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Sermon – June 11, 2017 – Rev. Joe Moore, New Philadelphia Moravian

Last Sunday was a two-fer (two special occasions in one Sunday). It was Confirmation and Pentecost. Today is also a two-fer. We are celebrating Graduation Sunday and Trinity Sunday. Actually today is a three-fer since it is also the installation of our new DCE. And that’s even more appropriate for Trinity Sunday, this day in which we consider God in three persons; one in three and three in one; Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer; Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

It is joy to be able to gather as God’s people and celebrate. Last week, it was a true blessing to remember the birth of the church, when the Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus and filled them with power that allowed them to become the Church. And it was a true blessing to see our young people confirm their belief in that same God- Father, Son, Holy Spirit. It was a true blessing to have them state their intention to be an active part of the Church, this church, as they live, love, and serve.

Today, we celebrate “comings and goings” as we welcome Evie Blum as our new Director of Christian Education and we say goodbye to our graduates, as they prepare to
go off to college and off to work. Both this Sunday and last Sunday have a surprising similarity. Our confirmands were marking a key transition in their lives and faith; our graduates are also marking a key transition in their lives and faith. Both come with much hard work, preparation, prayer; both come with lots of faith, lots of hope, and lots of love.

Our confirmation class last week and our graduates this week also have something in common with the disciples in today’s gospel lesson. We take a couple of steps back in the narrative from last week’s account from Acts, to the end of Matthew’s gospel. After finding the empty tomb and seeing the resurrected Jesus, Mary Magdalene took his message to the disciples that they were to return to Galilee, where they, too, would see him. So they did, they went to Galilee and found Jesus there. And they worshiped him, even though some doubted.

I’ve always found that interesting. “… but some doubted…” It’s almost a throw away line, getting overshadowed by the appearance of the resurrected Jesus and the “great commission” that he gives to his disciples. But it is too important to overlook. Far too often we, as Christians, feel ashamed when we have doubts. We don’t allow room for doubt, we are uncomfortable when do have doubt. This “throw-away” verse reminds us that it is okay to have doubts.

Even the disciples, who had been with Jesus, who had watched him die, who saw him Resurrected, even some of them had doubts. Faith without doubt wouldn’t be faith, hope without doubt wouldn’t be hope. Our faith is not a blind faith, but it is an examined faith, it is a studied faith, it is an educated faith. It is a faith that has been tested, questioned, and challenged. It is a faith that allows us to have considered all the reasons to believe, and all the reasons to NOT believe, and yet we still find ourselves believing. It’s okay to doubt, it strengthens our belief.

The eleven disciples meet the resurrected Jesus in Galilee. There they worship him (though some doubt). There Jesus says to them “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

These verses, the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, provide a roadmap (or an action plan) for Christians. They tell us what to do as followers of Jesus, as members of the church. Whether we are newly baptized or have recently confirmed our faith, whether we are beginners or graduates, young or old, these verses in Matthew show us the way. They tell us what to do whether we are coming or whether we are going.

The disciples come to Galilee, they come to where Jesus tells them to come, to where Jesus wants them to be. We come to church, to where Jesus tells us to come, to where Jesus wants us to be. We come together as the church. The disciples worshipped God on that mountain in Galilee. They praised the risen Lord. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” We worship God in this church. We praise the risen Lord. “O Lord, we praise your name, O Lord, we magnify your name, Prince of Peace, mighty God.”

The disciples come and worship and listen to Jesus. We come to church and worship and listen to Jesus. We hear Jesus speak to us in the words of Scripture. We listen to Jesus speak to us as we pray. We hear Jesus as we listen to each other sing the songs of faith.

The disciples come and worship and listen to Jesus and receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Though not as explicit as it is in Acts, it is clear that the disciples receive the power of the Holy Spirit as they gather in Galilee to worship and listen to Jesus. Otherwise they couldn’t do what he tells them to do. If they didn’t have the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, they couldn’t baptize and teach and make disciples of all nations. And we know that they did do that. Because we are here today. Having been baptized and taught and made into disciples of Jesus. We, too, have received the power of the Holy Spirit. And we are called to go and do the same for others.

The disciples came to Jesus and Jesus tells them to go into the world. We come to Jesus, we come to church, and we are told to go into the world. We are called to go into the world and to do what the disciples did, to make disciples of all nations, to baptize and teach. We are called to go in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are invited to come, and then we are called to go. The first part is about us, it is about our needs. We need to worship because we need to respond to God’s presence in our lives. We need to listen to Jesus because we know the truth of his words, the power of his teaching. We need to be reminded of his love. We need to receive the Holy Spirit because we that is how we know God. It is how we feel his presence and experience his love. The first part, the invitation to come, is about our needs, our wants, our desires.

