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Sermons from Locust Hill UMC

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Advent Conspiracy Week 1

Here is my confession: I love Christmas! I have already listened to hours upon hours of Chrismas music. I love buying gifts. I love wrapping presents. I am in someways Clark Griswold. Yet I must confess that what I love about Christmas has little to do with Jesus. It is possible to go through another Advent season stressed out, in debt, and totally missing out on the deep gift of this season. I am not the kind of preacher that is going to tell you to tear down the Christmas tree and throw away all our cultural practices. But I think we should rethink how we spend our time in this season. This season offers us a profound gift to enter into a deeper worship and communion with God. And to miss this communion is a deep loss. Especially if we spend it anxious and stressed out. We do this all in the name of giving a gift that someone won't even use!  This Sunday we are reading from Luke 1 where Mary has this deep worshipful experience with God. The Advent season begins and ends with worshipping God... nothing more and nothing less.  Mary has a deep abiding joy simply because God saw her. Although Mary is a celebrity to us... she was at this time a nobody. She was lost in obscurity. She did not think herself to be special. Yet God saw her. She might have been a nobody to the world but she was a somebody to God.  God saw her. And her response was "here I am." It is in this deep, communal experience with God for which Mary responds in song and worship.  It changes you when you feel heard and seen. It changed Mary. Yet this experience that Mary had she didn't keep to herself. She celebrated alongside Elizabeth. It is a profound gift to be seen by God. And God calls us to be people that see others otherwise hidden in obscurity.  My challenge to us this Christmas season is this.... 1. As a congregation gives at least $5 a week to our We Care Fund. We will use this money to assist those that attend our food pantry. 2. Visit a shut-in. Be present. Be available. At least once.  3. Write an encouraging card to someone. Especially to someone that might need an uplifting word. What about someone that had a loss in their family this past year?  My hope is that we might experience what Mary experienced. We might find that when we are present with someone... that God is present with us. And it is in these moments we experience a deep abiding communion with God. 

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More Than Conquerers

We live in a society that is consumed by what others have and we don't have. We see a Facebook post of a friend's newly purchased home and it makes us second guess where we live. It makes us feel unsatisfied. We ask, "Why don't I live in a house like that?" If we are not careful, we will begin to live a life that is always seeking to measure up and compare ourselves to others. We can drive through new housing developments and notice the new houses and new cars, but what we don't see is the debt. We just see the material.  This week we are reading the story of Goliath and David. Goliath was huge. And Israel's strategy in defeating Goliath was to be like Goliath. But this was impossible! So, Saul, had David put on metal armor to defeat Goliath. In doing that David had to put down the familiar. He had to put down his staff, shepherds pouch, and slingshot. All the things that gave David victory in the past against lions and bears.  David realized that the armor was not "him". He said to Saul, "I cannot walk with these." The key to taking down Goliath was not to be a warrior but to be a shepherd.  When we try to keep up with the Joneses' we will sacrifice and give up a lot so that we might measure up. What we fail to see is that the Joneses' are deep in debt, stressed out, depressed, and broke! Instead of trying to measuring up we should recognize who we are in God. What gifts has God given you? What is your calling in this life? What are your vision and values?  Let these questions drive your life not what others have or how others conduct their life. 

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More Than a Mistake

For the next few weeks, we will be doing a sermon series called "More Than." We will be exploring the things that hold us back from being fully who God has called us to be.  An enduring question in my own life and in the lives of others, "Does God really forgive my mistakes?"  This is no doubt a complex question.  If we were raised in a home where we were not loved and/or appreciated... we probably felt like a mistake. We felt like we were not valued or loved. So every time we made a wrong decision or sinned... we were reminded of a harsh truth, "My parents were right... I was a mistake...just look at my life." We hold on to our sins closely. We bare the burden of our mistakes.    Or maybe we have been hurt in relationships. A friendship or a marriage deteriorated because of something we did. And it never reconciled. So we bring this to our relationship with God.  There is a lot of us who say "we love Jesus" but have never accepted this beautiful offer of God's forgiveness.  Jesus asked a question whether physical healing was greater than spiritual healing. What good is a healed body if our souls are tormented by our wrongs? Being fully who God desires us to be is accepting the gift of forgiveness. We can't get around it. God loves us. God died for us. God lives for us! And God wants us to be free from our wrongs and mistakes!  You are more than your mistakes. You are a child of God! 

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Exodus: God will not abandon us

Have you ever made a mistake that was out of your character? You stopped and wondered, who was that person? That isn't like me? We hold onto these embarrassing and shameful moments. These can be the moments that hold us back from God. Moments we think God might abandon us.  The Israelites lived into this story we know so well. They gave the "Deliverance" credit to Moses and not God. And then to further violate this story they made an idol to worship.  This wasn't the kind of people that God was imagining. And sometimes we might think the same, "I am not the person God was imagining." We sometimes take these moments a step further. We believe that God has abandoned us because of our mistakes. We think, "Surely God will just leave us behind."  Moses was worried that this was the case. He was worried that God was done.  Yet there is no room in God's character for abandonment.  There is nothing that we could ever do that would separate us from the father.  I think about my daughter Laurel. She could grow up to be a successful, accomplished person. I would be very proud of her. Or she could grow up and make terrible decisions. Regardless of the journey, she does take... I will always be her father... and she will always be my daughter.  Nothing will ever change that.  And so when we do things that seem far enough that we think God should abandon us... think again.  God always leans in with mercy and grace. 

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