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“Ride On! Ride On…”
Palm Sunday April 9, 2017  
Pastor Joe Moore

Today has been a Sunday that I have been anticipating for a long time. I just love Palm Sunday. It is one of the most joyful days of the year. It ranks right up there with Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. So I was all geared up to preach a resounding, upbeat, joyful Palm Sunday sermon today.

I mean, how could I not be? Just look at this place! It is amazing how it has been changed from our beautiful sanctuary into a beautiful prayer garden. It is the perfect place for us to celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior. Today, of all days is a time to focus on the joy; the joy of Palm Sunday, the joy of welcoming our Savior, the joy of preparing the way of the Lord, the joy of singing Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes!

For weeks now, I have been ready to “rejoice greatly” and “shout for joy” as we welcomed our Savior into our midst. And up until now, throughout all of this service, I was really feeling it. From the band prelude gathering us for worship, to the music of our choirs, to praying our Palm Sunday liturgy- “Sing O heavens and be joyful O earth for the glory of the Lord shall be revealed!” Hail to the Lord’s Anointed!, to welcoming new members into our church family, right up to hearing that familiar story of Jesus’ triumphant, yet humble, entry into Jerusalem. I was really feeling that joy!

Until just a couple of minutes ago, as we sang that last hymn, Ride On! Ride on in Majesty! It is one of my favorites, I can’t imagine Palm Sunday without it. But it’s not exactly joyful. It’s melancholy at best, and maybe even a bit depressing. The tune is beautiful but certainly not joyful. And the words…

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ your triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! The winged armies of the sky
look down with sad and wond’ring eyes to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow your meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God, your power and reign.

As powerful and beautiful as they are, they make me, in the middle of this Palm Sunday joy, wonder about Jesus. I wonder about what he was thinking and feeling as he rode down the Mount of Olives. Riding on and seeing the crowds so excited by his arrival, so filled with hope and promise and anticipation and joy. Riding on and knowing that in order to meet their hopes and fulfill that promise, to live up to the anticipation and make their joy complete, it would require his death.

Riding on knowing that he would have to capture death (his own death) before he could conquer sin, the sins of the people around him and even the sins of all the world. Riding on knowing that even the angels in heaven couldn’t save him and sadly wondering why it was all necessary. Wondering why he must be the sacrifice for them, for all those following behind him. Riding on and seeing his cross and his death, his brutal and painful and humiliating death, and knowing that it was necessary before he could take his power and reign.

I wonder what that was like for him. It couldn’t have been fun or joyful, for Jesus knew where he was going. He knew where that procession would ultimately lead. But I wonder if he knew then what we know now. I think that he probably did. He told his disciples what would happen, that he would rise again after three days. But still I wonder if, riding on in majesty, riding on to his death, I wonder if his humanity got in the way of his divinity.

I wonder if he wondered, whether it would really happen, if he really would rise after three days. By then he knew that his death was inevitable but did he know that his resurrection was as well? Jesus was, as Paul wrote, in the form of God though he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Did he fully and completely believe that once he humbled himself, to the point of death, that God would then exalt him and raise him from death to eternal life? Riding on into Jerusalem could he see past the cross and the grave to the empty tomb? Could he see his Father on his sapphire throne awaiting him? Maybe he could. Maybe he had full and complete confidence that he would rise from death.

That confidence, if it is there at all, seems to falter as the week goes on, as he draws closer to the cross. Just before his arrest, Jesus prays in the garden, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Certainly that request could be more about the fear of the pain of crucifixion than about any doubts of resurrection. Whatever it is about, it serves as a great reminder to us. It reminds us that Jesus was human, just like us; that he had doubts and fears, just like us; that he felt pain and sorrow, just like us. Yet, even though he was just like us, he rode on, rode on in majesty.

