Monday, December 17, 2012

Rejoice!  The Lord is Near!
Philippians 4:4-7
December 16, 2012[1]

I chose the title for this sermon at the beginning of the week—days before the events of Friday.  Early in the week, when I looked at the scripture lessons from the Revised Common Lectionary, I believed that we needed to hear this word of hope.  The Season of Advent is filled with opportunities for repentance and talk about judgment—similar to the Season of Lent.  But early on, the church fathers recognized that in the middle of this season of introspection and preparation, Christians needed to have an opportunity to take a deep breath and remember who we are.  The word for “rejoice” in Latin is “Gaudete”.  They called this third Sunday in Advent “Gaudete Sunday”—a Sunday for rejoicing.  In our tradition, this time for a deep breath is reflected in our Advent Wreath.  Instead of a purple candle, we light a pink or rose colored candle, signifying that this is a day for rejoicing, for recognizing and expressing our Joy that the Lord is near.

After I heard the news on Friday, I almost changed the sermon title—not because of failure of heart, but because I didn’t want to appear insensitive to the grief and sorrow that people are experiencing in the wake of Friday’s shootings.  After thinking and praying about it, as well as after checking with several of the people of Cunningham just to make sure I wasn’t losing a grip on reality, I decided to not to change the sermon.  I realized that especially in times such as these, we need to hear the Good News that the Lord is near.

This is not a simplistic statement that ignores the tragedy around us by pretending that evil is not around us.  It is not a matter of minimizing or ignoring our pain.  It is not a matter of using glib phrases to put on a happy face.  No—it is recognition that even in the darkest of times, no matter how painful they may be, God is with us.

I have learned this wisdom from parents and preachers alike.  There is a difference between joy and happiness. 

Happiness is an emotional response to the moment.  The root word of “happy” is “hap”—a 14th century English word that means “chance” or “fortune.”[2]  This same word “hap” also gave rise to the word “haphazard.”  Happiness is fleeting.  It’s good to experience it, but you need to capture it quickly, because it is soon gone.

Joy is different.  Joy is the continuing confidence that, despite our outward circumstances, we can live at peace, resting comfortably in God’s presence.  To rejoice is not necessarily to make an emotional statement about how we feel at a given moment in time.  Rather, joy is an on-going way of living and experiencing the world around us in relation to the God within us.

There is a real distinction between seeking the feeling of pleasure that we so often view as “happiness” and learning to experience joy.  For me, joy is not a feeling; it is the assurance found in knowing that despite a world that is falling apart outside of us, we belong to God and God is with us.  As I understand the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian church, Paul was urging them—and he is urging us—to experience this joy.

Paul tells us to “rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).  Rejoice is a verb.  Paul is not saying here that we should be happy about the things going wrong in the world.  He is not so calloused as to say that we should be glad about pain and suffering.  He says that we should rejoice—not because of the pain, but because the Lord is near.  By the time Paul wrote this letter to the church in Philippi, he had already gone through more pain and suffering than most.  Paul wrote this letter from prison (see 1:14).  He faced an uncertain future, and recognized the real prospect of death (he talks about this very real possibility in Chapter 1, verses 20-24).

But death was not something that Paul feared.  He had reached the point that he could honestly say that for him, to live was Christ, and to die was gain (Philippians 1:21).  He rested in the assurance that it was better for him to stick around in this life so that he could support his friends in their spiritual journey; yet he longed to be with Christ.  Either way, Paul saw himself as winning.  (v. 23).  He reminds me of my Dad—my Dad often used to say that living or dying, he was the winner.  If he died he would be with my Mom in the presence of God; if he lived, he stayed with us.  So Dad was at peace.

I admire these attitudes.  Yet, when we face tragedies such as last Friday’s, I still have a hard time.  It’s not so much wavering in my faith as it is becoming impatient that such pain and suffering still exists in the world.  It’s our own form of exile.  I just don’t believe that God intended for us to live this way.  I feel a little bit of what the Psalmist must have been feeling when he wrote the words, “How long, O Lord, how long?” (see Psalm 13). 

