August 19, 2017
Trinity UMC Weekly Sermons Page
Please find strength, wisdom and encouragement from the words of and teachings of God as passed to us though the Sunday messages from our Pastor, Rev. Geri Hamlen....

Sermon Text:

Welcome and Opening Words                         Sunday, August 6, 2017      Pastor Geri

I bring you greetings from Camp M where the trees are tall, the beach front is great fun, the gaga ball pit is an endless source of amusement and scraped fingers, Grace Hall echoes with the sounds of hoppers and unison prayers and hungry children who get to go to church every day at Hampton Chapel…just like we are here at church this morning. Giving thanks to God. Remembering what’s most important in life. Discovering what God is all about and how to be disciples of Jesus.

Over and over this week I got to hear about how each of us, all of you and me….are fearsome and wondrously made by our loving God and creator who we know to be the Rock of Ages. Of course, God is not literally a Rock…Saying ‘My God is a Rock’ is our special human effort to put into words in some small and always limited way…how Great is Our God.

Our God is made visible in the tiniest grain of sand ground down by glaciers and tidal movements of oceans as well as in the giant boulders that have been pushed up by volcanoes and earthquakes.

Our God is Rock Solid…and gentle as the fur on a baby kitten.

Our God is a firm foundation for our lives…and as fluid as the water on which Jesus walked.

Our God is powerful enough to enter into history, to cure the sick and to feed the hungry.

Our God is gracious enough to forgive us…to hear our prayers of sorrow for things undone and for that which we wish we had never thought, spoken or acted on. In preparation for the Sacrament of Holy Communion later in our worship, let’s bring our hearts to prayer:

 In truth, God of silence and seas, we are better at making waves than calming storms.  We find it easier to leave people behind and alone, rather than make room for those whom we don’t know and trust.  Our lives are such a whirlwind of activity, that we do not pause to notice your presence or hear your sheer silence singing your peace to us.  Have mercy on us, God of patience. Grab hold of us to keep us from drowning in temptations. Give us the words to speak of your hope to others.  Fill our hearts with the love of Jesus Christ, which is nearer to us than we dare to imagine.

Silence is kept for private prayers of confession.

Assurance of Pardon  In the name of the One who covers us with compassion, who feeds us on grace and mercy, in the name of Jesus Christ, you are Forgiven. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Message                    ‘Rock Foundation’

While driving to Camp M, I heard one of the greater politicians of my life-time being interviewed last week. He served in the Viet Nam war and when he came back, he went to the Vanderbilt University Divinity School for a year—1971 – 1972—in a program for people who planned to work in the secular world but wanted to know more about God and the Bible and the teachings of Jesus first. The interviewer was pressing him…why Divinity School? What were you looking for?

He said that he came back from Viet Nam with a lot of unanswered questions and felt like immersing himself in the study of ethics would help him…understand how to be true to himself even while serving a government that he didn’t agree with.

She kept pressing…like what questions specifically troubled you at that time as a 23, 24 year old war vet? He dodged her for another minute and then said…I wanted to figure out how to live a meaningful life.

She laughter and said…OK, so what’s the answer?

GORE: Well, be true to yourself. I mean I - my faith tradition plays a role for me. I think the purpose of life is to glorify your creator. I don't often talk this way because it sounds like I wear it on my sleeve, and I really do not. But it's part of my grounding. It helps me keep my bearings.[i]

For this gentleman, so active in the public arena for so many decades…he’s still all these years later got a rock solid foundation for living his life: the purpose of life is to glorify your creator. (Southern Baptist tradition…)

Life is hard. Life seems to be getting more and more complicated. And we all need a foundation that will be solid as a rock. We need to put into words who and what God is and does so that when the storm is raging all around us…tragedy falls…fear over takes us…life grows grim and difficult…that we still have a foundation that won’t melt or cave in or fall apart beneath us.

Of course there are the creeds and catechisms that provide solid foundational wisdom.

The Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed were hammered out…word by excruciating word in the Ecumenical Councils of the 4th century…it took the decades from 325 to 381 to confirm the Nicene Creed, #880 in the Red Hymnal. We believe in one God the Father, the Almighty maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

Then in the late 1400’s well into the 1500’s…as the Protestants broke away, one group at a time from the Catholic Church….catechisms were written in a question and answer format to help explain the foundational truths that bound different groups of people to each other. the difference between those who followed Martin Luther as the Lutheran churches came into being…the Germans…compared to those who followed the Swiss Reformers with John Calvin as the Presbyterian church came into being.

In the days when literacy was limited, the children were taught and expected to memorize word for word the answers and recite the catechism.

I especially have been fascinated by the Heidelburg Catechism: Lord’s Day 9/Q 26 p. 176 How’s that for a rock solid foundation for living your life?

But John Wesley…in the 1700’s said no to a specific Methodist creed or catechism. Yes to affirming, studying and even proclaiming the ancient creeds and confessions as valid summaries of Christian truth but NOT to set them apart as absolute standards for doctrinal truth and error.[ii] The expectation, the hope, the purpose of our Methodist Method…. is that each person study the Bible, learn about the Traditions of the church, listen for the voice of Jesus, use their reasoning powers to then create a statement of faith that can serve as a solid foundation for living and dying. Of course, along with this goes the awareness that God’s eternal Word and Wisdom and Will—these things have never been, nor can they be, exhaustively expressed in any single form of words.[iii] But we can use phrases like…’God is our Rock’ to help us get started.

We can take words from our hymns and our Scriptures and from our conversations and from our SS classes and paint them on rocks and plant the in our hearts and draw on them…to not only survive but also to glorify our creator. To get us through the dark night of despair. To inspire us, like Peter, to walk on water and to follow Jesus. Knowing that if we slip and fall, Jesus will reach out a hand to lift us up.

So we try. We do our best. We start teaching the children—even at Elementary Camp—the rock solid foundational truths about who we are as the children of God.

Fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139

We are made to be brave. Joshua 1:9  

We are made to worship. Psalm 150

We are made to serve others. Luke 22: 26 The greatest among you must become like the youngest and the leader like one who serves. Jesus washes feet…you have to choose to let Jesus serve you if you are going to serve others.

We are made to love and to be loved. 1 John 3: 1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God and that is who we are. 1 John 4: 19 We loved because he first loved us..

Those are some pretty cool nuggets of truth for Elementary kids and counselors and deans and yes, even your pastor--and every single one of you...Rocks of truth and wisdome to carry with us. To use as the rock foundation on which we can build our house, our life, our hopes and our dreams.   Thanks be to God!

[ii] 2012 Book of Discipline, Paragraph 103. Section 2—Our Doctrinal History, pp. 54 – 55.

[iii] ibid