Jesus knew where he was heading, he knew where the journey would end. And he rode on anyway. In lowly pomp, he rode on to die. He rode on to approach the cross as the sacrifice, not for his sins, but for ours. He rode on and bowed his head to mortal pain. Despite his doubts and fears, despite the pain and sorrow he knew was waiting for him, Jesus rode on.

That is indeed reason for us to celebrate today, to celebrate with great joy. The fact that Jesus loved us, and all the world, so much, that he rode on is great cause to celebrate. For Jesus knew that everyone would desert him, betray him and deny him. And he still rode on! That is the paradox of Palm Sunday- that sorrow underlies the joy, that there is fear beside the hope, that death accompanies life. It is why the rest of Holy Week is so important.

We could easily go from the anticipatory joy of Palm Sunday to the overwhelming joy of Easter Sunday and miss all that comes in between. We could go from “Hosanna, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!” to “the Lord is risen indeed!” … just like that. However that would be kind of like reading the first and last chapters of a book or watching the beginning and end of a movie, while skipping everything that happens in between.

Doing so during Holy Week, we would miss out on some of the most important teachings, some of the most important events in Jesus’ life. It’s no accident that right after Jesus says “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites” and proceeds to tell them why they are hypocrites, it’s no accident that right after that, he tells them what they should be doing instead: feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting the prisoners, doing for the “least of these”. It’s no accident that Jesus is sitting in the Jerusalem temple, just days away from his betrayal and arrest, his crucifixion and death, when he says that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. All of this is why Holy Week is important, it reminds us why we don’t want to miss out on all that happens in between Palm Sunday and Easter. The word “holy” means to be set apart. And the days of this coming week are meant to be holy and set apart. It is why we have set our sanctuary apart from its normal appearance and transformed it into this beautiful prayer garden. So that we can have a place to come as we set this week apart from our daily routines and schedules and we make time to come and worship. It is place that we can meet as we journey from Palm Sunday to Easter. It is where we can come and ride on with Jesus into all that lies before us- the sorrow and the joy, the fear and the hope, the death and the life.

Brothers and Sisters, let us set apart this holy week and ride on with Jesus. Let us be here, with him and with each other.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ your triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin.

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New Philadelphia Moravian Church is seeking a Church Organist. The organist is expected to be experienced in playing for choir and congregational singing. The organist must be routinely available to play on Sundays from 8:30 to 12:30 and accompany adult choir rehearsals on Monday (7:00-8:30) and Wednesday (7:00-8:30) evenings. Send inquiries to Rev. Joe Moore; email joe@newphilly.org or call (336)765-2331.

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Transfiguration Sunday – February 26, 2017
“Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” Rev. Joe Moore

 

It has taken awhile but I’m finally starting to feel comfortable preaching from up here in this high pulpit. Like almost everything else involved with coming here to New Philadelphia, it was a big change. Only once had I ever preached from such a high pulpit. When I was in seminary, serving as the student pastor at Nazareth Moravian, their sanctuary had a pulpit that was probably even higher up than this one. It was rarely used. But on one Sunday, when I was going to be preaching, the pastor told me that I needed to try out preaching from the high pulpit. He said, You never know, you might end up serving a church that has a high pulpit.” And here I am.

 

Like most changes, even insignificant ones, it seems daunting at first, but then with time, you begin to adjust, you begin to get used to it, you start to feel comfortable. Today is Transfiguration Sunday and it is a Sunday about change, specifically about change in appearance. One year, I even kind of had my own transfiguration Sunday, though it didn’t happen on the actual Transfiguration Sunday” it did happen on an important Sunday about 7 Sundays later. My transfiguration Sunday was Easter Sunday 2015.

 

That Easter was a big one for me. Earlier in the year, I was elected the Chair of the Salem Congregation Board of Elders. Among other things, that meant that I got to preside at the Easter Sunrise Service in God’s Acre. Having grown up attending that service, and having several generations of my family buried in that cemetery, it was a pretty big thrill for me to get to lead that service. But after leading 8,000 people in proclaiming the resurrection, it was a bit anticlimactic to lead the morning worship at Fries Moravian. So I decided to make a little change.

