliven us and refresh us in the ways of the Holy Spirit.
We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
The word for Counselor, meaning Holy Spirit, in koin'ae Greek, is "paraklete"...often, in the Church, we speak of the Holy Spirit as the Paraklete...even though it is Greek, it is often used as part of the English language, because of its exotic sound...
It's the Day of Pentecost in the Christian Church. It's the birthday of the Church. The 2nd Chapter of Acts stands out among the multitude of Bible verses to remember by heart. For years I have encouraged Confirmation Classes to memorize this portion of the Bible.
The setting of the original occasion is of great interest. Was the Passion of Jesus not enough for us?
To some it may seem like an addition, an addendum, tacked on to the Holy Week (Passion Week) narrative. We remember.
Friends! The story doesn't end there. Okay. We turn to the 2nd Chapter of Acts.
The disciples were together in the upper room. The text says the doors were locked (John 20:19) for fear of the Jews...that is... "other Jews" of the party that put Jesus on the cross. The word that stands out for me is the word, "...fear..." The situation that catches my attention is that "the door was locked"...because of fear...of the Jews of that other party. The story of the cross and the Resurrection would remain unknown potentially because of fear.
Everything that happened on Passion Week was momentous and earth-shaking, but there was a real possibility that the facts of Holy Week would never be known to the world.
Because of fear!
The Good New of Jesus would travel no further than the walls of the upper room...because of fear...
In a sense, the disciples were much the same as we are today in 2021. Our doors are locked --- and well they may be. It's because of fear...of the unknown...of all the possible ways we and our family and our possessions could be endangered. It makes sense...
Often, we do our Christian duty by showing up for worship every once in a while, every now and then. The "scoop" around our churches is...don't volunteer for anything that may commit us to a more meaningful life for us and the cause of Christ.
We are afraid to try on "Christ"... seriously, all fear aside, just doing it all for Jesus no conditions. Like the disciples, but for different reasons these days, we're afraid.
The disciples found themselves in the upper room behind locked doors. After everything that happened, after everything Jesus did for them, and us, it would have been of no effect...because the doors were locked...
because of fear.
We're afraid of a substantial commitment to Christ lest we take up time, effort, and even money, to advance the good news given to us through Christ Jesus. We've been called and saved to share Jesus as disciples.
We're afraid of missing that special television program, or movie, or civic event. When it comes right down to it, normally, these are all in all, of non-effect. Experiencing them doesn't make a difference. Especially if attentiveness in this regard is merely habitual.
We haven't developed an increasingly strong sense of being a disciple of Jesus. We do our "Christian duty". Where's the great joy and sense of satisfaction in that? We're too often content in being a church member...and all too often a "church member of sorts". Too often these days I imagine the Lord saying to Himself... "What do my followers think they're doing in their spiritual lives?"
The Spirit within us all too often flickers. We need a blazing flame.
Like Jesus' disciples we're full of fear...but for different reasons. For this reason, we need the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray for the Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to us. The contemporary Church is in desperate need for the Holy Spirit to enter the hearts of the people of God. The lack of concentration on the Holy Spirit's work in our faith lives is a fundamental and foundational problem. The underlying problem is fear.
I sometimes picture our notion of the Godhead as the three persons of the Trinity being in an automobile. God the Father and God the Son are in the front seat...and the Holy Spirit is in the back seat. We need a Spiritual automobile that will seat "three" in the front seat.
For our lives to work in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit needs to be on an equal footing with the other two persons of the Trinity...we haven't preached it enough. We haven't believed it enough. We've avoided the underlying problem of motivation and performance in the Church.
We need to bring the Holy Spirit up there with the Father and the Son. We need to take the Holy Spirit seriously. We need to learn the lesson of what happened to a fearful group of disciples who were more focused upon fear, than sharing the fact that they were witnesses of all that had happened in Jerusalem during Holy Week. After the experience of the Pentecost, for the rest of their lives, the disciples of Jesus were fearless and bold and committed to the power of the Gospel to change the world.
