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October Funtastics

On October 11, the Funtastics will visit Victory Junction in Randleman, NC. Victory Junction is a Summer camp developed by the Petty family for children with fatal, or serious health problems. The goal of the camp is to get the children to forget about, for a week, their health conditions and just be kids. They do this through a wide variety of activities which include bowling, acting, archery and even repelling. There is much more, and they are extremely successful in obtaining their goal.

After our tour, we will have lunch at the Main Street South Steak House.

The bus will leave the church at 9:15 a.m. Register your attendance with the Church office by October 8.

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The Book of Acts Bible Study

You’re invited (men and women) to a Bible Study on October 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and November 5 at 10:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m., your choice; the study will be held in the banquet room (morning session) and in the conference room (evening session).

We will be studying the first seven chapters in the book of Acts. Mary Ruth McRae and I are so excited to bring this study to you. As part of this study, we will see our resurrected Jesus with His disciples giving them their last instructions, study the birth and growth of the early church and learn who was named to replace Judas. We will also be studying the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost.

We hope to see you in October, you only need to bring your bible. If you have questions just give me a call – Grace Shutt – 336-408-4969

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Becoming New

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17

June 17, 2018

 

Today is Father’s Day and I am wearing my dad’s tie. My dad died from cancer just after I accepted the call here to New Philadelphia. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in early September 2016 and not even two months later, he died. I remember the day before his funeral. Kelly and I were out looking for some appropriate clothes for Zach to wear- even though he is a pastor’s kid (a double PK actually) he doesn’t often wear a jacket and tie. While we were shopping, I decided to look for a new tie for myself. But not just any old tie.

My dad was a lifelong Wake Forest fan. He graduated from Wake in 1965 and rarely missed a football or basketball game. That love of Wake Forest sports was definitely passed on to me, and I decided to look for a tie in old gold and black for his funeral. I looked in a number of stores but just couldn’t find the right tie. So decided to just wear one of my regular old ties.

The day of his funeral, Kelly and Zach and I were getting dressed at my parents house. And I just happened to look through my dad’s ties, where I found this one. It was EXACTLY the tie I had been looking for to wear. So I asked my mom if it was okay for me to wear it for the funeral. Of course she said yes. And that I should just keep it if I wanted it. It has become my favorite tie. I wear it on the most special and important of occasions; like Father’s Day.

As I was looking over the scriptures for today- I had really planned to focus on the OT or the Gospel lesson. I preached on 2 Corinthians two weeks ago and Worth used it last week, so it seemed like this week was a good chance to move on to something else. But as I read the verses from 2 Corinthians, and remembered that it was Father’s Day, I knew that I would HAVE to preach one more time on Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. It just fit too well to do anything else.

There are three phrases in those verses that have stuck in my mind all week: for we walk by faith, not by sight…For the love of Christ urges us on… and if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! I think that each one is special enough to spend a little bit of time on this morning.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians that we walk by faith and not by sight, he was doing so as a way of affirming their belief in Jesus, even though they had not ever seen Jesus during his earthly life. For that matter, neither did Paul. And that was a bit of an issue for Paul. In those first decades after Jesus was crucified and died, then was resurrected and ascended into heaven, there was some controversy about the legitimacy of those believers who never knew Jesus in his earthly life, especially about those who called themselves “apostles” yet never knew Jesus. Those who knew Jesus while he walked on the earth wondered if someone who didn’t actually know Jesus in the same way that they did could preach the “true gospel” of Jesus.

Yet Paul did preach the true Gospel of Jesus and he wanted to assure those who heard it from him that it was okay, that he was a legitimate apostle. Paul also wanted to tell them that even though they had never seen Jesus, even though they didn’t know him they way that those who were with him did, they too were still true followers of Jesus. Their faith was just as genuine as the sight of others.

It may not seem like that big of a deal to us today. We are all like those followers of Jesus who didn’t ever know him. We are thousands of years and thousands of miles removed. We know that we don’t have to have seen Jesus to know Jesus. We all walk by faith and not by sight. While we don’t need to hear Paul’s words in the same way the believers in Corinth did and we don’t need them to reinforce our legitimacy as Christians, we still need to hear them. Because even though we have no doubt about our legitimacy as believers, we still need to remember that we walk by faith and not by sight.

For us, walking by faith and not by sight is not so much about our faith in who Jesus was and who Jesus is, it is more about what Jesus is going to do. It is about how Jesus is at work in our lives. The faith that we walk by is a faith in God who creates, redeems, and sustains his children. It is a faith that trusts in our God enough to know that every little thing is going to be alright.