 

So, are you ready for this? On Easter Sunday, I wore a bow tie for the first time ever. Now that may seem insignificant but for me, it was a big deal. I had spent years rolling my eyes whenever I saw someone sporting a bow tie. I just didn’t like them and thought that they looked kind of silly. They definitely weren’t for me. Until that Easter Sunday when I decided to transform my appearance by sporting a bow tie. And I can’t really tell you why I changed my mind about bow ties. I can’t really give you a reason why I changed that part of my appearance but I can tell you that I liked it enough to keep on wearing bow ties. I haven’t really worn one here because I’m not sure how it would look with a preaching robe. But I still wear them when I can.  So change, even in something as trivial as me wearing a bow tie, can happen.

 

Change may take a long time to come about, or it may be instantaneous but when it happens it can be good and it can be lasting. In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus is transfigured”. He is changed. His appearance changes. It begins as he takes Peter, James and John up on a mountaintop to pray. While they are there, while Jesus was praying, his appearance changes. His face becomes different. His clothes become dazzling white. And he just looks different.

 

While there is more to the story the fact that Jesus changes is the essence of Transfiguration Sunday. That is what it is all about. That is why we call it the Transfiguration.” That is what transfiguration means. It is a change in appearance that signifies more than a physical change. It is also a spiritual change. Actually, the physical change is just a sign of the spiritual change.

 

Think about that for a second: Jesus (the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God) Jesus himself underwent a spiritual change. I think that sometimes that idea kind of gets lost or overlooked in this story. We tend to focus on the physical change in Jesus–the altered appearance and dazzling white clothes- or on the sudden appearance of Moses and Elijah. Or even on the reactions of Peter, James and John; Peter wanting to build a shelter so that they could stay there forever. Or we focus on the voice of God, speaking from the cloud: This is my Son, the beloved, listen to him!” We focus on all of those important, amazing and exciting parts of this story. And, when we do, we overlook what it is really all about: that Jesus himself experienced a spiritual change.

 

The Gospel doesn’t go into the details of the spiritual change Jesus experienced. We don’t know the what or the why of the change that took place within him- the spiritual change that was seen in his transfigured appearance. But we do know that a change happened. And we know that very soon after Jesus was transfigured, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Prior to this moment, he had spent most of his ministry in and around Galilee. It was there, away from the center of religious and political power, where he preached and taught and healed. It was there where he proclaimed the coming of the kingdom- where the meek will inherit the earth, where the deaf will hear, where the blind will see, where the world is turned upside down.

 

Jesus had been there and he had done that. And now he was transfigured, he was spiritually changed. His face was set and he was ready to go and accomplish” what he needed to do in Jerusalem. He was ready to enter the city in humble triumph, to cleanse the Temple and confront the Pharisees. Jesus was ready to share a last supper with his disciples and to tell them to take his body and blood and to ask them to remember him in them. Jesus was even ready for Judas to betray him and lead his enemies to him to arrest him. He was ready for his trial before the Chief Priests and Pilate. He was even ready for his crucifixion.

 

After Jesus was transfigured, after that spiritual change had occurred, JESUS WAS READY. He was ready to die and rise to new life. And we all know what happened when he did. So, what about us? Are we ready? Are we ready to be transfigured? To be spiritually changed? To be transformed? Are we ready to die to our old lives and rise to new life?

 

We may think that we don’t need to be changed, to be transformed. But if it was necessary for Jesus, then it is probably necessary for us. And while we don’t know the what and the why of Jesus’ transformation, the what and they why of our transformation is easy to see:  we need to change to be more like him. We need to change to be more like Jesus.

 

As followers of Jesus, we are called to live our lives in such a way that when people look at us, they see Jesus. They see grace. They see forgiveness. They see compassion. They see faith. They see hope. They see love. So the change that needs to take place within us, the transformation that needs to occur, is for us to live as imitators of Jesus.”

