This is my sermon for this coming Sunday. Tell me what you think!

Date preached: 5/25/08, Sebewaing

RCL After Epiphany 8A

Text: Matthew 6:24-34

Subject: Why is God telling us not worry?

Complement: Because we have Him to trust in the lean times.

Exegetical Idea: If they serve God, He will provide for the Israelites – They need not worry.

Homiletic Idea: If we serve God, He will provide for us so we needn’t worry either.

Purpose: Hearers will ask God to be their Lord and provide their needs.

Type: Deductive, Expository

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

That poem, by Robert Frost, has always been a favorite of mine. The yellow wood reminds me of northern Michigan where I lived when I was young. And the constant decision of which way to go both on a walk and in my life has been beautifully detailed in this poem by Robert Frost. I always imagine myself gazing at the two roads deciding if I will take the less traveled, maybe even more difficult way or the easier way that most take. I have always likened them to the narrow and wide paths that we choose between in our life. I have chosen the narrow path to God rather than the wide path to wealth, power and destruction.

That is what our passage of scripture speaks of this week, too.

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God AND wealth.” Matthew 6:24 NIV

Here, Jesus breaks down our choices into two paths. There is the path serving God and the path serving wealth. (more…)

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Yesterday, I was rather down in the dumps after being sick. I got the flu this week. It started Monday night. I’m still feeling really tired from it. When I get sick and am stuck in the house, my depression gets worse, so I needed to get out yesterday. We went to Bay City for dinner at Big Boy and then we walked around the mall. I think that was the first time we all walked. In other words, we didn’t bring a stroller or use a cart. We made the kids walk. And we did have to make them. They didn’t like the idea of walking.

Anyway, we had fun and at about 8:45 we decided to get everyone’s hair cut. It was kind of late for the kids, but it was nice. It is a good thing they don’t have preschool on Fridays, though. We were all in desperate need of haircuts. I needed a trim really badly, but I have also been thinking about a change, so I got layers! I’ve never had layers before. At least never on purpose. Here is my new haircut:

me-small.jpg

What do you think? It looks really great in the picture because they styled it, too. I hope I can make it look that good on my own. I’m kind of lazy with my beauty habits. I think that I am confident enough in myself and my appearance (what God gave me) that I don’t see the need to spend forever getting ready in the morning. I’m already beautiful. I hope you understand the spirit I say that in. God sees all of us as perfect already. So, we’ll see if I take the time to do my hair like this every day.

Don’t forget, God thinks YOU are beautiful!

Here is my sermon in blog format. Let’s see how this works. Thanks, Jerrell Jobe for the idea. He just suggested I try writing my sermon as if I were writing a blog post so that it would be easier for me to preach it without reading it and so it will sound more like me. Does that make sense? Thank you, also to PS (a.k.a. purple) for her sermon that I so enjoyed reading. I took some of her ideas and integrated them into my sermon. Also, thanks to St. Inuksuk for the bone idea. Lastly, thanks to Gino and 10b travelling on Flickr for use of their photos. Well, I will preach it tomorrow, so I will let you know if the knew format helps with the preaching. It was fun to write this way.

Today I want to talk to you about God life-giving breath. But first I have talk to you about dry bones. Ezekiel has a vision that is recorded in Ezekiel 37. Verses 1-6 say:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: 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 will know that I am the Lord.'”

The Lord took Ezekiel to a valley of bones. Some commentators believe that this was the same valley that Ezekiel was commissioned at in chapter 3. That would make this vision seem very real to Ezekiel. Maybe God wanted him to know what an important real message this was.

The Lord led him around the valley. Ezekiel could have just glanced around and saw what he needed to see: a valley of dry bones, but God wanted him to feel full weight of the vision of bones. Ezekiel saw that there were many (probably thousands) of bones. Which meant that there were many people represented by the bones, perhaps an entire nation. He also saw that the bones were very dry. There was nothing left on them. These bones were dead. They were without hope.

Otis enjoying a ham bone by Gino on FlickrMost of us here have eaten ham. It is Pastor Chris and I’s favorite meat. He makes the world’s best double glazed honey ham. When we get done eating our ham, there is still meat on the bone, the bone is a dark color and there is still marrow and fat attached. These bones were clean and dry. These were more like a ham bone after you’ve given it to your dog and he has picked it clean, after it is has been bleached white with age and exposure.