I get it.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
I hope this meditation finds you all doing well. I pray your communities are healthy, and are beginning to open up. I am making some in person visits as well as continuing some Zoom worship services and meetings so I hope to see you all soon. The ministry is coming back to life, but the budget has suffered considerably. If your community can possibly contribute any amount, we currently have been offered a matching grant. If you would like more information, please go to our website: www.spiritcareministry.org. Thank you!
Jeremiah is one of my favorite prophets. He was in exile, along with others, and he was a voice of encouragement for people to take root where they find themselves. This week, this text led me to ponder the beautiful Genesis 2:7 where God lifts up some earth, breathes life into it, and thus begins the story of humanity. Our journey began by being held, and we are always held. This was not a one time event. However, Jeremiah reminds us that God may very well rework and remold us as needed. Such forming and reforming may get uncomfortable at times, but nonetheless, we cannot fall out of God's embrace. Yes, it is easy to feel discarded in times of change, and there are enough shifts going on in my life that I am tempted to believe I am being cast aside. However, in my heart I know that is simply not possible. God continues to breathe life into us all. This is how we are made new again in, and for love.
Holy One, we thank you for vaccines, for people who do research, and for those who work in seemingly ordinary ways, but with extraordinary results. Please watch over our communities and our families. Help us to be steadfast. We look to you, to Christ, and to the Psalms and the writings of the prophets, knowing you are the one source of all. We thank you for literally holding us together and helping us to move forward. May our world be healed.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"...therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living with us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us, for one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection..." (Acts 1:21-22)
"...so they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, 'Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.' Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias ...so he was added to the eleven disciples..." (Acts 1:23-26)
"...that person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season...and whose leaf does not wither...whatever they do prospers..." [Anonymous] (Psalm 1:3)
"...as I would not be a slave...so...I would not be a master..." [Abraham Lincoln] "...this is the One who came by water and the blood---Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood...and it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth...for there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood...and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God which He has given about His son..." (1 John 5:9-13)
.Grace and peace in the Lord Jesus to you and yours this precious day and always! It is such a privilege to share the priceless perspectives and views of the Holy Bible. They are life-giving for us as we continue to be challenged day by day in a very real world, with sure words and guidance for heart, soul, and mind. May the good Lord continue to enfold you in His love and protection. Take Jesus along with you today.
Lord, let us step forward in our lives with courage and sufficient power to take on the day, but put that all important "hedge of protection" within and around us. We praise you in advance for providing all we need this day to perform, outdo ourselves, and prosper. We will continue to give you the praise in both pleasant or unpleasant circumstances. We give you thanks and praise in advance for all that befalls us with peaceful hearts. In Jesus' name. Amen.
How confused we become when it comes to placing value upon things, experiences, and events that happen in our lives. It's so easy to imagine we accomplished more than we did, or less... We sometimes think about these as we evaluate our experience as followers of Jesus and as active members in our church.
Were we worth the Lord's effort? How we wish we could do more... something always stands in the way.
When I think about eternal life, I think about perfection all around me, forever bliss, and magnificent glory...to thrust away every single touch or dab of negativity and heartfelt yearning of the soul. Above all, I think of a place where there is no stress when I think of heaven
Whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life in the here and now. In Him we have all we need.
Human perfection doesn't seem to be a huge advantage in the Bible I read. Your best with your whole heart is sufficient. If I am wrong in this, please make sure to correct me now.
I have a thought that makes sense to me. Often, we get the notion that stress is thrust upon us. Well, the Bible seems to say that God is not going to give you more than you can handle. At times in my life I have questioned that...and I know that you have done the same.
Stress will always be part of life, but you and I have the habit of...adding on!!! We place more of a burden upon ourselves than God would ever require! Come on! Get off of the treadmill! Take things as they come. Trust in God's Word. Take one thing at a time.
Be aware that you may be thinking you have to take something on that you don't have to take on. Your life in Jesus is not about taking on more than what is humanly possible. Your efforts in Jesus are not about being absolutely perfect---because no human being is perfect---and besides--- and I often emphasize this...no perfect people are going to heaven! The reason for this...is...there are no perfect people. The Lord knows you quite well (it's surprising, it's sometimes frightening how insightful) and will never give you more than you can handle, more than would give you a great deal of personal satisfaction.