 

Living our lives as imitators of Jesus is what the weeks to come are all about. The season of Lent, which begins on Wednesday, it is a time for us to examine ourselves. It is an opportunity for us to determine the what and the why of our own spiritual change. It is a chance for us to begin our own transfiguration. We do so as we ask ourselves what we need to do to be imitators of Christ, as we examine what we need to change so that we can be more like Jesus. The season of Lent is the time for us to set our face to Jerusalem” It is when we confront  those things  in our lives that we need to allow to die, in order for God to bring new life.

 

The next six weeks give us the chance to change to be more like Jesus. It may seem daunting at first, the idea that we can change to be more like Jesus. It may be something that we even resist. Being like Jesus looks like it is something that is hard to do. Living like Jesus looks like it is something that is hard to do. Loving like Jesus looks like it is something that is hard to do. Serving like Jesus looks like something that is hard to do. Can we serve others before we even take care of our own needs? Because that is how Jesus served. Can we love unconditionally? Because that is how Jesus loved. Can we live, not for what we want but for what God wants? Because that is how Jesus lived.

 

Those are tough questions. They represent changes that are difficult for us to even see, much less for us to make in our lives. But that is what the season of Lent allows us to do. It allows to see how we need to change to be like Jesus. During the next six weeks, the time between now and Easter, we have opportunity for prayer and reflection. We have the chance to study and learn. We have the chance to worship and serve. We have the chance to change to be more like Jesus.

 

Change is not easy. Transformation is hard. And it can’t be done alone, we need each other to help each other as we change and grow. The day of my transfiguration”,  that Easter Sunday when I wore my first bow tie,  there was one thing that I didn’t tell you about it. But I needed help to do it. I couldn’t tie my bow tie. I watched videos online and I tried and I tried and I tried. And I came close but never got it quite right. So I asked for help. I brought my bow tie to church and one of the church members helped me to tie it.

 

That’s important to remember.  No matter what change that we need to make in our lives. No matter what it is that we need to do to be more like Jesus. No matter how hard it is to do that, there are people who have already done it. People right here in this church. And they can help us. We can help each other. That is one of the reasons that God has brought us together.

 

As we enter into the season of Lent, let us set our faces to Jerusalem. Let us get ready. Let us get ready to change, so that we can be more like Jesus. So that we can live like Jesus, so that we can love like Jesus, so that we can serve like Jesus. The only way to be it is to do it. It is time to face the strange” things in our lives, those things that prevent us from revealing the image of God that dwells in each of us. It is time to face the changes that we need to make. It is time for us become imitators of Jesus. It is time for our transfiguration.

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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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Life or Death, the Choice is Ours – Rev. Joe Moore

February 12, 2017

 

I received an email this week from one of the members of Fries Memorial this week. It is always nice to hear from people like that, people who I have shared my life and faith with over the years. She was just checking in- to let me know how she was doing and to see how we were doing. She also mentioned how much she enjoyed, and now missed, our book club. Over the 5 years that I served at Fries, we had our book club sporadically. We would find a good book and spend a few weeks on it, then take a few weeks off, even a few months, till we found another book that we would want to do. We read a wide variety of books- from Henri Nouwen, to Harper Lee, to Peter Gomes, to CS Lewis.

 

Last summer, our weekly Book Club at Fries Moravian read a book called Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, written by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I have to admit that I was hesitant to suggest it for our book club. Even though Nadia Bolz-Weber is an ordained Lutheran pastor, a lot of people would say that she is one of the wrong people.” At least she would seem that way when judged solely by her appearance. Nadia definitely doesn’t look like a pastor. Even when she is wearing her clergy collar, she wears it with sleeveless shirts so everyone can see her muscular arms, which are covered with tattoos.

