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Genuine Humility

Children's sermon
For October 6, 2019:
  • Gratitude and Humility: A Tale of Codependence by Bethany Peerbolte — The disciples asking for more faith means they do not understand the concept of faith enough. Even in Jesus’ day humanity was struggling with the myth that more of something was better than less.
  • Second Thoughts: The Whistleblower’s Sermon by Chris Keating — In times of confusion and chaos, God calls whistleblowers to speak words of truth and hope.
  • Sermon illustrations by Mary Austin, Ron Love, Dean Feldmeyer.
  • Worship resources by George Reed focusing on gratitude and hope.
  • Children’s sermon: Passing On by Tom Willadsen — The focus of this morning’s children’s message is the fact that faith is handed to us, and it’s up to us to hand that faith on to those who come after us. The metaphor is a relay race.

Bethany Peerbolte
Genuine Humility
by Bethany Peerbolte
Luke 17:5-10

In the Scriptures
Luke has lumped together teachings of Jesus that are meant to give us a clearer picture of our role in God’s kingdom and our relationship with God’s grace. This chapter begins with a warning to followers not to be a tripping point for others. Everyone, especially leaders with influence, should speak and act remembering they are being watched as examples of the faith. Leading someone astray will come with a steep cost. Knowing some will get tripped up, and we all will wander at some point Jesus offers advice about forgiveness. Verses 3-4 advise believers to make each other aware of their sins but not to cast them out, but in order to forgive. Jesus uses the biblical number seven, meaning wholeness, to tell his followers to forgive wholly and as many times as it takes to win someone for God’s kingdom.

The disciples catch his meaning immediately and begin to worry. They do not think they have enough faith to keep forgiving someone who sins against them. Their minds search for a limit and hearing Jesus say there is none they conclude that they must need more faith to make this request happen. Jesus says the faith of a mustard seed is all that is needed. N.T. Wright equates it to looking through a window. It does not matter if you have a six-foot picture window or a keyhole, what matters is what you are looking out onto. If you see a God of grace that is all you need to be able to forgive again. Seeing God even through a keyhole reminds the onlooker that God has forgiven so much in them that they can find a way to offer forgiveness now. God’s grace humbles us. Our thankful reaction should be to keep grace moving in the world, because one day we will need it to wash over us again.

Two interesting words used here are “apostles” and “if.” In using the word “apostle” Luke wants reader to know even the leaders were struggling with this stuff. The ones asking for more faith were not new to the program and they arguable were the ones with the most faith. They had made the life sacrifices t follow Jesus. They had been traveling and listening to every teaching over and over again. Yet here they are worried they will not be able to live out the expectation of forgiveness.

Then Jesus says “if.” The Greek language had two ways of using this word. One way was contrary to the fact like saying “if I was there, I would have.” I wasn’t there so any statement said after is not factual. The other is to say something according to the fact, which is how Jesus uses it here. He is saying “if you have faith” which you do. This affirms the faith the questioners have. Jesus is saying you do have what you need to make this happen. There is no need to ask for more. They think this forgiveness standard is outrageous, but Jesus says it’s as outrageous as telling a tree to plant itself in the sea and for it to obey and survive, and you can do that too. Jesus is telling them they are perfectly equipped to do the thing God is asking them to do.

The final teaching in this section solidifies what Jesus is saying about humbleness and thankfulness. He presents a scenario where a master has instructed a servant to care for the fields or flocks then to come prepare dinner. The master is good and so gives the servant a meal after the work is done. This is simply how the world works around Jesus and the apostles. A good master knows what their servant can handle and will only ask a reasonable amount of their servants, but the work must get done. If the master expects dinner it’s highly unlikely, they will instead ask the servant to join them. Besides, who is making the food then? No, the relationship depends on the master giving tasks and the servant following through. If the servant does the work, they keep their position and receive another day of tasks. There is not expectation of advancing.

This parable combined with the first four verses suggests the teaching is meant for leaders in the church. They have signed up for a certain task and relationship with God the master. They should not let well done work make them think they can advance to a higher calling. They agreed to the terms of their calling and should remain humble and thankful for another day of work.

In the News
Dear Abby has become a staple of our culture. People write in every week with concerns, sometimes looking for advice, sometimes just wanting to bring something to the public conscious. This week a veteran wrote in about their discomfort when people express gratitude by saying “thank you for your service.” In the letter this vet from the Midwest points out that in the ’60s and ’70s most vets were not thanked for their service. In the letter they are uncomfortable imagining the same people shouting rage filled slurs at vets, but in a post 9/11 world they shout thanks. The veteran has heard this phrase so many times the sentiment rings hollow. They suggest showing your gratitude by doing something for the veteran instead of “lip service.”

I have a friend who is an army chaplain. One day we were getting lunch after an ordination that he had worn his uniform to and someone said, “thank you for your service,” to him. He replied, “thank you for your support.” This exchange was noticeably different than others I had seen. Often, I see this exchange quickly becoming awkward, possibly because of the feelings the veteran expressed to Abby.

Gratitude has been linked to better relationships, more effective leadership, and stronger mental health. Experts say gratitude helps lessen stress, and is the best investment we can make. With all the benefits of gratitude it feels like we need better training in how to accept and express our gratitude.

In the Sermon
Jesus is asking his followers, and especially the leaders, to create a gratitude circle.

Responding to gratitude is awkward. We have been taught to lessen compliments, so we do not look prideful. The most awkward thing I have had to sit through is a gratitude hot seat. I sat in the middle of my peers on a swivel chair and had to spin around, look each person in the eye, and accept a “thank you” from each peer. I was supposed to simply reply “thank you” but what I wanted to do was laugh, shrug, roll my eyes, and run out of the room. Our culture simply does not train us well to accept gratitude.