Find out what is unnecessary.
When you do things "the easy way" in Jesus that excellence and resilience will be accompanied by your attractive attributes of personal joy and deep-seated peace.
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough,
Grace and Peace to each of you! I pray this newsletter finds you all in good health and spirits. We are all in a time of transition, so this passage from Hebrews seems appropriate. Please keep in mind that SpiritCare honors all faith traditions. This passage mentions Jesus, but you should feel free to substitute any sacred name that has meaning for you. We are on this journey together and what a blessing that is.
There was a time when this passage made me uncomfortable. It reminded me when I was in high school and was encouraged to try out for track. I was very shy and not interested in athletic endeavors. The idea of running around a track had no appeal for me but there were those who thought the endeavor would do me good. As you can imagine, I was the one who was always coming in last, usually in a bad mood. I was definitely not chosen for the track team. It would take me many years to realize the value of coming in last.
He said he did not quit because he felt that his family and his country were counting on him to not give up, but finish this long journey he had started. While I do not know if a great cloud of witnesses was there to see him cross the line, many people did return to the stadium to witness his triumph.
As I mentioned it took many years for me to understand the value of coming in last. The value of not giving up. The value of feeling compassion for others who are also struggling.
Holy One, help us to find the stamina and the courage to keep going. Many times we stumble, and many times we yearn to turn back because we are afraid. Yet, you constantly call us forward. We thank you for giving us good traveling companions. We do not have to journey alone. May we have the sensitivity to pause and see if someone appears to be lagging behind. May we always have the compassion to cheer one another on and to lend a helping hand when needed.
In gratitude we pray, Amen.
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Today is Mother's Day.
On this very special day we acknowledge the role our mothers have had in our lives. Our moms have loved us and shown us how to love ourselves and others. Our mothers are those who have prepared us to take this life on and do the work we do and to do it up right. Our moms are not necessarily the women who have given birth to us, but all those special, unique and distinctive ladies who have greatly impacted our lives.
Thank you, Gracious and Loving God, for the blessing of mothers in our lives. As Abraham Lincoln once said, all that we are and everything we hope to be, we owe to our dear mothers. May all the ladies we know who've meant so much to us --- who share in this message today --- be blessed in this sincere expression of our love. May they know our sincere expression of appreciation. May they have a day of happiness and rejoicing.
We pray this simple prayer in Jesus' name. Amen.
Attributes Regarding Motherhood
"...a mother is a person, who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never really cared for pie..." Anonymous
"...mothers are like 'dab' rapid-fuse adhesive --- even when they're gone, they're still holding the family together..." Anonymous
"...by the time a woman realizes her mother was right --- she has a daughter who thinks she's wrong..." Anonymous
"...if at first you don't succeed... try doing it the way Mom told you to do it in the beginning..." Anonymous
"...behind every great kid there is a mother who is pretty sure she is screwing it up..." Anonymous
"...all that I am and all that I ever hope to be...I owe to my mother..." Abraham Lincoln
"...a definition of motherhood... learning about strengths you did not know you had... Linda Wooten
"...no man is poor who has a Godly mother..." Abraham Lincoln
"...motherhood is the exquisite inconvenience of being another person's everything..." Anonymous
"...all I am I owe to my mother..." George Washington
"...while Peter was still speaking these words the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message...the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles...for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God..." (Acts 10:44-48)
"...the Lord Almighty is with us...the God of Jacob is our refuge..." Psalm 46:11 [King David]
"...the Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word..." (Hebrews 1:3)
This is a message for those who are truly seeking "the straight story", the bottom line, that is, the essence of what a life of faith is all about... this is for the specific person the Lord has been speaking to my heart about...the person who senses some "element within" causing some considerable disturbance. What is it? Something being stirred deep within. Something speaking in what seems to be a foreign, but attractive message lacking words. It seems to be something needing clarification. It is a strange, but friendly voice.
It is the Holy Spirit knocking on your door.
What is your relationship to the thought of having a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe? It may sound too big for the likes of "flesh and bones" creatures like you and me...but the bold invitation of the Scriptures suggest just that...