 

Despite her appearance and her rough language (she definitely uses language that I wouldn’t use in church or anywhere else for that matter), despite her not looking like we expect a pastor to look, or writing like we would expect a pastor write, we all really enjoyed the book. It inspired some very good discussion and offered some wonderful insights into our lives as Christians. Even though sometimes we still found ourselves talking about how she looks.

 

Towards the end of our study, we were talking about all of the tattoos that Nadia Bolz-Weber has, one of the members of the group said something along the lines of never being able to imagine a pastor with tattoos. It was not at all judgmental, it was more of a statement about how much things have changed over the years in the world and in the church. Hearing it, though, I couldn’t resist pointing out that I have a tattoo myself.

 

I was honestly surprised that it hadn’t been noticed before. It is pretty visible, if not obvious. My tattoo is right on the side of my left wrist and I got it on July 22, 2015, my wife’s birthday. And Kelly has one too, on the side of her foot. We went together to get them to celebrate her birthday last year. Honestly, I never EVER thought I would get a tattoo. And there was even less chance that Kelly would get one. But it just seemed like the right thing for us to do.

 

Our tattoos are both semi-colons and the represent the importance of not putting a period where God puts a semi-colon. A period signals an ending while a semi-colon is just a pause. Whenever a writer uses a semi-colon, it is a reminder to stop and pause, to take in and reflect upon everything that is going on. It’s not the end, it’s just stop and pause. As God is writing the story of our lives, he only uses a period once, on the day our life is meant to come to an end. But God uses semi-colons a lot.

 

Because as God’s children, our lives are a continuing story. A story that requires us to pause every once in awhile; to reflect on where we are and where we have been and where we want to go, and to reflect on who we are, who we have been and who we want to be. A semi-colon is a reminder to take time for that pause and that reflection.

 

Lots of people have semi-colon tattoos to reinforce that reminder. Kelly and I got the idea to get our tattoos from the Project Semi-Colon, which creates awareness of this need to pause by the symbol of the semi-colon. The Project Semi-Colon website describes it as a “movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury. Project Semi-colon exists to encourage, love, and inspire.”

 

Since you are still getting to know us and especially getting to know Kelly, she said that it would be okay for me to share with you that she struggles with depression. It has been a battle she has fought throughout her life. It is not something she is ashamed of, having depression is no different than having diabetes or high blood pressure. But it does carry a certain stigma, some people are ashamed of it. Even though they shouldn’t be.

 

In addition to Kelly’s depression,  we have both had family members who have suffered from addictions. So I decided (and amazingly Kelly agreed) that we should get semi-colon tattoos to remind each other, and everyone who sees them, of the importance of not putting a period where God puts a semi-colon; as a reminder of the importance of maintaining faith and hope; as a reminder of the importance of choosing life. It is a choice that we all face; to choose life over death.

 

As we read in Deuteronomy,  I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life…” So there it is. Life and death, blessings and curses are set before us. And the choice is ours. Certainly, for many people, it is very much a literal choice between life and death. Mental illness, depression, addictions, often lead the sufferer to consider taking their own life. They are unable to see life and blessings as belonging together. They see life as a curse, for them and for those that love them. They feel that the best way, the only way,  to end that curse is to end their life.

 

In 2014, more than 41,000 Americans chose to end their life. They chose death over life. That means on average, 112 people each day make this choice for death over life. Some people believe it to be the unforgivable sin.” I don’t believe that it is up to us to decide or determine what sins are forgivable and which are not. But it is up to us to help bring those numbers down. It is up to us to help EVERYONE choose life.

 

It is up to the church to be the place where those who are struggling with this choice, who are suffering so greatly from illness of body, mind and spirit that they are contemplating choosing death over life; it is up to the church to help them find ways to choose life. It takes more than simply telling them to pray more or read the Bible more. The church needs to be a place where these struggles can be talked about; safely, openly, freely. The church needs to be a place where these struggles can be addressed. Not with judgement or condemnation or exclusion; but with love and compassion and inclusion.