But it is precisely for these moments of despair, these moments of agitation, that Paul was writing.  Paul knew that, if left to our own power to rejoice in the face of such pain, we couldn’t do it.  That is why verse 7 in this morning’s reading is so important:  “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). 

The Greek word that is translated as “guard” has some special significance.  We often think of “guarding” our hearts and minds in military or police terms.  We think of a jail or prison, where we are trying to keep someone from getting out.  That is not what Paul is speaking about here.  Think instead of a strong fortress that protects all who live inside.  Think of security.  This, Paul says, is what the peace of Christ does for us.  Christ does not pretend that the pain and suffering doesn’t exist; but the One who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4) has promised us that we will not experience this suffering alone. 

That, my friends, is Good News.  It’s Good News in the midst of a sorrowful time.  We would prefer that our Good News would be filled with jubilant ecstasy all the time.  We want our weeping to turn into dancing (Psalm 30:11) and we want it now!  We want all of our songs to be sung in a major key, but life is not like that.

Are you familiar with major and minor keys in music?  A major chord sounds happy to our ears.  Think of the Christmas Carol, “Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come!”  The tune expresses the joy we feel about the coming of Christ.  It is a song of celebration. 

But with just a minor change in one note, with lowering that one note just a half step, the major key becomes a minor one, and what a difference that minor change makes.  Compare the feeling of “Joy to the World” with the feeling expressed in the Advent Hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  This Advent Carol proclaims “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel,” yet it sounds much different.  Both carols describe the coming of the Christ—one with joy, and the other with longing and yearning.  How can we have such different reactions to the same event? 

Our youngest daughter, Margaret, is a music teacher in the Fairfax County Public Schools and also directs the Children’s Choirs at Herndon United Methodist Church.  Margaret told Carol and me that a week and a half ago, a precocious 4th grader named Emma in her Church Choir asked her why “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is written in a minor key if it’s a happy thing.

What a perceptive question for a 4th-grader!

Margaret responded that “Jesus was coming into a world that wasn’t happy and that had people that weren’t—and still aren’t—always nice to each other and the music reflects that.”  I was pretty proud of Margaret’s answer!

The minor key of the music reflects the longing of the world for things to be set right.  It’s a longing that God’s children have experienced for thousands of years.  It is a longing that is fresh in our hearts once again.  We want to sing “Joy to the World,” but we can’t.  Just as the Jewish people living in exile in Babylon hung their harps by the willow trees because they couldn’t sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land (Psalm 137), there are times that we can’t sing the songs of happiness—at least not yet.  The pain is too near.

But Advent is a time for remember that even though pain, suffering and sadness is near, the Lord also is near.  We can rejoice—even in the middle of our suffering and even in a minor key—that Emanuel has come to us.

Yet there is still another song to be sung.  A song, written in a major key but much quieter, that reflects this understanding for me.  A song that reminds me, even in the dark times, that Jesus loves us.  It reminds us that even though we are weak, He is strong.  Even though we are surrounded by the purple of longing for another day, today is a pink day, Gaudete Sunday, a day in which we can sing--and even rejoice—“yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.”  He loves us, and He promises to be with us, even “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  Even in the dark times of life, we can rejoice, for the Lord is near.  Thanks be to God!

Copyright © 2012 by Thomas E. Frost.  All rights reserved.

[1] Preached on the Third Sunday of Advent at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia.  This sermon was delivered two days after a gunman killed 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut before killing himself.
[2] "happy." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 15 Dec. 2012. <>.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Clear the Way
Luke 3:1-6
December 9, 2012[1]

Prepare the way of the Lord.

I have two images in mind this morning when I think about preparing “the way.” 

