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“God’s Church” – Rev. Marsha Wilfong – 2/12/17

THANKS TO OUR GUEST PREACHER Rev. Dr. Marsha Wilfong, a retired Presbyterian Minister whom we all know as a friend of our congregation.  Marsha has agreed to respond to requests for pastoral care while Hal is on vacation.

Scripture:  1 Corinthians 3:5-17; 4:6 (NRSV)                                                                                                                                                  

 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labour of each. 9For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 

 I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, ‘Nothing beyond what is written’, so that none of you will be puffed up in favour of one against another.

“Then Your Light Will Shine in the Darkness” – Pastor Hal Murry – 2/5/17

Sermon Outline

  1. About Isaiah

  2. "Darkness" re-emerges

  3. Today's Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-12

  4. God's people have BIG hearts!

Isaiah 58:1-12 Common English Bible (CEB)

58 Shout loudly; don’t hold back;

    raise your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their crime,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
    desiring knowledge of my ways
    like a nation that acted righteously,
    that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
    wanting to be close to God.
“Why do we fast and you don’t see;
    why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
    and oppress all your workers.
You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
    you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
    if you want to make your voice heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I choose,
    a day of self-affliction,
    of bending one’s head like a reed
    and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
    Is this what you call a fast,
        a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
    and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
    and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
    the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
10     if you open your heart to the hungry,
    and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
    your light will shine in the darkness,
    and your gloom will be like the noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually
    and provide for you, even in parched places.
    He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
12 They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account;
    the foundations of generations past you will restore.
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Livable Streets.

Pastor’s Blog – “A Call to Adventure” – February 2017

                As a young adult, I must have watched journalist Bill Moyers’ 6-part series of 90 minute television interviews with Joseph Campbell a half a dozen times.  That’s a LOT of TV, not to mention the snacks!

                 For some years every fund raiser for our local PBS station in Columbus, Ohio, featured those interviews.  And so year after year, I was re-hooked. 

                 Joseph Campbell was a professor at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and in his day was one of the world’s premier authorities on comparative             mythology and religion.  He did groundbreaking research to identify archetypal stories found in cultures around the world.  And despite today’s emphasis on      differences and divisions, Campbell’s work showed that the foundational stories    of most of the world’s cultures have much in common.

      In his best known book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he discusses the  spiritual journey of the archetypal hero found in many of the world’s religions. 

Campbell observes that typically, in the lives of religious heroes, there     occurs a clearly demarcated  “beginning moment” which Campbell refers to as a “Call to Adventure.”  He writes, “Everything changes from that moment.  Destiny summons the hero and deepens his spiritual center of gravity.  He begins to call others to join him.”

Just such a moment, just such a “Call To Adventure” occurs for Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel of Mark.  Mark dates the beginning of Jesus’ public        ministry to the arrest of his spiritual mentor John the Baptist.  Only after John had been arrested, did Jesus then emerge over a hundred miles away, up north in the territory of Galilee, where he began proclaiming “the Kingdom of God.”

In Mark, the first time Jesus speaks is in Chapter 1, verse 15.  It’s been called Jesus’ “inaugural address”, because in it, he proclaims the central message of his ministry.  In just a single verse, he summarizes the heart of the Christian message, and sets the stage for all of his ministry that follows. 

“NOW is the time!  Here comes God’s kingdom!  Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”  — Mark 1:15


“Essentials of Field Education” – Rev. Susan LeFeber – 1/29/17

GUEST PREACHER the  Rev. Dr. Susan LeFeber is the Director of Field Education and Placement at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Prior to her call to UDTS, she served for ten years in parish ministry, for six years on the seminary Council of Advisors, and on several committees for the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. She commutes to Dubuque each week from her home in Milwaukee, and loves the rolling hills along highway 151.

Hosea 6:1-6 (NRSV)

6 “Come, let us return to the Lord;
    for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
    he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him.
Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
    his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.”

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
    What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
    like the dew that goes away early.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,
    I have killed them by the words of my mouth,
    and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
    the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

“Inaugural Address” – Pastor Hal Murry -1/22/17

Sermon Outline

  1. John's arrest; a turning point for Jesus

  2. Today's Scripture: Mark 1:14-20

  3. The "Kingdom of God":

  • is about life in THIS world

  • is about religion and politics

  • is accessible here and now

  1. The call to follow Jesus

Scripture:  Mark 1:14-20  (CEB)                                                                                                                                          

                         14 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15 saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

                        16 As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 18 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 19 After going a little farther, he saw James and John, Zebedee’s sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. 20 At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.

“Here’s How It Begins…” – Pastor Hal Murry – 1/15/17

Sermon Outline

  1. John's Testimony
  2. Today's Scripture: John 1:29-42
  3. "What are you looking for?"
  4. "Come and see."

Scripture John 1:29-42 (CEB)

                29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is really greater than me because he existed before me.’ 31 Even I didn’t recognize him, but I came baptizing with water so that he might be made known to Israel.” 32 John testified, “I saw the Spirit coming down from heaven like a dove, and it rested on him. 33 Even I didn’t recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit coming down and resting is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and testified that this one is God’s Son.”

                    35 The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus.

                    38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?”

They said, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?”

                    39 He replied, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

                    40 One of the two disciples who heard what John said and followed Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Christ ). 42 He led him to Jesus.

               Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).