 

The church needs to be a place of the Semi-Colon.” The place where people can come to pause; and reflect on where they are and where they have been and where they want to go; and reflect on who they are, who they have been and who they want to be. The church needs to be this place where not people can not only come to pause and reflect, but also a place where they can come to be reminded.

 

Reminded that they are they beloved children of God; reminded that they are created in God’s image; reminded that they are loved unconditionally. The church needs to be a place where the choice that is set before, the choice between life and death and blessings and curses, becomes much easier to make.

 

This is a place that we all need. Whether we suffer from a mental illness or not, whether or not we struggle to choose physical life over death, we are all still faced with that choice. Each and every day we are faced with the choice between life or death, blessings or curses. Even when we are not faced with the choice of whether physically live or die, we are faced with the choice of what kind of life we will live. Will we choose a life of blessings or of curses?

 

            This may seem like a ridiculous question. Of course we would all choose a life of blessings. But while we may think that we (and everyone else) would choose a life of blessings over curses; our actual lives, our true choices, tell a different story. We far too often choose curses over blessings, or we just choose to focus on our curses and not our blessings. Whenever we complain about what we don’t have rather than rejoice in what we do have, we are not choosing the life God has created us to live. Whenever we allow our fear and anxiety rather than our hope and faith to guide us, we are not choosing the life God wants us to have. Whenever we judge and exclude others rather than love and welcome them, we are not choosing the life that God calls us to live.

 

The church does indeed need to be a semi-colon place.” It needs to be a place where we pause and consider our choices, and resolve to choose blessings over curses. The church needs to be the place where we choose the life that God has created for us rather than the lives we create for ourselves. The church needs to be the place where we choose hope and faith, where we choose to be loving and welcoming.

 

The church needs to be a place where we can all pause; and reflect on where we are and where we have been and where we want to go; reflect on who we are, who we have been and who we want to be. The church needs to be THE place where we can choose life; where we can choose to live a blessed and abundant life; where we can choose to share our blessings and our abundance with those in need.  The church, the Moravian Church, THIS church, needs to be this place. Now, more than ever, the church needs to be this place.

 

As I said last week, in a world that seems to be becoming more and more divided, in a nation whose citizens are growing further and further apart, the church, OUR CHURCH, needs to be a place where we can invite people to come together, to unify around Jesus Christ, and him crucified. We need to be caring, we need to be worshipping, we need to be encouraging, we need to be seeking, we need to be following. We need to be doing all of those things, we need to be BEING all of those things- caring, worshiping, encouraging, seeking, following- so that the world can look at us and see hope and peace and joy and love, so that the world can see Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

 

We need choose to live our lives in Jesus Christ. And we need to make certain that our church is where people who are struggling with life can come and have life and have it abundantly, to make certain that our church is a place where WE can come when we are struggling with life can come and have life.

 

Brothers and Sisters, it is time to choose life. It is time to choose blessing. It is time to choose hope and faith. It is time to choose love. God has set the choice before us. It is up to us to make it.  So let us choose life and let us choose to be the people that God has created us to be; people of faith and love and hope. So let us choose blessings and let us choose to be the people that the world needs us to be. Let us make our church the place that God created it to be and that the world needs it to be; a place of life and a place of love.

 

Amen

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“Knowing Nothing”- Rev. Joe Moore

February 5, 2017 – Scout Sunday

 

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” At first glance, this seems like a pretty easy scripture to get into. How hard is it to know nothing”? Some people might say that I am an expert on knowing nothing. Joe Moore? Don’t ask him about anything, because he knows nothing.”

While people might not actually be saying that, at least not to my face, and maybe I do know a thing or two about a thing or two, there have certainly been times when I felt like I knew nothing. And Scout Sunday reminds of a one of those know nothing” times in my life. About 4 years ago, when Zach was in first grade, one of our friends encouraged us to get him involved in Cub Scouts. I was all for it, even though I had not been much of a Scout myself. I believe that earning my Bear badge was as far as I ever made it in Cub Scouts. But I didn’t want to prevent Zach from experiencing Scouts. Even though I wasn’t very good at it, I was and am a big believer in the importance of Scouting.