Yes, there are the trappings of religion. I suppose we all have them. Trappings are not the essence of faith. Sometimes faith and religion are almost opposite each other...but true spirituality is about a personal relationship with God. I would like you to note a powerful passage in Hebrews 3:1b...
"...fix your thoughts on Jesus..."
Can you imagine an eternal deity, that is, God, as human being also? What difference would that make in terms of living your life, day by day, being totally genuine with yourself, and yet, being spiritual at the same time? It reminds me of a joke riddle that I heard some months ago. What do you call a 6'8" dude with a switch-blade knife? The answer to that riddle is..."You call him, 'Sir!'" There is something "creatively intimidating" about an awesome human being standing before you requiring your attention.
Would you be as responsive to somebody who gave you a Bible and asked you to read it? Often, a person would take the Bible politely, set it aside, and not read it. If the person who is seeking your attention and response is the Lord Jesus Christ, you really would pay attention. A real live person with an urgent message for you is a lot more effective than a well-written book, meant to help you out, that you end up never reading...even though it would save your life.
This is the precise reason that the Lord Jesus Christ as a person, not only the exact representation of Almighty God, but God in human flesh, is so impressive. You really need to respond to him. You can't brush him off. As you read this message, He's reaching out to you. He is calling you from the shadows of ignorance and despair into the light of His Good News.
Could you discern some kind of reward, some kind of premium or advantage in dedicating your life to that God-Man and his proposition meant to transform your life and cause you to come powerfully alive as never before?
I'd encourage you at this point, if you have never turned your life over to God in Christ Jesus...that you go ahead and do that...just say... "Lord Jesus, I turn from my own way, and in repentance, I freely choose to follow you. I know you died on the cross of Calvary for my sins, and I thank you, that you did so, so that I might be freed from my bondage to sin, shame, guilt, and regret in my life. I acknowledge that you rose from the dead on the third day, and therefore, paved the way for my destiny to inherit eternal life. Thank you, Jesus. I receive you as my personal Lord and Savior. Amen."
I want to share something in the message for today that may transform your life...and cause your floral arrangement to blossom forth...
As we read the passage from Acts, it seemed unlikely that those who had, just then, simply heard Peter's preaching became immediately initiated into a life of faith in Jesus, and were exhibiting the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is the power of God's Word in the preaching of the Gospel!
That which churns within us is the work of the Spirit. When we hear the preaching of the Word, the Holy Spirit works within us, and without all other kinds of encouragement and inspiration, we hear the truth of the Gospel and we come to "life"...that is...the saving grace of God through Jesus.
I would like to invite you this Mother's Day to receive God's forgiveness in Christ Jesus and the assurance of Everlasting Life. If your heart has been searching for something, and you don't know what it could be, it is the Holy Spirit calling you to come home to God. Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit like those Gentiles of old.
Blessings to you on this special day...Let mom know you love her... In my case, thank you, birth mother, for the gift of life... Thank you, adoptive mom, a new, wonderful home and family... Thank you, Dad, for being mom and dad, upon mom's passing... Thank you, Aunt Hilda, for caring for me summers and holidays after my adoptive mom passed...we were destined to be together...
From Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough
Greetings to all!
As the ministry starts to emerge, it is a pleasure to begin seeing people in person or on Zoom. Connection is essential to us all. Yes, we must be prudent, but I think this past year has taught us that where there is a will there is a way. Let us be intentional in our willingness to come together to worship, study, and pray. I pray that your families are safe and healthy, and that there is joy in each of your hearts.
We cannot really declare ourselves faithful if we do not trust in God. Furthermore, if we say we trust in God, we must trust our lives. Not that we live perfect lives, but that we learn from what we call our successes and what we call our mistakes. It is all a learning process. If we trust that we are being guided and held by God, we then can find the courage to live. If we can hold lightly to our lives, trusting the Lord and actually taking delight in the Lord, we can be confident that God is providing. This is true in every phase of our lives.