I think this is because we think of gratitude raising someone to a new level. An image of pride inflating our ego comes to mind. We offer gratitude up, “thank you for the job,” “thank you for your help,” thank you for your service.” The image is of a lower individual bowing and thanking someone who has done something for the one who depends on the higher. This is how the world thinks of gratitude and so those who are committed to remaining humble shrink in the face of gratitude.

Jesus’ example is not drawing this picture. The master-servant relationship slows us down a little as we try to understand this parable. We should remember that Jesus is referencing the kingdom of God and we know that in this kingdom the master is also a servant. We already know the first are last and the last are first. When Jesus talks about a master he is talking about the ideal master. One who is fair and just, he is talking about God. This master will do anything to protect the servant and so the servant is happy to plow a field and make dinner because the master has already done so much for them.

As I consider my friends reply and the veteran writers feelings towards “thank you for your service” I think the difference is if they see gratitude as a step up structure or a level circle. The writer feels like others gratitude is being offered up to a superior. In the realm of “thank you for doing a thing I could not do.” Since the veteran knows there are others who have done more, given their lives, they feel inadequate to receive gratitude. They do not want to be raised to a higher level.

Whereas my friend understands gratitude to be a continuous circle. He is simply a vessel through which gratitude can flow. He is at ease with the task he has been given and is happy to carry it out. His response of “thank you for your support” keeps the circle intact and recognizes citizens do their tasks to also keep the country strong.

The work these verses are asking us to do is to rethink what humbleness looks like. Humbleness still allows us to take pride in the tasks with which we have been entrusted. When we do our work, we should be proud of the things we have done with the gifts God has given us. We are not supposed to ask for more work, the faith we have been given is enough to achieve outrageous accomplishments already. Knowing and being content with our role helps us graciously accept the gratitude of others. So that when I say “thank you for your service” you hear “thank you for doing your job so I can do mine.”

The Whistleblower’s Sermon
Chris Keating

To borrow a line from Walter Brueggemann, maintaining a hopeful imagination has never been an easy task.

Part of that challenge stems from our culture’s freefall descent from truth into truthiness. There’s fake news, faker news, and even fake-ier news. But that’s only part of the dilemma. There’s also the real news of climate change, rainforest fires, of saber rattling and political bloodbaths. At times the preacher may sound like the intelligence agency whistleblower who reported President Trump’s effort to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden.

That is, without the many legal protections afforded to whistleblowers.

Preachers who have been slogging their way through the Jeremiah readings have carried the additional burden of articulating a sense of hope in times of crisis. If our sermons have arisen from long conversations with Jeremiah this summer, we might discover that someone has posted some sort of warning to our pulpits come Sunday: “Warning! The surgeon general has determined that prolonged exposure to Jeremiah may prompt major depressive episodes.”

It’s dangerous and sometimes even depressing work. For that reason, it might be helpful to spend some time revisiting Brueggemann’s classic work Hopeful Imagination. His insightsseem particularly fresh in this moment. Jeremiah’s lesson for ministers, notes Brueggemann, may be his poignant invitation to reconsider whether we have craved a life of social and ecclesiastical equilibrium when God is calling us to experience the “pain, rage, and dis-ease” which goes with disequilibrium and instability.

Since August, the Jeremiah narratives have taken us to the potter’s house and then led us across broken cisterns no longer capable of holding water. We have braced scorching winds and longed for the healing balm of Gilead. While it’s not all been hopeless, the preeminent themes of injustice, brokenness and theodicy have been the seedbeds from which the Old Testament readings have sprouted. And there’s still more to come.

It’s been a tough season, and hope has been hard to discern.

This week offers no easy antidote. Laments form the core of the Hebrew Bible readings for this World Communion Sunday, including the opening lines of Lamentations and the desperate pleas of “How long?” from Habakkuk. Likewise, Psalm 137 imagines Israel longing to sing songs of Zion, clinging to the transforming memories of its past. The community longs for the lonely city which now lies in ruin. Pardon the sarcasm, but that text hardly has “World Communion sermon” stamped across it.  

Meanwhile, thought, slender the tendrils of hope seem to emerge around the corners of this week’s readings. Psalm 37 offers a tentative response to Habakkuk, while Lamentations 3 articulates the foundations of hope. The seeds of hope begin to break through, and what grows could be considered the words of the true whistleblower. The whistleblower dares to imagine the ways of God and dares to trust in those ways even when the evidence suggests that faithfulness is futile.

While White House officials decry today’s whistleblower as a “partisan saboteur,” those who stand in the whistleblowing traditions of the Hebrew prophets understand their role to be different. They are not “deep state operatives,” but rather stewards of the imaginative ways of God’s hope. Their role suggests Brueggemann is limited. They give no advice but are poets who “only want people to see differently, to re-vision life.” (Brueggemann, p. 23).

Indeed, the gospel of the whistleblower is an imaginative act of faith that calls mulberry trees to jump into the sea. The whistleblower’s faith does not land her a handful of accolades or give him lots of acclaim, as Jesus indicates in Luke 17:5-10. Instead, the whistleblower stands in the promise articulated to Timothy to hold firm, “for I know the one in whom I have put my trust.”

Jim Wallis, a practitioner of what might be called the hermeneutic of whistleblowing, describes the current moment in American life as a disorienting and frightening crisis.  Within that crisis there could be both turmoil and opportunity, as implied by the Chinese characters for “crisis.” It is easy to see the crisis, Wallis notes. Its signs are evident to anyone who is paying attention. “Democracy itself,” he writes, “the rule of law and the very idea of objective truth are all in danger now, as our nation and world face an emerging and spreading autocratic style of leadership.”