So Zach joined Pack 747 at Wesley Methodist Church. It was a really small Pack, only about 15 kids from Tiger Cubs to Webelos, nothing like the size of 715. One of the things about it being so small meant that all of the parents were needed to help out with the leadership. And somehow, I found myself the “Den Leader” of the Tiger Cubs. And honestly, I was doing ok at it. Being a Tiger Cub leader wasn’t too hard. The Tiger Cub requirements were things that I felt pretty confident in being able to help the Tiger Cubs learn.

But then, after about a month of being in it, the Cub Master said it was time for something called the Parent-Son Camporee at Raven Knob and our Pack had been assigned to a tent camping sight. Uh oh! Tent camping? I had only been tent camping ONCE in my life and that was probably 35 years ago in my friends backyard. I could see one of those know nothing” occasions coming up very soon. But I didn’t want to disappoint Zach, so we headed out to Dick’s Sporting Goods and bought a tent that the salesman assured me was the easiest one to put up. And on a Friday evening in early October, we headed up to Raven Knob with the rest of Pack 747.

We arrived and checked in at the main building and drove out to our campsite. We drove and drove and drove. I was beginning to think that we had gotten lost, or the driver had decided to head back to WS. Because it seemed like we were never going to get there. But finally we arrived at a clearing in the woods and someone announced that this was our campsite. We unloaded the car and everyone started to put up their tents.

Now, just a couple of days before, I had actually taken out our tent and put it up in our backyard. I knew I needed to have at least some idea about how to get it assembled. And I actually felt like I did a pretty good job of getting it put together. It didn’t seem to take me too long and I was able to use all of the parts that came in the bag. But putting up a tent in the broad daylight of my own backyard is very different from putting one up in the pitch dark night in the middle of nowhere. Standing there, with all the tent poles and pegs and pieces strewn across the ground, I truly felt like I knew nothing.” I began to ponder the advisability of maybe sleeping in the car, or even just saying to heck with it all and heading back home.

Fortunately, I wasn’t out there alone. There were plenty of people there who knew how to put up the tent, even in the dark. And Scouting people are very willing to help out. It’s actually part of the Scout Oath- On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. We soon had it up and ready, we even built a nice campfire and made s’mores. And we had a great weekend camping. But I will never forget standing there, wondering if I would ever get that tent put up, feeling like I knew nothing, absolutely nothing.

It’s not a very good feeling, knowing nothing.” As I began to ponder this Scripture and how it fit with Scout Sunday, I wondered if Paul felt like I did as he wrote to his friends in Corinth. But as I thought about it, it hit me that there is a pretty significant difference between my knowing nothing about camping and Paul writing that he knew nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” In this letter to the Corinthians, as Paul reminds them of how he came to them to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them, Paul states that he DECIDED to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. There is a big difference between deciding to know nothing and truly knowing nothing. Paul, going to the Corinthians was an example of the former, and me, standing out there in the dark at Raven Knob, surrounded by the dozens of pieces of what was supposed to be my tent,  was an example of the latter.

Paul didn’t actually know nothing. On the contrary, he knew quite a lot. He was a well educated man. For one thing, Paul actually knew how to MAKE tents. When he wasn’t sharing the Gospel, he made a living making tents. As a young man, he received both a religious and secular education from Rabbi Gamaliel. He was educated in literature, philosophy and ethics. So when he went to Corinth, he did not go knowing nothing.”

This is important because Corinth was one of ancient Greece’s largest and most significant cities. It’s citizens were worldly and educated. They would expect someone coming to convince them of something to make a strong, logical, educated argument. They would expect to be convinced with logic and reason. They would expect to hear lofty words and wisdom.”