This journey that we are on that we call our lives often seems like we are stumbling around in the dark. We don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see where we are going. Even though we can’t know or see the future, we know that God will continue creating, Jesus will always be redeeming, and the Spirit will constantly sustain us, as we walk by faith and not by sight and follow our Lord and Savior.

For the love of Christ urges us on… it’s not always easy to be a follower of Jesus. It’s hard to walk by faith and not by sight. The Apostle Paul knew this and we know it too. Paul faced many challenges and difficulties even after he encountered the risen Christ- maybe even especially after he became a Christian. As I mentioned before, his legitimacy and authority as an apostle was questioned and constantly challenged. And he suffered from what he called “a thorn in his flesh” that kept him humble and made his life difficult. He was not that different from us.

We have challenges and difficulties in our lives as followers of Jesus. We struggle with being in the world but not of the world. We are challenged by the call to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And we even struggle to love ourselves; especially to love ourselves in the same way that God loves us.

We are often incapable of looking at ourselves and seeing us the way that God sees us. We see our faults and failings; and God sees them too. But unlike they do to us, they don’t matter that much to God. For God loves us unconditionally, despite our faults and failings. God looks at us and sees all of those things that we see in ourselves that make us unlovable; unlovable by ourselves or anyone else, yet alone by the Creator of the heavens and earth and all that it is. God looks at us and sees our faults and failings and God loves us anyway.

God loves us so much that he died for us. When God became human, when Jesus died on the cross, it was all done for us and for our salvation, so that we might not die but may have everlasting life. This is the love of Christ that Paul writes about. It is the love to urges us on… it urges us on to love each other and to love the world in the same way that we are loved. It is the love that urges us on to love each other, despite being keenly aware of each others faults and failings. The love of Christ urges us on to love each other anyway.

It urges us on to live, and to love, not for ourselves, but for others. Which brings us to the last phrase from 2 Corinthians that has held my attention this week “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” This is the one that convinced me to preach one more week on this same letter. Because this is the one that reminded me so much of my dad.

For my brother and sister and I, we knew that we were loved unconditionally, supported and encouraged in all our endeavours. We were urged on by his love. My dad had a way about him that made it comfortable to be around him, even when there were no words to be said. When you were in his presence, you just knew that you were loved and accepted and valued and safe.

In addition to being a great father to me and my brother and sister, my dad was a “father” to many other boys, and later to many other men and women. He spent his life helping others to see themselves as the “new creation” in Christ that they are meant to be. Much of my dad’s career was spent as the director of the Winston-Salem Boys’ Club. It was those same gifts that he shared with us that enabled him to be a second father to countless boys who desperately needed a positive male influence in their lives. As he did with his own children, he loved them into seeing themselves as new creations in Christ.

After leaving the Boys’ Club, he went to work at Prodigals Community, which was a recovery community for people struggling to overcome addiction. At Prodigals, he helped many men and women to know that they were beloved children of God, that they were loved and forgiven- unconditionally and completely. It was at Prodigals where dad became the true representation of the Father as he greeted God’s beloved children and welcomed them home to the love that they desperately needed, greatly desired, and so deeply longed for.

My dad helped countless people to be able to see themselves as God sees them; he helped them to claim their identity as a child of God. No longer are they defined by their faults and failings, but they are “new creations” in Christ, everything old has passed away- all of the sins and shortcomings, all of the selfishness and striving to fit into the world, all of that is gone and we are made new.

I used the word “we” intentionally. For it is not just fatherless boys and substance addicted men and women who need to know that they are loved. It is not just them who need to see the old pass away and all things made new. This is something that we all need. We all need to claim our identity as new creations, as God’s beloved children.

I don’t want you to leave here thinking that my father was some kind of saint. He was a great man but he also had his own faults and failings. However, he didn’t allow those faults and failings to prevent him from seeing himself and others as God’s beloved children. On this Father’s Day, I know how very blessed that I am to have had a father who helped me to see and know this. But I also know that many aren’t as fortunate as I am. Many people struggle with Father’s Day. Either because their father’s are no longer with them (like me) or because their fathers have never been with them or, even worse, they had fathers who were the exact opposite of what a father is supposed to be.

Yet I also know that God gives us a father. Maybe not in the men who caused us to be born or who were married to our mothers, but God gives us at least one man in our life who fills that role of father, who helps us to walk by faith and not by sight, who urges us on with the love of Christ, who helps us to see ourselves as new creations in Christ.

So on this Father’s Day, just like I wear this tie to honor and remember my father and to give thanks to God for giving him to me, I want us all to take a moment to honor and remember our fathers, and give thanks to God for sharing them with us. Whether it is our actual father or another who was or is like a father to us; they are indeed a gift of God.