The word “dry,” in the Old Testament, referred to raisins (dried out, shriveled), hungry people (dry, empty stomachs), chaff (the dry outer hull of wheat) and trees (especially in the desert climate they are in need of life-giving water).

I’ve been waiting a long time for love by 10b travelling on FlickrThe Lord asked Ezekiel a question. Can these bones live? Ezekiel answers well. He could have said no, but that wouldn’t have given God credit for all He can do. Ezekiel was probably thinking, “Well, they are pretty dead. It’s not likely.” But he realized that God was powerful enough that He probably could do it. So, he answers, “O Lord God, you know.” It was a safe answer, but it also shows that he knew God was powerful.

The Lord then tells him to prophesy to the bones. Now that is a strange thing to do. Ezekiel probably thought, “God, why are you making me do this? You could do it. What do you need me for?” That’s what I would have thought. Who wants to talk to dry bones? I’d be afraid someone was hiding behind some rocks watching and they would start laughing. But Ezekiel is obedient and prophesied saying:

“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: 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 will know that I am the Lord.”

Ezekiel did what he was told. I wonder what he thought would happen. It’s easy to be cynical and not expect anything. Especially since Ezekiel had prophesied many times before for God and he had always had to speak words of death, destruction and exile. Sometimes, as a pastor, I wonder if what I preach will stir anyone to action. I expect that while he did what God asked of him, Ezekiel felt the same way and didn’t really expect anything to happen. They were dry bones after all. You can’t get any worse audience than that! I think that might be worse than having no audience at all.

But, he says, “suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.” They were being resurrected! What an amazing moment that must have been! I know that when I see something happening in our church, like being asked to start a Sunday evening Bible study, I get excited. This rattling noise was like the sound of battle or an earthquake or of God’s impressive glory. The same word is used in chapter 3 when God lifts Ezekiel up and takes him where he is to prophesy. Ezekiel knew that the sound he heard was God behind him. Though he hadn’t seen it, he had heard God’s glory. So then, he looks at the bones and sees that they have muscle and flesh and skin. But, he notes that there is still no breath in them.

So God tells Ezekiel to prophesy again. Ezekiel prophesies saying,

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”

“Breath,” in Hebrew is the same word that is also used for spirit and wind. The way God tells him to say it emphasizes the determined will of God to “cause (the breath/Spirit/life) to enter their bodies. Isn’t that powerful? They needed God’s Spirit, his life-giving breath.

And what happens? The once dry bones are now alive and breathing. Verse ten says that they “stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” Wow. In Hebrew, the verse uses the equivalent of two verys in other words, a very, very large group. An exceedingly large multitude of people.

So, what did this vision mean? Well, God tells us very clearly what it means. Sometimes, he’s not so clear as this instance. In verses 11-14, God says:

“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.'”

At the time of Ezekiel, the Israelites were far from their home, having been taken captive by Babylon. They were suffering physically as well as spiritually. This was all brought on by their own sin and God was working to bring them back to Him through these trials. But they wondered what had happened to God. They felt alone and didn’t know who they were. The Israelites felt hopeless. They felt like dried up bones, dead.

Ezekiel is to prophesy once again, but to his own people. This message was to give them hope and bring them back to God. Here God is promising them that he will resurrect them; bring them back to life and their home. He is foretelling his action so that they will now it was His doing when it happens. Through their political and physical restoration, He will restore them spiritually. He will breathe His life back into them. And this will start by breathing hope into them with the message Ezekiel will prophesy.

Not too many of the Israelites listened to him until some years later when Cyrus the Great of Babylon allowed displaced people to return home in 538 B.C.

Now that we understand the message and the meaning of the message for the Israelites, what is the meaning to us? There are all kinds of things that cause us to feel spiritually dried up. What have you let come between you and God? What fears and anxieties keep you from living the resurrected life? In John 11:25, Jesus, just before breathing life back into Lazarus, tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” God can breathe new life into you today.