But opportunity? Here Wallis returns to his evangelical roots as he calls for Christians to reconnect with the promises and teachings of Christ. Such work, Wallis says, is called “coming home.” He concludes:

This crisis of faith and politics thus presents us an opportunity to go deeper — deeper into what we call faith; deeper into our relationships with each other, especially across racial lines; and deeper into our proximity to the most marginalized, whom we often don’t think about or whose faces we don’t see. Crisis can take us deeper into the moral, spiritual, or faith commitments that can and do shape both our personal and public existence.

For evangelicals who have exchanged obedience to Jesus for obedience to the state, Wallis’ words are indeed a version of whistleblowing. In some cases, the exchange has meant believing in Jesus is equated to unfailing support of Donald Trump.  Yet liberals also need to come home. Too often liberal pulpits have excelled at describing the crisis without asserting the opportunity for hope. Paul’s words frame the task: hold fast to the standard you have received.

It’s this sort of relentless pursuit of hope which forms the heart of whistleblower preaching. At times it consoles, and at other times it provokes. At all times it trusts that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. 

Mary Austin
From team member Mary Austin:

Lamentations 1:1-6, Lamentations 3:19-26, and Psalm 137
Bringing Hope, One Gift at a Time
Like the people living in exile, who voice the Psalm, young people who live in foster care are often at the edge of losing hope. The web site One Simple Wish reminds them that their needs are important, and that people in the world around them still care. “Many 16-year-olds might covet a smartphone, an Xbox, maybe some expensive new sneakers or even a car. Ronald Hennig just wanted a suit so he could attend a relative's funeral. "I didn't really own even a shirt and tie or dress shoes," he said. "I was seeing some of my old family members, and it was kind of embarrassing to not have a suit when everyone else would have one." The teenager, who had been in and out of foster care for much of his childhood, was living in a group home at the time. His caseworker was unable to justify the nonessential expense. But an anonymous benefactor stepped in to help Hennig through a website called One Simple Wish. "I got custom-fitted for the suit and I was able to go to the funeral," said Hennig, now 18.”

The site One Simple Wish is the idea of Danielle Gletow “to help grant the wishes of children in foster care. Each child's wish is posted online, and anyone can pay to make that wish come true --- from tangible items such as a bicycle, a varsity jacket or school supplies to an experience like music lessons or a trip to the theater. Since 2008, the nonprofit has granted more than 6,500 wishes for children living in 42 states.” Gletow says, "There are thousands of children in the foster-care system who go without those normal childhood experiences that many of us have had. These kids are separated from their parents. They're separated from their siblings. They really don't have people to ask. ... A lot of them decide that it's not worth wishing anymore because it isn't going to happen."

Knowing that someone heard their wish, and cared to grant it, is a place of hope for young people in foster care and group home, who feel like they’re in exile from ordinary life.

* * *

Luke 17:5-10
Gratitude: Who Benefits?
A woman named Jeanne tells about a reverse experience of gratitude that happened as she was leaving a shopping center. As Jesus tells the parable about the servants and the householder, he suggests that we all do what we should already be doing. Jeanne tells it this way: “I was making my way in my car out of the shopping center parking lot.  I was all alone in the car.  I noticed a woman laden with bags and her two boys, one carrying a pumpkin and the other another bag. I assumed that they were headed to the bus stop across the major road, since it was too far to walk with all those purchases to any of the nearby apartment communities.  On a random impulse, I rolled down my window and asked if they were indeed headed to the bus stop.  “Yes,” the mother responded.  I asked "Would you like a ride?"  "Oh yes!” was their excited reaction.” She stopped, “and the boys piled into the back seat.  The mother started to push in beside them.  I stopped her by saying, “Oh, you come on up here by me. I’m not a taxi!”  So off we went. Right away, I decided to take them the mile and a half to their home, since I had time and they had all those bundles.  The boys chattered away telling me about themselves, and I had just a fine time listening and talking with all of them.  It felt so good to be able to do this little trip and know that with such a small effort I could make a big difference to a tired mother.  I’m not sure who got the most out of it.” Jeanne adds, “Incidentally, this was special for me because, as a handicapped person, I’m often on the receiving end of help and now know how especially good it feels to be useful.”

* * *

Luke 17:5-10
What Gets in the Way of Gratitude
Gratitude is more complicated than it seems, and researcher Robert Emmons, who studies gratitude, helps us understand why. In Luke’s parable, we end up confused about who should be thanking whom, and Emmons is ready to simplify it for us. Gratitude, he says, takes us out of ourselves, making us see a source of goodness outside our own efforts. He says, “Practicing gratitude can be at odds with some deeply ingrained psychological tendencies. One is the “self-serving bias.” That means that when good things happen to us, we say it’s because of something we did, but when bad things happen, we blame other people or circumstances. Gratitude really goes against the self-serving bias because when we’re grateful, we give credit to other people for our success. We accomplished some of it ourselves, yes, but we widen our range of attribution to also say, “Well, my parents gave me this opportunity.” Or, “I had teachers. I had mentors. I had siblings, peers—other people assisted me along the way.” That’s very different from a self-serving bias.”

Or, as Jesus seems to be saying, get over yourself.