That is not what Paul offers them. He instead decides to only offer them Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” He decided to only offer them the message of the cross, which he knew would be seen as foolishness by the Corinthians, it would not make sense to them, they would not be convinced by it.  Yet, the cross revealed both the power and the wisdom of God. Paul knew that even God’s foolishness was wiser than human wisdom, he knew that God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. So he offered to the Corinthians, who exalted wisdom, what he saw as the ultimate wisdom, Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Paul knew what the people of Corinth expected, what they wanted to hear, what they needed to hear to be convinced, yet he decided to leave that aside and offer them only Jesus Christ, and him crucified. That’s what he meant when he wrote I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” He decided to put all of his knowledge aside, to put all of the Corinthians expectations aside, and just offer them Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Messiah. It was, and is, just as simple as that.

Now, I could just end my sermon right here by saying if knowing nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, was enough for Paul and. Eventually, it was enough for the Corinthians, then it should be enough for us as well. So let us know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Amen.

That actually does sound appealing. Too often it seems like we make our faith far too complicated, we have too many rules and regulations, too many policies and procedures, too much structure, too much judgement, too much exclusion, just too much of everything except for Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

There is nothing wrong with most of those things- we need rules and regulations, we need policies and procedures, we need structure. But we need them to serve our proclamation of Jesus Christ, and him crucified. We need them to enable our proclamation, to enhance it. But when our faith becomes about the rules and regulations and not the people they are designed to serve, about the policies and procedures and not the people they are there to guide, about the structure and not the people it is there to support, our faith leads to judgement, it leads to exclusion, it leads away from Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

What Paul did when he decided to know nothing except for Jesus Christ, and him crucified” was to decide to view everything through the lens of the crucifixion. He is saying that everything he is doing, everything he is saying, everything he is writing, it is all done, said, and written with the goal of sharing the message of the cross- the hope, the peace, the joy and the love that are evident in the fact that for God so loved the world that he gave his only son and whoever believes in him will not perish but will gain eternal life.

Paul is proclaiming Jesus Christ, and him crucified” as his mission statement.  We have our own mission statement: New Philadelphia seeks to be a caring congregation, worshiping God, and encouraging one another to seek a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, as we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in Service and in Mission. We need to use it as the lens through which we view everything we say and everything we do. We need to consider all of our actions as a congregation in light of this statement so that we can be the caring congregation that we want to be, so that we can worship God and encourage one another to seek a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, so that can follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in service and in mission.

I’m not saying that we are not doing this. I think that our congregation is doing a wonderful job of living out this mission statement. What I am saying is that we need to continue to do so. Now, in a world that seems to be becoming more and more divided, in a nation whose citizens are growing further and further apart, the church, OUR CHURCH, needs to be a place where we can invite people to come together, to unify around Jesus Christ, and him crucified. We need to be caring, we need to be worshipping, we need to be encouraging, we need to be seeking, we need to be following. We need to be doing all of those things, we need to be BEING all of those things- caring, worshiping, encouraging, seeking, following- so that the world can look at us and see hope and peace and joy and love, so that the world can see Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

So maybe that is all that we need to know, maybe we don’t need to know anything but that, anything but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Maybe knowing nothing but that is knowing enough. But there is just one more thing we need to know, we need to remember- we can’t do it alone. Even if we do everything absolutely right, even if we know everything about everything, if we try to do it alone, we will fail.

As I stood out there at the Parent-Son Camporee, in the pitch dark night at Raven Knob, surrounded by the parts of my tent, knowing nothing about how to put them all together, I felt very alone. But that feeling soon disappeared as all of the Scouts and parents began to help me get my tent up, as they helped provide me with the shelter that Zach and I needed to get through the weekend. Our Pack came together to help someone in need.

And our church comes together to help those in need- those in our congregation and those outside of our congregation. We help each other as we care for each other, we help each other as we worship together, we help each other as we encourage each other, we help each other as we seek that closer relationship with Jesus Christ, we help OTHERS as we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in service and mission, we help each other and we help others as we proclaim Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Amen.

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