So let go of whatever is keeping you from living the resurrected life. Maybe it’s concern over your finances or who the next president will be. Maybe you have medical issues or a relationship that isn’t healthy like it should be. Maybe you fear the violence in the world or are addicted to something that keeps you from God. Maybe you feel alone, you wonder if there really is a God. You wonder if God does actually care about you. Whatever is making you feel dry and dead, give it to God. He will breathe new life into you. He will bring restoration to your soul. He loves you deeply, more than we can even comprehend. He only longs to bring you back to a healthy life in Him. All you need to do is accept the gift of life he offers and give your problems and questions to Him. Don’t let your problems drag you into the grave any longer.

buy.jpgThe other day we went to a church supply store. It was a Catholic store. They had all kinds of rosaries. I’ve mentioned before how my husband prays the rosary(without the Hail Marys). Well, after seeing daddy pray with his so much, Princess, who always wants to be just like daddy, wanted a rosary she saw that was made for kids. It’s got wooden beads and each decade is a different color. It’s a Wooden Kiddee Rosary. Well, daddy was telling her how she can use it. He told her to pray The Lord’s Prayer on the brown beads between the decades and to pray something like, “I love you, Jesus” on the colorful beads.

She was so cute praying after that. First she complained because we always pray The Lord’s Prayer at night and it wasn’t dark yet, so she couldn’t pray that yet. We told her otherwise, but she wouldn’t believe us for like a whole day! On the colorful beads she started by saying, “Jesus, you love me.” It was so cute!

ella-praying.jpgI’m glad God knows what in our hearts. That was music to his ears, I’m sure. Then she started saying a prayer that she made up, but she wanted it to rhyme, so it was mostly made up words. We were trying so hard not to laugh at how cute she was! Once again, God knew what she meant. It was adorable and touching at the same time. She must have been making God so happy with her nonsense prayer!

It’s really a blessing as a parent to see your kids growing in God!

In response to my last post, I had a friend ask me some questions about where I am and want to be. She asked some great questions and some of the last ones, I can’t answer yet. I really appreciated her thought-provoking question and the time she spent in typing them all out. Here is the e-mail conversation that we had:

(Friend’s questions in dark orange): I read your blog and also your sermon from Jan. 4th. It was good….a lot of good points and thoughts! I enjoyed reading it. (My answers in green) Thank you!

I read your blog from yesterday….you raised several questions for me. You said you and Chris are very competitive …So, I have several questions for you. Why did you get your ministerial license?I did it because while I didn’t plan to, I felt God leading me that way at the time. I guess I always felt called to be a pastor’s wife, but it seems that God is transforming me slowly into more than that. I could never have done it if I didn’t feel it was right. I am too lazy to go to all that work if I’m not sure I have to. I really don’t enjoy preaching at ALL! But, I know that is where I ‘m supposed to be right now. I hope I will grow to love it. I do love being in ministry and doing more than the average wife. I enjoy voting and having a say in what happens in the AG, too. Also, I have filled in for my mom’s church which is something that I consider my own ministry. I mean I wouldn’t have done it if I was riding on the heels of my husband.

Do you have your own call from God to preach or did you do it because Chris did?I guess I skipped ahead and answered that already, huh? :)Would you be in ministry even if you weren’t married to a preacher? 3 years ago, I would have said… “I don’t know”. Now, if Chris died, I would continue at this church as their pastor if they let me (and I believe they would). So, yes, I would. Absolutely.

How would going back to school effect your ministry and those who you are currently serving? Good question, I guess I think the biggest help would be long term in that even though it’s a small church, we would have a better chance of staying here if I had alternative income as well as what we both make preaching. As far as the effect of the extra time, I am truly unsure. But, if it’s what God wants, that will work out.

As far as a greater Theological Degree, do you really need that for God to use you in the capacity that he has chosen to use you in? You can always read and study yourself to improve in your Theological studies. Now if you felt lead to teach in a college setting etc., then yes you would need the further studies and degrees. Very true, I am just trying to reconcile my two halves I guess.

Other questions to ask yourself as far as returning to school for your Graphics Degree are…How would you use your degree and what jobs are available in your area to use your degree? I believe that I would be able to find something. When I first moved here was when I applied for the job that I wrote about. I could always work at a paper and they are everywhere. I would use my degree to pay off our huge loans that we already have from Bible college that we haven’t been able to even touch with our current salary. But I really feel called to do graphic design for church plants or other small churches that can’t afford to pay a graphic designer. Churches that could greatly benefit from a face-lift to the community so to speak. I want to be able to this for them at cost or on a sliding scale fee system. Very cheaply at least.

If your interests are really in photography, why waste money on a design graphics degree. Wouldn’t it be better to put that money towards something you really love, photography classes and equipment? That is what I am considering at the moment, but I think your questions have made me realize the answer. The photography would be loads of fun, but it wouldn’t get me the rest of the training I need in order to do what I really want – cheap design for small churches.