Emmons says we need to structure our lives so we remember to be thankful. We need reminders. He adds that concrete reminders to practice gratitude are “particularly effective in working with children, who aren’t abstract thinkers like adults are. For instance, I read about a woman in Vancouver whose family developed this practice of putting money in “gratitude jars.” At the end of the day, they emptied their pockets and put spare change in those jars. They had a regular reminder, a routine, to get them to focus on gratitude. Then, when the jar became full, they gave the money in it to a needy person or a good cause within their community.”

Echoing the circular sense of gratitude in Jesus’ parable, and the mystery of who should be thanking whom, he says, “Finally, I think it’s important to think outside of the box when it comes to gratitude. Mother Theresa talked about how grateful she was to the people she was helping, the sick and dying in the slums of Calcutta, because they enabled her to grow and deepen her spirituality. That’s a very different way of thinking about gratitude—gratitude for what we can give as opposed to what we receive. But that can be a very powerful way, I think, of cultivating a sense of gratitude.”

* * *

Luke 17:5-10
Barbers Don’t Exist

“Increase our faith,” the disciples ask Jesus, longing for more of the connection he has with God. Many of us feel the same way at times, as we find in the story of a man who went to visit his barber.  

"I don't believe God exists" said Mike, the barber, as he cut his customer Bill’s hair. “As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation, telling stories as usual. They talked about politics and the elections, the state of the economy, their families and kids. When they eventually touched on the subject of God, Mike said: 'I don't believe that God exists.'

"Why do you say that?" asked Bill.

"Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist. Tell me Bill, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things."

Bill thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument. Mike finished his barbering job and Bill left the shop. Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt. Bill  turned back and entered the barbershop again and he said to Mike, the barber: "You know what? Barbers do not exist."

"How can you say that?' asked the surprised barber. "I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!"

"No!"  Bill exclaimed. "'Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside."

"Ah, but barbers DO exist! That's what happens when people do not come to me."

"Exactly!' Bill affirmed. "That's the point! God, too, DOES exist!  And that's what happens when people do not come to God too." We can increase our faith by coming to God, just as the disciples come to Jesus. Their question is a good first step.

* * *

World Communion Sunday
True Communion
John Buchanan tells a story, told to him by a neighboring pastor. “During a summer stint at a tiny church in Scotland, I had a visit from the pastor of the church in the next village who told me a communion story I will never forget.”

The pastor “was an infantryman in the British army in World War II and ended up in a prisoner-of-war camp in Poland. The conditions were dreadful. There was no heat, and prisoners were given a single bowl of thin soup and a small crust of bread daily. Men were starving, sick, filthy and desperate. Suicide was a very real option. All one had to do was run toward the perimeter of the camp and leap against the barbed wire fence. Guards would immediately shoot and kill anyone trying to escape.

In the middle of the night he walked to the perimeter and sat down beside the fence to think about going through with it. He heard movement in the darkness from the other side of the fence. It was a Polish farmer. The man thrust his hand through the barbed wire and handed my friend half of a potato. In heavily accented English he said, ‘The Body of Christ’.”

This is the spirit of World Communion Sunday, a communion that reflects the presence of Christ in all of his followers.

* * *

World Communion Sunday
Powerful Communion In the Time of Ebola
Paul Turner, a Disciples of Christ mission worker in the Congo, tells about taking special precautions with communion during the Ebola outbreak. He recalls that churches were instructed to take special precautions, “such as halting the ritual greetings of handshakes and kisses on the cheek. Then there was communion, a time when trays of bread and juice are passed between parishioners. How was the church going to protect parishioners while still conducting the weekly celebration at the Lord’s Table? It would have been understandable if the church stopped communions as well, at least for a time. It was decided that communion would still take place, but in a different way than before. The new process had to instill confidence in its safety to allow parishioners to continue to freely partake of the emblems representing Christ’s body and blood.”

The church was dedicated to serving communion, and set up hand washing stands outside each church. “When the time for communion came, the elders prayed over the emblems as usual and then brought them down in front of the pulpit. The ushers dismissed each pew to proceed to the front of the church to wash their hands again and receive an application of hand sanitizer. Then they could partake of the bread and the cup, depositing the empty cup into a bucket, and returning to their pew. The process was smooth and was in no way disruptive to the overall worship experience.”

The process took on an added layer of meaning for the people at worship. It “served as a powerful reminder for parishioners to remain vigilant during the outbreak. Communion highlighted the seriousness of the situation and the necessity to change behavior, providing a credible counter to voices of skepticism regarding the imminent danger of the virus. Therefore, communion became a source of the community’s resilience to overcome Ebola and prevent it in the future.” 

That particular outbreak ended quickly. “Some credited the community’s isolation…The quick resolution can also be attributed to the community’s cohesion. A city of over 1 million people, lacking in many amenities and basic infrastructure, doesn’t simply emerge from a health crisis without strong associations, a sense of solidarity and mutual responsibility. The Lord’s Supper has been described exactly the same way… an expression of unity, of oneness in Christ and concern for one another.”

* * * * * *

Ron LoveFrom team member Ron Love:

Habakkuk 2:2
Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
Joseph Chamblin was lost, and then he was found.

In 2011, Chamblin was lost. He was a staff sergeant in the United States Marines and one of the four snipers court-martialed for urinating on the fresh corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

In 2016, Chamblin was found. He was dating Laura Buckingham who was well known, having appeared on the cover of Southern Indiana Living with her son. It was a son whom she wanted sole custody of from her previous relationship with Brad Sutherland. The best way to be assured of having sole custody was to have Sutherland dead. Knowing that Chamblin was a former Marine sniper, she approached her new boyfriend to accomplish the task. At first Chamblin did not think she was serious, but her persistence in the matter convinced him otherwise. That is when he began to secretly tape their conversations. Chamblin then took the tapes to the police. With the cooperation of the police, Chamblin told Buckingham that he would not execute Sutherland but he would introduce her to someone who would. With her son frolicking in the back of the room, Buckingham paid an undercover police officer $3,000 to murder Sutherland. Buckingham was subsequently arrested. In Tennessee, Deputy Sheriff Tim Phillips applauds the Marine for preventing certain bloodshed. The Roane County sheriff said, “If she had gone to another source, they may have been able to complete this particular mission.” The Washing Post reported that this story be consider as Chamblin’s act of redemption.