And even as we give thanks, let us also be challenged to be like them; to do for others as they have done for us. For we all need those people in our lives who see us as God sees us and who help us to become who God has created us to be. And we are all called to be those people to each other and to the world. It doesn’t take being a father or a mother, but it does take the being able to love like a father or a mother, it takes being able to love each other as we are loved by God- who creates us, redeems us and sustains us. It takes someone who knows that they are a new creation in Christ and wants to help others know that they too are new creations in Christ. So let us urge each other on with the love of Christ as we walk by faith in that love.

 

Amen

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Jars of Light

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

June 3, 2018

 

My wife and I went to Raleigh this week. Since she is serving as pastor of a Lutheran Church now, not only did she have to go to the Moravian Synod, she also had to go to the Lutheran Synod. It was held on Friday and Saturday in Raleigh. They have Synod every year instead of every 4 years like we do. So they have it not at a conference center, but at a hotel. Even though I had no desire to attend another Synod, we were paying for the room, so I decided to tag along and just hang out. Thankfully I didn’t have to actually attend any meetings.

Driving down to Raleigh on Thursday, I felt a little tug at my heart when, as we rode on I-40 through Greensboro, I saw the exit for 421 South towards Siler City. I remember taking that exit many times as a kid going to visit my grandmother. My dad grew up in Siler City and his mother (my grandmother) lived in Siler City all her life. When I was young, we would often go down and spend the weekend with her.

There wasn’t a lot to do in Siler City. Those Saturdays were spent visiting my great aunts and uncles and riding by Aunt Bee’s house. After she retired from show business, Aunt Bee- from the Andy Griffith Show- moved to Siler City. So we would always have to cruise by her house when we were in town even though we never actually saw her. Those visits to Siler City were far from exciting, yet I remember always enjoying them.

The best part came on Saturday evenings in the summertime, when my brother and sister and I would each get an empty glass jar, poke holes in the lid, and take it outside into my grandmother’s yard and try to catch lightning bugs. Her yard seemed to be covered with thousands upon thousands of those fascinating insects.

We used to fill those jars with as many as we could catch and then we would shake the jar, just a little bit, to try to get them to all light up at the same time. It was a beautiful sight to see those little bugs making their own light shine, to see that light make that whole jar, even the whole night, shine so bright.  Of course it had to be a glass jar. It wouldn’t have had nearly the same effect with any other kind of jar. Maybe we could have seen a little bit of the light shining out of the top of the but that is not nearly as good as seeing all the light, shining together.

I was thinking about this as I was contemplating what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the light of God shining in in our hearts and about how we have this treasure in clay jars, so it can be clear that it comes from God and not from us. I’m not really sure how keeping this treasure in a clay jar is helpful. It would be kind of like keeping those light’ning bugs in a clay jar. It would tend to be contrary to the whole point of it all. What’s the point of having treasure like that if you can’t even see it. Didn’t Jesus tell us not to hide our lights under a bushel basket? This seems like the same thing.

It’s an interesting idea, keeping treasure, any kind of treasure, in clay jars. It doesn’t make much sense at all. Not now and it probably didn’t even then. When Paul was writing, a clay jar would have been far down the list of places where anyone would keep treasure. They are too fragile, too porous, too cheap- they are easily thrown away.

They are even mentioned in the cleanliness laws in Leviticus. Where most things that come into contact with something or someone who is unclean can be washed and made clean again, a clay jar can’t. Once that happens it has to be broken and destroyed. That is how easily contaminated they are. And also how disposable they are. When I have a treasure, I want to keep it in something solid, strong, and permanent- basically the opposite of a clay jar.

The RSV and KJV translations use “earthen vessels” instead of “clay jars”. I think that this is helpful. It helps me to not get so hung up on the whole literal image of a clay jar and see the deeper metaphor that Paul was using. Certainly a clay jar is an earthen vessels, it’s made from the dust and dirt of the earth,  but there are many more things that also qualify as earthen vessels, including our own human bodies.

I think that this is what Paul was getting it. WE are the earthen vessels, the clay jars, that the treasure is kept in. That makes a lot more sense. For we are certainly like clay jars, at least our bodies are. They are fragile, they are breakable, they are even disposable.  And they are temporary.

As Paul wrote in his first letter to the church in Corinth:

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When Paul writes of keeping treasure in jars of clay, he is reminding us that God dwells in us. The God who created everything that is- the heavens, the earth, and life itself, dwells in our fragile, breakable, disposable bodies. This is the treasure that is in us, this is the light that shines out of the darkness. It is the light and the love of God.