The second part, the call to go, is about others. It is about making disciples by sharing our knowledge of God. It is about baptizing them into the death (into the love) of Jesus. It is about teaching them through the power of the Holy Spirit about who God is, what Jesus did, and how the Holy Spirit does. We come in for ourselves and we go out for others.

However, sometimes we get stuck in the first part. We come in and we stay in. We focus on ourselves and on our needs. We can all understand the desire to stay where we are. Our graduates, as excited as they are about having graduated, I’m sure that they are also a little bit nervous and anxious about what comes next- about leaving the place where they are comfortable, where they are at home. But they know that they can’t do that. If they want to continue to grow, if they want to fully become who God has created them to be, they must go.

And we must go. We must go out into the world and make disciples. We must go and baptize. We must go and teach. As the church, we gather for worship, we come and listen to Jesus, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit. And now let us go. Let us go and share what we have- our faith in God our Creator, the love of Jesus our Redeemer, and the power of the Holy Spirit our Sustainer.

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Sermon – June 4, 2017 – Rev. Joe Moore

Today is Confirmation Sunday. At the 11:10 service, 8 young people will confirm their faith in God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit- and they will state their desire to follow God with faith, love, and hope. This year’s Confirmation Class has been meeting together for several months as we talked about who God is, what God does, and how God calls us to respond. It has been a joy for me to be with them and lead them in this part of their faith journey.

One of the things that I love about teaching Confirmation is getting to choose each kids Confirmation text. It is something that I give a lot of thought and prayer as I try to find the perfect Scripture to serve as their own personal watchword, as a passage that they can keep in their hearts and minds as they go through their lives. Hopefully the texts that I have chosen for this year’s confirmands will be as meaningful and memorable to them as my Confirmation Text is to me. On Palm Sunday 1983, Craig Troutman gave me Philippians 1:6 as my Confirmation text- I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, as I have taught confirmation, I will often also choose a Confirmation Text for the class as a whole; a text that serves to capture the experience of the class as they came together and formed their own unique community, a text that really says something about them, about who they are and where they are in their life and faith as a group. I remember one class at Fries Memorial that left me no other choice for a Confirmation Text than that shortest verse in the Bible- John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” But that was all in good fun, they didn’t really cause Jesus to weep, at least they hadn’t at that point in their lives. It was also easy for me to choose a text for this Confirmation Class- “Be still and know that I am God.”

Now, you may chuckle and think that I choose that text for this class because they had trouble “being still” and while that may have been the situation at times, it is not why I chose that as the class Confirmation verse. One of the things that we did every week was to think about, and talk about, the ways that we had seen God at work among us, how we had experienced the presence of God as we went about our lives- moment by moment, day to day. We even had a group text message that we would use to share those times that we had seen and experienced God’s presence.

But it wasn’t always easy. It is often hard to be aware of how God is present and working in our lives. That is why we need to “be still” and pay attention to what is going on around us, to allow us to know that God is God and God is present with us. “Be still and know that I am God.” is one of God’s ways of telling us to “Pay Attention.” That’s what Pentecost is about. It’s about God telling us to pay attention. The followers of Jesus had gathered, after his crucifixion and death, after his resurrection and ascension, they were all together in one place. And God told them to pay attention. It wasn’t in a silent, peaceful, reflective, “be still and know” kind of way. But more like a shout of “Hey! This is important!” The sound of a rushing wind filled the place and tongues of fire appeared and rested over each one of them. And they were suddenly able to speak in languages that they had never spoken before.

And that was a pretty good way to get people’s attention. It was a pretty good way of letting people know that something important was happening. It was a pretty good way to let them know that the Holy Spirit was among them. I imagine that if the same thing happened here this morning- if the sanctuary was filled with a rushing wind, if tongues of fire appeared on each of us, if we suddenly began speaking in languages we had never spoken before, I think that we would pay attention.