* * *

Lamentations 1:1
like a widow she has become
The New York Times tells the story of Vijay Mallya, of New Delhi, India, who called himself the King of Good Times. And the multi-billionaire was. He made his fortune in the beer and airline industries. He hobnobbed with the rich and famous. He had several lavish homes and hosted magnificent parties. He was proud of the swimsuit calendar he published each year. Mallya was the King of Good Times because he used other people’s money. When India faced financial ruin, the banks lowered their requirements for receiving loans. Mallya used this opportunity to transform his Kingfisher Airlines from an economy transport to one of luxury. This resulted in bankruptcy. And the King of Good Times left India on March 13, 2016 with 1.5 billion dollars in unpaid bills.

* * *

2 Timothy 1:7
for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Jimmy Carter was asked to speak to a church in the small town of Preston, Georgia. The church was holding a week of revival meetings, and the topic assigned to Carter was “Christian Witnessing.” As Carter sat in the front room of his home preparing his speech, he had a sense of self-satisfaction. Undoubtedly, Carter thought, the invitation from the Preston congregation came because they had heard of the wonderful evangelical work he had done for his home church in Plains.

As Carter was composing his speech, he decided that he would make an impression on the Preston congregation by sharing how many home visits he made in Plains on behalf of God. Carter then began to calculate how many individuals he had witness to. It had now been fourteen years since he returned home to Plains since serving in the Navy. As a deacon in the church, he made it a point to visit two families each year. Carter, along with another deacon, would read to the family from the Bible, share the events occurring at the church, briefly share their religious beliefs, small talk about community events, then they would have a prayer and depart. Carter decided to assign an average of five people to each home. In his notes, he proudly put the figure of 140 people that he had witness to.

As Carter was looking at the figure and congratulating himself, he recalled the 1966 governor’s election. Having entered the race late, Carter had to abandon everything to campaign. Carter surrendered everything that he cared about — his family, his farm, his bird dogs — in order to campaign sixteen to eighteen hours each day, trying to personally greet as many Georgia voters as possible. At the end of the almost-successful campaign, Carter met more than 300,000 voters.

Jimmy Carter in his autobiography Why Not The Best? then wrote this line of self-condemnation. Carter wrote, “The comparison struck me — 300,000 visits for myself in three months, and 140 visits for God in fourteen years!”

With that realization, Carter wrote, “I began to read the Bible with a new interest and perspective, and to understand more clearly the admonitions about pride and self-satisfaction.” Jimmy Carter realized he was a self-righteous Pharisee. With that realization, Carter wrote, I began “to search more diligently for a closer personal relationship with God among my different business, professional and political interests.”

* * *

2 Timothy 1:7
for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Don Carlos De Seso was an Italian who served in the court of the Spanish King Philip II. De Seso’s imperial duties allowed him to travel extensively across the continent. In the course of his travels he was introduced to Lutheranism, and how those Protestant teachings differed from those of Roman Catholic Spain. On his return to Spain, De Seso led hundreds into the new faith of the Protestant Reformation. King Philip and Pope Paul IV refused to allow a Protestant witness in Spain. Because of his preaching, De Seso was condemned as a heretic.

On October 8, 1559, the Spanish Inquisition held a great auto da fe, which literally means “act of faith.” It is a public ceremony when heretics are paraded, sentenced, and then executed. When De Seso was led past King Philip to be burned at the stake, De Seso said, “Is it thus that you allow innocent subjects to be persecuted?” Philip’s response was, “If it were my own son, I would fetch the wood to burn him, were he such a wretch as you are!”

Two men had to hold De Seso up, so weak was he from fifteen months of imprisonment and torture. As the flames rose slowly around him, De Seso called upon the soldiers in attendance to heap up more fuel. Watching the bravery of De Seso, Lutheranism continued to spread throughout Spain.

* * *

2 Timothy 1:7
for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Unique. Controversial. That is the label often placed upon religious movements and churches that do not fit the norm. The criticisms are often well founded, but does that negate all the good that they are doing? Perhaps, sometimes, it is good to look past the “what’s wrong” in order to see the “what’s right.”

The International House of Prayer, in Kansas City, Missouri, does have some questionable theological positions. Yet, with an attendance of over 25,000 it must be a blessing onto others. And if some of the IHOP theology is called into question, it could serve Christendom well to adopt its mission. The mission of IHOP, under the leadership of Mike Bickle, is to continue in prayer without ceasing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. The congregation has been sustaining this calling since May 1999. According to Bickle, the focused worship affects world events by weakening the demons and strengthening the angels that swirl among us.

* * * * * *

Dean FeldmeyerFrom team member Dean Feldmeyer

This week’s lectionary selections deal with hope, the lack of it, where it comes from, and how we can appropriate it. These illustrations all deal with that topic, hope, those who give it, those who receive it, and the power it has in changing and shaping people’s lives.

One Court To Another
Maya Moore is, at 29 years of age, one of the most important women in the WNBA but this year she shocked the basketball world when she stepped away from the game before the season began. She’s spent a lot of her time away from the game trying to help a family friend, Jonathan Irons, get his conviction overturned.