Can you afford to return to school without it putting to much financial strain on your marriage? Um…I can’t afford it without more loans, but we have so many already that getting the training to actually get a real job would actually be putting us ahead. If I start in the fall, it would defer my undergrad loans till I’m done and could get a job and hopefully finally make some progress on all our loans. I know it’s not the best plan, but I don’t see any other way of getting out of where we are. We just don’t get paid enough. I pray our church will grow, but I must be patient. All things in God’s time. Maybe this waiting time is the right time to take the action needed for me to be comfortable and confident with my skills.

Also write out the pros and cons of how going back to school would effect your family time and time spent with your children, church time, personal time. When would you do your classes, projects and work outside the home? Would the greater stress be more harmful to you emotionally right now with the depression? or would it be your escape? Yes, very good things to do. I think that it would be helpful to be going somewhere. It would be added stress as well, though. I have to figure out which would be better. These last questions are great ones to pray over.

Just some things to really think about and talk out with your hubby. I know I have raised more questions than I have given any answers for, but they are things that you need to figure out before you make any decisions that effect your whole family.

I appreciate your thoughtful and thorough response more than you can know. Thank you.

It was so funny to read your post today as I just finished praying for you gals struggling with depression and low self esteem. Praying that God would make Himself very real to you, that you can see yourself as Christ sees you and that you would be encouraged in some way today by Him. My heart feels for you all as you struggle with these issues on a daily basis. You all have giftings and callings that God has placed within each of you and I know Satan is out to destroy what God has placed within you. Don’t let him! If you have never taken a Spiritual Inventory Test I encourage you to take one. If you don’t know where to go email me and I can point you to a good one. It is a place to start to see where your strengths are at and also what areas you can work on strengthening. If you are doing things outside of your giftings it will be a constant struggle for you. If you have the gift of helps but find you are constantly stuck in a teaching position within the church body it will be a struggle for you or visa-versa. Find your niche, where your strengths are and let God use you there first. Then let him help you grow in these other areas. Great advice! I have taken several of those tests, but I bet now would be a great time to retake one and go over the results again.

I pray that some how this posting encourages you. God does want you to walk in victory….that doesn’t mean you won’t have days that you struggle, but He will help you overcome!

Thanks again to my friend and her encouraging and thoughtful words, challenging questions and above all the prayers!

Well, I am back from the memorial service for my uncle. Thank you all for your prayers. I really appreciate them. It went well. My uncle Tom’s first ex-wife (current good friend)’s significant other did the memorial. Does that make sense? I hope so. Anyways, it was a perfect length and some of his family and friends went up and talked about him. It was very touching. I know he will be missed by many people. My hubby wrote a great post about the service. I, too, pray for all those left behind, saddened by his leaving. I hope that I will be a good witness of God’s love to them.

Thank you, honey for a beautiful post!

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has had as wonderful a holiday as I have. I went to my mom’s house for the traditional turkey and had a very good dinner. I even came back with leftovers. Cold turkey sandwiches tomorrow!

Today, I would like to tell you all what I am thankful for.

    1. My loving God – He’s so wonderful. He loves me more than anyone else and I know that I can never deserve His love, yet He loves me.
    2. My hubby – He loves me and does things for me even when I don’t really deserve for him to be so nice to me. Thank you, honey, and I love you!
    3. My kids (Princess and Little Man) – They daily show me new things and daily give me their unconditional love. Sometimes I don’t deserve that either.
    4. The rest of my family (moms, dads and brothers and sisters) – Thanks for being such great family!
    5. My church family – Our congregation loves us so much and I am thankful for that. I love them, too. I am so glad we fit together so well and I look forward to continuing to effect change in our community.
    6. My many, many friends (both in life and in the online realm) – I’m so glad I friends that I can go to when I need to talk. I am also so glad for all the friends that I have made through blogging. Blogging has opened up a whole new world of giving and receiving blessings. I am also thankful for all the readers of my blog. Don’t be afraid to de-lurk. I’d love to be your friend, too.
    7. My fellow ministers – All of you readers that are fellow pastors and all the fellow pastors in my community and in the Assemblies of God that I have become close to, I appreciate what you have taught me. I look forward to continually growing at the prodding of others.

      I’m sure that there are many more things I am thankful for that I have left out. These are the ones with the biggest impact on my life. Thank you all for all you do for me! Happy Thanksgiving!