Our hearts are where we can truly dwell with God no matter where our physical bodies might be or in what condition. God does not succumb to boundaries. We can know with a deep knowing that God is indeed Emanuel, God with us. For Christians, we can say that Christ is within. May we all remember that God has many names, including the one that has yet to be uttered. Nonetheless, let us be confident that God recognizes us all when we call with open hearts and minds.
Holy One, we thank you for this pilgrimage that is our life. We thank you that even when we make troubling mistakes and take wrong turns, you are there to guide us to the right path. May we always be open to this love, this guidance. Help us to be rooted in these lives so we can continue to grow. We know we can grow, because we are always being nourished by your love. May we always be willing to accept your abundant love.
In deep gratitude we pray, Amen
Rev. Sue Ann Yarbrough, Associate Pastor
San Lorenzo Community Church, United Church of Christ
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"...then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked...'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me'...so he invited Philip to come up and sit with him..." (Acts 8:30-31)
"...all who go down to the dust will kneel before Him..." (Psalm 22:29b)
O God, this morning we are grateful for your abiding presence as we begin this day. We are filled with the benediction of your Holy Spirit. We yield, as you reveal your way in this present hour. Forgive us all our sins and restore to us our joy and inner peace. In you, we find our vision to be your servants in our world. Cleanse us as you prepare us for this day. Give us the confidence to know that, whatever our situation, all things work together for our good and those we reach out to.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
The Lord's abundant grace and peace to you and yours this morning! These have been glorious, sunny, magnificent days for us good folks on the Coastline. I hope you've been enjoying these several past days as much as the we have. I am overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit considering the great ideas to write about today because of the content of the lessons suggested for this Sunday from the "Appointed Readings".
First of all, there is the powerful poetic sense of the twenty-ninth verse of King David's "Psalm 22", which as a whole is a spiritual masterpiece, but that phrase, "...all who go down to the dust will kneel before Him..." just blows me away. It is simply a phrase for the ages...an encouragement for us to know, that, for us, it will not be the case of an eventual sad demise, but rather a glorious, fulfilled destiny as we bow before the Savior, having passed from this world. The power in the thought is in how it was expressed.
Second of all, I would like to refer to the "Acts" account of Philip's dialogue with the Ethiopian eunuch. I imagine him to be tall, dark, and handsome. He was no dummy, as they say. He was in charge of the Ethiopian treasury. He was a man of substance because of the chariot he rode in. He was obviously a spiritual man, having traveled a long distance to come to Jerusalem, as a gentile convert to Judaism. He was puzzled with the text in Isaiah 53 (notably verses 7 and 8) and Philip in turn shared the connection of this passage with the passion, death and resurrection of his Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Eventually that day the eunuch believed, was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. It is an extraordinary encounter.
Third of all, the analogy Jesus provided for us...as He suggested that He is the "true vine" and His Father is the gardener. He went on to say that His Father cut off every branch that does not bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, so it will produce every more fruit.
Thus, Jesus made a real distinction between two kinds of pruning:
Fourthly, in recent weeks, I've been returning to Saint John's first pastoral epistle, called, 1 John 1-5, specifically the fourth chapter. The key phrase for me in the text is 1 John 4:18b, "...perfect love drives out fear..." If my life is dominated by a fear of this or that, whether facing real challenge or danger, or simply being afraid of things unreal, the love of God posited in my heart cannot blossom. It cannot be made manifest. There was a time when I needed to be mindful of my own life and well-being and that of my family. It was hard to see beyond the anticipation and fear of my situation. The phrase of this verse became "immediate revelation" meant for me and took on meaning that freed me to live responsibly, and yet now, that in the midst of danger or uncertainty I could know the Lord was covering me and those I loved. The authority of Scripture gave me a new lease on life.
If we are ever afraid of our current situation, the future, or of God's judgment, we can be reminded of His love. From Romans 8:37-39, we know that He loves us perfectly:
"...in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us...for I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord..."
We can resolve our fears first by focusing on His immeasurable love for us and then by allowing Him to love others through us. That divine love will quiet our fears and give us confidence to take on the day. Once I knew that God's love within me and the fear brought on by a multitude of challenges in life, I knew I needed to make a choice...either live in fear...or depend on and feel the comfort of the Lord's "love" resourcefulness to bring me through.