Irons has been incarcerated since 1997 after he was convicted in the nonfatal shooting of a homeowner during a burglary. He was sixteen years old at the time of the alleged crime and was sentenced to 50 years which is virtually a life sentence, some say a death sentence. This year he has, for the fourth time, has asked a judge to reopen his case and will have an evidentiary hearing on Oct. 9 in Missouri. Moore, who plans to be in the courtroom next month, said there was no physical evidence — no DNA, fingerprints or footprints — linking Irons to the crime. He has always said that he was innocent.

Moore met Irons on a field trip to the prison when she was 18 years old. They speak to each other nearly every day. “I’ve known Jonathan for over a decade,” she says, “and I’m fighting to make sure his case gets a fair review. I’m trying to call attention to the prosecutorial misconduct that I believe resulted in his being wrongfully sent to prison for 50 years as a teenager,” Moore told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday night. “This hearing will hopefully give us a perfect opportunity to show why this conviction lacks integrity for so many different reasons.”

Asked by an interviewer on CBS what she thought Jonathan Irons was getting out of his friendship with her, Moore replied with a single word: “Hope.”

* * *

A Walking, Talking Symbol Of Hope
US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien pulled a person from a flaming vehicle in South Korea, served on President Trump’s security detail during the historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and played a pivotal role in the widely publicized rescue of junior Thai soccer players trapped in a cave, during which he saved the life of a Thai Navy SEAL.

In recognition of those acts, US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien was named one of a dozen outstanding airmen of the year. But the Japan-based airman’s impressive résumé didn’t end there. On a Sept. 11 flight back to the United States to pick up the award, the Air Force said, O’Brien squeezed in another heroic act: resuscitating a baby that had lost consciousness after choking.

“I can’t decide if he’s Superman or Mayhem (the guy on the insurance commercials),” Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, joked in a Facebook post.

A native of Bunker Hill, Ind., O’Brien began his Air Force career 12 years ago, leaving for basic training shortly after graduating from high school. He had dreamed of jumping out of planes and helping people since he was 12 years old, calling it his “only goal,” the Air Force reported.

“If someone needs to go do something dangerous, I volunteer,” he said in the Air Force interview. “If someone needs a leader, I volunteer. I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and that’s what helped me stand out because I sought out key positions or responsibilities.”

* * *

After The Run
Even if you haven’t heard of Jack Hoffman, there’s a good chance you’ve watched him run.

He was 7 years old, 4-foot-3 and 75 pounds when he suited up for his home-state Nebraska Cornhuskers in their 2013 spring football game. His stirring, player-assisted 69-yard “touchdown” that day became something of a phenomenon, helping raise awareness of pediatric brain cancer, with which he had been diagnosed two years prior.

It has been more than six years since what his family refers to as “the run.” Jack, now an eighth-grader, stands 5-8 these days. This month, he made his true debut on the gridiron, playing center for West Holt Junior High in Atkinson, Neb.

“I know a lot of kids like me that would kill to play in a football game,” the 13-year-old said in an interview. “It was really nerve wracking — I was about the same level of scared that I was for the run — but once you get playing, you forget all the scaredness.”  

His team won, 38 to nothing.

* * *

Letting It Drop
Texas Rangers pitcher Mike Minor really wanted his 200th strikeout of the season last Thursday — and got it in the game’s final inning.

Minor had 191 strikeouts entering Thursday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, and by all accounts knew the 200 mark was within reach. He wound up throwing 126 pitches, which is notable because both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. The game was effectively meaningless.

He made great headway by striking out six of the first 11 batters. Two more strikeouts ensued and by the eighth inning Minor was one strikeout away from his goal.  In the eighth inning the Red Sox went down 1-2-3, hitting out in three pitches. Minor returned to the mound in the ninth, and with one out, faced Boston’s utility infielder Chris Owings. First pitch, strike. Second pitch Owings popped up out of bounds but catchable except that Rangers first baseman, Ronald Guzman didn’t catch it. His teammates were yelling at him to let it drop, so he did. Strike two.

Minor struck Owings out on the next pitch making his 200 strikeout goal.  

The Red Sox were a little miffed at the tactic of letting the ball drop but the Rangers manager reminded them that they had tried to rob Minor of his goal by hitting three intentional pop-up flies in the eighth inning. Minor was thankful that his teammates made a small sacrifice that gave him hope of hitting his goal.

* * *

Friends He Didn’t Know He Had
Three hours before media commentator Wajahat Ali was set to give a TED Talk about why more people should have children, he got the diagnosis: The bumps on his 2-year-old daughter’s liver were signs of Stage 4 cancer.

Ali, who contributes to the New York Times and CNN, was in Canada when his wife, Sarah, called in April to tell him Nusayba was in the hospital. Ali asked whether he should return home, and Sarah told him to stay and give his talk for their daughter.

So instead of getting on a plane back to D.C., Ali gave a crowd in Vancouver his planned speech about why more people should have children. Then he shared Nusayba’s diagnosis, and the audience gasped. Despite everything, Ali told them, he and his wife thought having kids was “the best thing that we’ve ever done.”

In a series of tweets he shared Wednesday, Ali wrote that Nusayba, now 3, had successfully undergone a liver transplant and was recovering. She had awakened after the surgery, said a few words to her parents and gone back to sleep, Ali wrote. She will recover in the hospital for a week or two.

One of the first questions the anonymous liver donor asked after waking up from surgery was when they could donate blood again, Ali wrote.

“I told the donor’s family my life belongs to them and begged them to tell me how I can repay them,” Ali wrote. “They just said to pray for the donor, their family member, and they wanted Nusayba to live a long, healthy life. There’s still much goodness in the world. Don’t lose hope, ever.”