Pentecost was when it all came together for those followers of Jesus, it was when they became the “church”. It was when they realized that God was with them- God the Creating Father, God the Redeeming Son, God the Blessing Spirit. It was when they knew that they had all that they needed to do what God was calling them to do- what God had created them to do, what Jesus had redeemed them to do, what the Holy Spirit would bless them as they did, it was when they knew that they had all that they needed to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Pentecost and Confirmation is when it all comes together for us, too. It is when we are reminded to Pay Attention, for the Spirit is among us. It is when we are reminded
to Pay Attention, for God is creating, God is redeeming, God is blessing — right here and right now. We are called to pay attention to what God is creating, to who God is redeeming, to how God is blessing. God creates in faith, God redeems with love, God blesses in hope. God’s faith is in us, God’s love is for us, God’s hope rests upon us. God is here- God is creating. God is here- God is redeeming. God is here- God is blessing. God is among us, God is calling us, God needs us. And God is blessing us with all that WE need- to be who He has created us to be, to become who He has redeemed us to become, to do what He has blessed us to do. God is here. So Pay Attention.

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Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017 – Home Moravian
Sister Fran Saylor
10 a.m. Coffee Hour
10:45 a.m. Music
11 a.m. Worship, Nursery Provided

Sunday, March 5, 2017 – Christ Moravian
Rev. Kelly Moore
2 p.m. Lovefeast, Nursery Provided

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 – Trinity Moravian
Dr. Debbie Norris Lanier
11 a.m. Worship
Luncheon

Wednesday, March 15 – Ardmore Moravian
Dr. Robert Shackleford
9:45 a.m. Coffee Hour
10:45 a.m. Music
11 a.m. Worship, Nursery Provided

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 – Calvary Moravian
Rev. Dr. Nola Knouse
9:45 a.m. Coffee Hour
11 a.m. Worship, Nursery Provided

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 – Fairview Moravian
Rev. Dr. David Marcus
10:30 a.m. Band Prelude
11 a.m. Worship with Communion, Nursery Provided

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 – Konnoak Hills Moravian
Rt. Rev. Dr. Graham Rights
11 a.m. Lovefeast

April 9 – Palm Sunday
April 14 – Good Friday
April 16 – Easter Sunday

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Since 1957, as the Moravian Unity celebrated our 500th Anniversary, the Unity Prayer Watch has assured that prayer for the work and witness of our world-wide Moravian Church is being offered somewhere in the world 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The Prayer Watch is a renewal of the “hourly intercession”, begun in Herrnhut in 1727 which continued uninterrupted for 100 years.

New Philadelphia’s assigned date and time for the 2017 Prayer Watch is January 2 from 4:00 pm to midnight. Starting this Sunday (December 18) there will be a sign-up sheet in the Commons Area for our members to choose their time to be in intentional prayer on behalf of the worldwide Moravian Church. 

Please sign up for a 30 minute time to pray on January 2. We will share the list of suggested topics for prayer with those who sign up.

 

Blessings,

Pastor Joe

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October 9, 2016 Installation Service
New Philadelphia Moravian Church
I John 4:7-­12 and John 15:1­-17

My sermon this morning is going to be quite a bit different than what I was planning to do when I first began thinking about it. Since this is my first sermon here at New Philadelphia, I knew that there was a lot I wanted to accomplish with it. Most important being to introduce myself to my new congregation. So my original intent for this sermon was to begin with my spiritual journey. You know, how God has acted in my life and led me to this point; to being called and installed as your Associate Pastor. I wanted to share all of those significant events that have formed me into who I am as a person and as a pastor. That’s what I was intending to do with this first sermon at New Philadelphia. But I’m not going to do that, at least not today. Because honestly, I am tired of talking about myself.

Over the last few months, it seems like talking about myself has been all that I have done. Beginning with sharing my spiritual journey with the Joint Board back in July and ending with sharing it at the Men’s Breakfast just this past Friday, I have told that story many, many times. I’m sure that those who know me well, especially Kelly and Zach and my family (and I have at least fifteen family members here today) are probably surprised to hear it, I am simply tired of talking about me. Today, I would rather talk about us.

Us, the congregation of New Philadelphia Moravian; us, the Moravian Church; us, the church of Jesus Christ; us, the people of God; us, God’s beloved children. You know, us; you and me and everyone else in this family. Everyone in this wonderful, caring, church family. Everyone in this loving congregation, worshipping God together, encouraging one another as we seek a closer relationship with Jesus, following the Holy Spirit into mission and service. You know, us, New Philadelphia Moravian Church.

Today’s Scripture readings tell us about what it means to be us. The most important thing they say about being God’s people, the main thing they tell us about being God’s beloved children, the essential thing about being us, is that it is all about is love. We are all about love. These passages from the first letter of John and the Gospel of John are all about love. Taken together, reading them as one continuous passage, it begins with John writing “Let us love one another” and it ends with Jesus saying “This is my command: Love each other.” So we can see that it really is all about love; love at the beginning, love in the middle, love at the end.