God made that light and love visible to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. When God became human, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, the light began to shine in and through the darkness. The darkness that could not, and can not, and will not,  overcome it. And we see the glory of God in that light, in him, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

We see that glory and that glory shines in our hearts as Jesus dwells within us. It is not us that shines, but it is the glory of God shining in us and through us. It is telling that Paul refers to this as an “extraordinary power.” I don’t think that he is referring  solely to the power of the light shining in the darkness, though that certainly is an extraordinary power. I think that even beyond that the extraordinary power that dwells in us is the power of love.

Love is why the Word became flesh, love is why God became human. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” God did it all because of love. God became flesh and dwelt among us because He loves us. God gave up all that he has and all that he is because He loves us. God then gave up the life He had taken on, He allowed himself to be shamed and humiliated, He allowed himself to be lifted up on the cross to die, because He loves us. “For God so loved the world…”  That love represents an extraordinary power.

I think that we get so caught up in the the first part, in the whole business of not perishing but having everlasting life, in our worry about our lives lived in these earthen vessels, that we lose sight of the second part. We lose sight of the love. It is kind of overwhelming to contemplate the idea, the fact, that the same God who created the heavens and earth and all the dwells in them, the same God who was and is and is to come, the same God who is all seeing and all knowing is also all loving. How can God look at the world, with all its faults and sins and hatred, and love it so much that he sent his only Son to save it?

For that matter, how can God look at us, with all our faults and sins and selfishness, and love us so much that He became one of us, and allowed himself to die so that we might have eternal life? How can God love ME so much that he died for me? Yet that is exactly what God did. The truth that God came to us and Jesus died for us tells us that the extraordinary power  of God that dwells in us is LOVE.

These clay jars, these earthen vessels where we keep this extraordinary power, well they are meant to be broken. I don’t mean that our bodies are necessarily meant to be broken, to be injured, to be hurt, even though they are fragile and those things happen to them all the time. What I mean is that they are meant to let the light shine, to let the love out, to let loose the extraordinary power that dwells within them. Because even though our bodies are only temporary, the light of the love of Jesus that dwells within them is eternal. And it needs to be seen.

So even though we are afflicted in every way, we are not crushed; we are perplexed, but we are not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but we are not forsaken; we are struck down, but not destroyed. This life that we live is hard, but it is not our only life. There is something more. We are something more than these earthen vessels, these clay jars. We have the light of God in us. We have the love of God in us.

We can let that light, that extraordinary power of the love of God that dwells in us, we can let it out. We can let it out of these earthen, temporary vessels, and we can share it with the world. Because we know that no matter what, one day our perishable bodies will put on imperishability and our mortal bodies will put on immortality and death will be swallowed up in victory. Death is at work in us, but the life of Jesus, the love that dwells in us and the light that shines through us is greater than death and has overcome death.

Brothers and sisters,  We are not jars of clay but we are jars of light. Let your light shine and let the love of God that dwells in you, break free so that it can bring light and love into this dark world. Until he comes.

Amen.

 

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Easter Egg Hunt  Saturday, March 31

Children will be invited to participate in age level hunts throughout the morning:
10:10 a.m. – Infants and Toddlers (2 & Under)
10:40 a.m. – Preschoolers (3 & 4 year olds)
11:10 a.m. – Young Kids (5 & 6 year olds)
11:40 a.m. – Older Kids (7 & Older)

Enjoy other activities throughout the morning in Fellowship Hall: Face Painting, Guessing Games, Cake Walk, Pin the Tail on the Bunny…the Coloring Station, Pom-Pom Painting, Bubble Wand Creation and Origami.

Call for Easter Goodies for the Cake Walk – please drop off individually wrapped treats in the church kitchen before 9:30 a.m. on March 31- Label your items “Cake Walk”.

To help with the Easter Egg Hunt, please contact Evie Blum (evie@newphilly.org or 336-765-2331 ext. 307) to let us know you can help

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Nursery available for All Services

Palm Sunday
Sunday, March 25, 9 AM & 11:10 AM

Holy Week Readings
Monday, March 26, 7 PM
Tuesday, March 27, 7 PM (Band prelude 6:45 PM)
Wednesday, March 28, 7 PM

Maundy Thursday Communion & Readings
Thursday, March 29, 7 PM (Band prelude 6:30 PM)

Good Friday Tenebrae Service
Friday, March 30, 7 PM (Band prelude 6:30 PM)

Easter Worship
Sunday, April 1, 10 AM (no Sunday School)
Parents are asked to gather their children from the nursery prior to the Easter Liturgy so we may all worship together as a complete congregation.

Easter Morning Liturgy
Sunday, April 1, 11 AM (Begins at the front of the church and processes to God’s Acre.)
Remember to bring fresh flowers and greenery on Easter morning.  A large wooden cross, wrapped in wire, will be in the sanctuary.
Come early and arrange your natural spring bouquet on the cross before worship.

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