There had been a setback before the transplant: The surgery was scheduled with a different donor, but the doctor discovered a last-minute complication. The procedure was too high-risk, and the family had to scramble to find a new donor.

It was, Ali told CNN, a “gut punch.” Nusayba, who loves boba tea, Dippin’ Dots and going down playground slides, already had lost her hair and undergone eight rounds of chemotherapy. If the transplant had to be rescheduled, Ali told CNN, she would have to suffer through yet another round.

More than 500 people, most of whom were strangers, eventually applied to be liver donors for Nusayba. Doctors found a match from that 500 and went forward with the transplant.

* * *

Cheer, Not Beer
The college football fan who held up a sign on national TV asking for beer money says he’s giving the thousands of dollars he raked in to a children’s hospital and the cash is being tripled thanks to two companies announcing matching contributions.

Carson King held a poster that said “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” on ESPN’s “College GameDay” last Saturday morning. He scrawled his Venmo account details on the sign for the nation to see.

The college football show was broadcasting from Ames, Iowa, ahead of the matchup between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones.

After a little while, one of his friends asked him, “Who keeps texting you?”

King looked at his phone and after less than 30 minutes of holding the sign, more than $400 worth of Venmo donations had already popped in to his account.

“After I got $600 I thought, ‘There are better things I can do with this,'” he said.

He spoke to his family and decided that, after the cost of paying for a case of Busch Light, he’d give the rest to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, he said.

The children’s hospital is next to the Hawkeyes’ Kinnick Stadium. During each Iowa home game, fans traditionally do the “Iowa Wave” in tribute to the children who can watch the game unfold from the hospital windows.

By Tuesday evening, the amount he has received in his Venmo account had reached more than $20,000.

Busch Beer took notice, tweeting, “This is the best thing we have read all year; we’re inspired. We’re going to match your donation to University of Iowa.

In turn, Venmo tweeted, “Count us in for matching the donation to the hospital, too.”

With the companies chipping in, the total donation as of Tuesday evening was nearly $60,000, and King says he plans to keep collecting donations until the end of the month.

As of September 28, the total raised: $1.14 million.

* * *

When The Perfect Becomes The Enemy Of The Good
An Illinois beer company is tapping a new pilsner named Iowa Legend in honor of the generosity of an Iowa State fan who helped raise more than $1 million for a children’s hospital.

Carson King has risen to fame over the past 10 days after he was featured on ESPN College GameDay in Ames asking for beer money donations. His GameDay sign went viral and he decided to donate all the funds to the children’s hospital in Iowa City. He has helped raise over $1.14 million in donations.

After he went viral, he publicly apologized after a controversial tweet of his from 2011 was discovered. A reporter with the Des Moines Register first called attention to the tweet in a profile of King. King, who was 16 years old at the time, called the tweet “hurtful and embarrassing” and that he didn’t want it to take away from all the good the donations can do for the kids at the children’s hospital.

Anheuser-Busch, which promised to match King’s funds for the hospital, then cut ties with King. The company said it will still stand by its commitment to match the funds through the end of the month.

Shortly after, offensive tweets made by the reporter, Aaron Calvin, between 2010 and 2013, surfaced. He also apologized, and he deleted his tweets.

After the ordeal, Geneseo Brewing Company’s head brewer, Glenn Cole, offered a word of grace on Sept. 25 in an open letter to King that it was “appalled at the actions taken by The Des Moines Register and the Anheuser-Bush, InBev company.”

“We at Geneseo Brewing understand the growth that happens in an individual from the age of 16 to 24. It is the same reasoning the legal age of an adult in the eyes of the law is 18 and that 21 is the legal drinking age. We also understand that the inappropriate jokes people like yourself and Des Moines Register journalist Aaron Calvin made eight years ago on social media were unfortunately more acceptable back then…”

The letter went on to say: “We have witnessed your growth through your later social media content and accept your apology. We believe that your selfless act to raise funds for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital is truly a noble act.”

The letter promises to donate $1 from every pint and 16 ounce can will go to his cause until the batch is sold out. The beer was to be brewed Thursday.

* * * * * *

George ReedWORSHIP
by George Reed

Call to Worship:
Leader: The steadfast love of God never ceases.
People: God’s mercies never come to an end;
Leader: Your mercies are new every morning, O God.
People: Great is the faithfulness of our God.
Leader: "God is my portion," says my soul, “in whom I hope.”
People: It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of God.


Leader: Let us gather to give thanks to our gracious God!
People: We are filled with gratitude for all God brings us!
Leader: Let us recount the many blessings we have received.
People: We recall them and will remember them.
Leader: These blessings are signs that provide hope.
People: When we feel down, we will remember and hope in God.