This all­ important, essential love starts with God. John writes that love comes from God; that God is love­ unconditional love, sacrificial love, atoning love. John writes that God loves us with this love. This love that is the very nature of God. God loves us with this love that caused God to come to us, to send his son to save us from our sins, to face death so that we might obtain life, to rise from death to new life so that we too might live a new life.

John writes that just as we are loved with this love, since God so loves us, we also ought to love one another. We also ought to love one another with the same love; the same unconditional love, the same complete love, the same perfect love. The love that begins it all.

This love that God has for us and gives to us is a love without fear. It seems that this is something that we miss out on in this day and age. John writes, “There is no fear in love.” Yet our world, our lives, tell a very different story. In our world and in our lives, we have a lot of fear. We are afraid of others. We are afraid of those who aren’t like us; who don’t believe what we believe; who don’t feel like we feel; who don’t look like we look; who don’t act like we act. We are afraid of the future; of it not being what we want it to be; of not having what we have now, what we believe belongs to us. Basically, what we are afraid of is the unknown. We are afraid of others because we don’t know them, we don’t take the time to understand them. We are afraid of the future because we don’t know what it will bring. And try as we might, we can’t control it. So we fear it.

We so want to be filled with love. We so long to be filled with love. Yet too often our fear overcomes our love. But remember, fear has to do with punishment, with judgement, with condemnation. There is no condemnation in the love that comes from God. There is no judgement in the love that Jesus gives to us. There is no punishment in the love that God has for us. God’s love for us is “perfect love” that drives out fear. And this perfect love, this complete love, this unconditional love, this is the love that God calls us to have for one another.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “This is my command: Love each other.” Not a suggestion or a request. But a command. A command to love each other. It’s all about love. It’s all about God’s love for us and our love for each other. Our love for each other is supposed to emulate Jesus’ love for us. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Love each other completely; love each other unconditionally; love each other perfectly.

This all sounds good. It certainly sounds like something we would want to do, something we would be able to do. Yet we all know that it is a lot easier to talk about loving, it is a lot easier to say we love each other than it is to actually love each other. Especially to love each other completely, unconditionally, perfectly. It is hard to love each other perfectly because we are all imperfect, we are all human, we all make mistakes, we all disappoint each other just as much as we love each other.

I know that I certainly am and I certainly do. I am human, I definitely make mistakes, I disappoint people. Even as a pastor. But here’s the thing, as I am installed today as your new Associate Pastor, remember that I am human, I will make mistakes, I will disappoint you. Just as we are all human, we will all make mistakes, we will all disappoint each other. So we need to decide something.

We need to decide that when the inevitable happens, when we make those mistakes, when we disappoint each other, we need to decide now to stick together then, to continue to love

each other. Because if we don’t, if we give up on each other, if you give up on me or I give up on you, if you give up on each other, then we will miss out on God coming in.

We will miss out on God coming in and overwhelming our faults with his grace. We will miss out on God coming in and taking our imperfect love and completing it with his perfect love. We will miss out on God coming in and connecting us like branches to Christ the vine. We will miss out on bearing fruit and showing the world what the love of God looks like.

So let us decide now that even when our love is imperfect, when we disappoint each other, that we will stick together. That we will remain together, connected to each other. That we will remain branches in Christ the vine, living branches that bear fruit. We need to bear fruit so that the world can look at us and see the fruit that we bear, so that the world can look at us and see what the love of God looks like.

What the love of God looks like is this­ feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty. What the love of God looks like is this ­welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked. What the love of God looks like is this ­comforting the sick and visiting the prisoner. This is the fruit that we bear when we love one another. This is what love looks like. This is what it is all about. This is what I am all about. This is what we are all about. This is us. It is who we are as God’s beloved children. It is what we do as God’s people. It is how we love as God’s church. It is all about love. At the beginning and at the end and everything in between. It is all about love.

Rev. Joe Moore

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The late Dr. James J. Heller was Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he was Professor of Biblical Theology at Moravian Theological Seminary. He held the B.A. in Philosophy from Texas Christian University and the B.D. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Way back in 1982 the late Dr. James J. Heller wrote a booklet for the women’s fellowship entitled, “OUR VICTORIOUS LAMB:A Manual for the Study
of The Book of Revelation.” It was the best study guide to the most mysterious book in the New Testament I had ever encountered. Before his death, Dr. Heller gave me permission to publish the manual on-line, and it was available in HTML form for many years. It has now been updated to PDF which you can down load here. File is 31 Megabytes and will take a while to download. Save it to your desktop to open in Adobe Acrobat (Windows) or Preview (Apple). It may be printed. The Pastor

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