Hymns and Songs:
Now Thank We All Our God
UMH: 102
H82: 396/397
PH: 555
NNBH: 330
NCH: 419
CH: 715
LBW: 533/534
ELW: 839/840
W&P: 14
AMEC: 573
STLT: 32

For the Beauty of the Earth
UMH: 92
H82: 416
PH: 473
NCH: 28
CH: 56
LBW: 561
ELW: 879
W&P: 40
AMEC: 578
STLT: 21

Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven
UMH: 66
H82: 410
PH: 478
CH: 23
LBW: 549
ELW: 864/865
W&P: 82
AMEC: 70
Renew: 53

Hope of the World
UMH: 178
H82: 472
PH: 360
NCH: 46
CH: 538
LBW: 493
W&P: 404

God of the Sparrow God of the Whale
UMH: 122
PH: 272
NCH: 32
CH: 70
ELW: 740
W&P: 29

Soon and Very Soon
UMH: 706
AAHH: 193
NNBH: 476
ELW: 439
W&P: 523
CCB: 93
Renew: 276

Great Is Thy Faithfulness
UMH: 140
AAHH: 158
NNBH: 45
NCH: 423
CH: 86
ELW: 733
W&P: 72
AMEC: 84
Renew: 249

Amazing Grace
UMH: 378
H82: 671
PH: 280
AAHH: 271/272
NNBH: 161/163
NCH: 547/548
CH: 246
LBW: 448
ELW: 779
W&P: 422
AMEC: 226
STLT: 205/206
Renew: 189

Something Beautiful
CCB: 84

We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise
CCB: 11
Renew: 3

Music Resources Key:
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who abundantly showers us with plenty:
Grant us the grace to be thankful for all the good we receive
and to have hope in your bounty during lean times;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.


We praise you, O God, for the plenteous gifts you bestow upon us. Help us to be grateful for all you provide for us. Give us such faith that in lean times we always have hope is what you will provide. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Leader: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our lack of gratitude and hope.

People: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We are constantly surrounded by signs of your abundant grace and love. You provide for all our needs and give us much more. Yet we are often thankless of all that we have been given. We fret about what we fear might be a lack of things. We fail to place our hope in you and your abundant love. Forgive us and renew a right spirit within us that we may be grateful and hopeful in all circumstances. Amen.

Leader: God is gracious and good. God supplies all we need including forgiveness and a chance to be renewed in mind and spirit. Receive these gifts and share them will all.

Prayers of the People
We worship and adore you, O God, for your abundant love that provides such a wonderful earth on which we live.

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)

We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We are constantly surrounded by signs of your abundant grace and love. You provide for all our needs and give us much more. Yet we are often thankless of all that we have been given. We fret about what we fear might be a lack of things. We fail to place our hope in you and your abundant love. Forgive us and renew a right spirit within us that we may be grateful and hopeful in all circumstances.

We do give you thanks for all that your love supplies. We thank you for an abundant earth and for loving friends and family. We thank you for the community of faith that sustains us and provides joy in our lives.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for all your children today. We pray for those who have lost hope and find little to be thankful for this day. We pray for those who struggle to make their way in this life and for those who are trying to find meaning for their existence.

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service)

All this we ask in the Name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Amen.

Children’s Sermon Starter
Being grateful, another word for thankful, is used by Paul today. Here he is grateful/thankful for others. We often give thanks for our food before we eat or we thank people when we are given something. It is also good to be thankful for people. Our parents, our family, our friends, our church family, and so on.

Passing On
by Tom Willadsen
2 Timothy 1:1-14
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.  For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;  for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:5-7)

The focus of this morning’s children’s message is the fact that faith is handed to us, and it’s up to us to hand that faith on to those who come after us. The metaphor is a relay race.

An interesting thing about the word “tradition:” its root word is the same as “traitor.” Both terms have to do with handing something, or someone, over to someone else. So the title for today’s kids’ message is not a circumlocution for death, just the opposite. It’s the recipe for the life of the church to continue.         

Materials needed
The materials for today’s message are minimal: something that can be used as a baton is used in a relay race. Before covering the baton with paper, write “The grace of Jesus Christ” on the inside of the paper, so no one can see that’s the message. You’ll want blank paper on the outside of the baton, on which people from the congregation can write the names of people who taught them the Christian faith.

Preparation needed
Seek the member of longest standing, ideally someone who grew up in the congregation. Be sure that she will be at the worship service and ask if she is willing to share a memory about a Sunday school teacher, VBS helper, camp counselor, or anyone else who passed the Christian faith on to her.

Line up at least four of these. Arrange for them to be ready with a memory to share. Be sure that they can be heard, have a microphone ready for them. If some of the younger members of long standing are able to come to the front of the sanctuary and speak that would be best.

When they conclude their memories, have them write the name of the people they mentioned on the baton.

After each person shares their memory, arrange to get the microphone to the next younger member of long standing.

The penultimate memory sharer should be someone currently serving as a nursery attendant, Sunday school teacher, Vacation Bible School volunteer or youth leader. After that person writes the name of their memory-maker, pass the baton to the oldest, or most voluble child, who is taking part in the children’s time. Ask her if she has someone who is helping her to learn about Jesus. Give her the baton. You may want to pass the baton to younger and younger children, depending on the kids’ ages.

When the last/youngest person has received the baton…and does not have anyone to pass it to, read all the names of the people who were mentioned, then unroll the paper from the baton to reveal what the substance of the faith, what the tradition that was handed from one person to another over many, many years is: “The Grace of Jesus Christ.” That’s what they’ve been passing on all along!

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Immediate Word, October 6, 2019 issue.

Copyright 2019 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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Janice B. Scott
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John the Baptist called people to repent, for he told them that the kingdom of heaven had come near. In our worship today let us explore what it means to be close to the kingdom of heaven.

Invitation to Confession:
Jesus, remind me to turn towards you.
Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, make me aware of your kingdom.
Christ, have mercy.
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Lord, have mercy.

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Michael D. Wuchter
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Linda Schiphorst Mccoy
Have you ever been on a plane and heard the captain tell the cabin crew to "prepare for arrival"? That announcement lets everyone know that the plane is approaching the gate, and the doors are about to open. When the passengers hear it, they immediately start to gather their belongings, put on coats, and prepare to de-plane.
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From: KDM
To: God
Subject: Embracing Hope
Message: I would not mind a little encouragement, God. Lauds, KDM

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