The first image is one that people who live or work in Washington, D.C. will experience from time to time.  One Sunday morning in January 2001, I was taking our son, David, to Foundry United Methodist Church on 16th Street NW.  We were driving north on 18th Street when I saw the blue lights of a motorcycle move ahead of us and block the intersection.  Soon, he was followed by a other police cars and a couple of black Suburbans and then, finally, the black limousine with flags on the front quarter panels, indicating that this was the car of the President of the United States.  All we could do was to wait for the motorcade to pass by.  Parking always was hard to find at Foundry; but on this particular Sunday morning, as we got closer to Foundry, we noticed that it was more difficult than usual. 

We arrived at the church and I dropped David off at the door.  It took me another 20 minutes to find a parking space a half mile away.  I approached the church, and I saw men dressed in black holding guns.  As I entered the church building, I had to pass through a metal detector, and I was met—not by a regular usher—but by a Secret Service Agent who told me that there were no seats available in the sanctuary.  I would have to go to the Fellowship Hall and watch the rest of the service on TV.  It turned out that David got the last available seat in the sanctuary.  I can’t begin to guess how many people were involved in the simple task of taking the President to church and ensuring his safety.  By the way, the President arrived at church on time; I did not!

The second image is much closer to home and it also involves traffic delays.  This past fall, most of us have had the experience of being stopped in traffic near the intersection of Route 53 and Route 600 while work was underway to construct the new roundabout.  It always amazes me to see just how much work is involved in making the crooked straight and the rough places plain as we prepare a new highway.  The workers had to move electric lines, clear brush and trees, grade the earth, not only to clear the roadway itself but also to prepare for new drainage ditches and culverts.  Then they had to compact the soil before actually beginning the process of laying down the new pavement.  And all of this was the work we could see.  People were working in advance, for months, to survey the land, acquire the rights of way for the property that was needed, to prepare plans and specifications.  This was a small-scale version of what it takes to build a highway.

These two images illustrate two different meanings of the words, “prepare the way of the Lord.”  A traffic and security detail led the way for the President, ensuring a smooth journey for the President’s timely and safe arrival.  Scores of workers involved in building a highway project, to straighten out the curves and hills of an intersection that was judged to be dangerous, eliminating a hazard that could threaten the safe journey of travelers.

Both of these images come to mind when I hear the words “prepare the way of the Lord.”  John used these words, drawing upon Exodus 23, Isaiah 43 and Malachi 3, to call the people of the region around the Jordan to a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  He called on the people to turn around, to change the direction of their lives, in order to see “the salvation of God” (Luke 3:7).

These are huge words, “the salvation of God.”  In our Christian vocabulary, we use the word “salvation” a lot, but I don’t think we come close to understanding this word in all of its many dimensions.  We often, if not usually, hear it in the sense of “forgiveness of sins,” and that certainly is an important part of it.  It was part of the message of John the Baptist.  But forgiveness of sins is only a part of what the Bible teaches is the grand design of God. 

We begin with the understanding that God created us in God’s image.  God has a plan for the world.  In the story of Adam and Eve, we find people insisting on their own way, substituting their own plan for God’s.  The result has led us to a broken world.  We get comfortable with things, we get used to the way things are.  But John the Baptist reminds us that the “way things are” is not the “way things are supposed to be.” 

It only takes a glance at the headlines to see a world in which warfare continues, we find Syria readying its chemical weapons to use on its own citizens[2], we continue to play out a dangerous game of nuclear hide and seek with Iran[3], we continue to fight a war thousands of miles away in a country that we don’t understand.  I don’t believe that God planned for us to live this way.

It only takes a glance at the headlines to see a country in which violence runs rampant.  Whether it is an NFL Player taking the life of his fiancĂ© and then of himself[4], or whether it is a New York subway passenger pushing another passenger into the path of an approaching train while a photographer records the story[5], I don’t believe that God planned for us to live this way.

It only takes a glance at the headlines to see a world in which almost half of the world’s population, more than three billion people, live on less than $2.50 per day, in which the world’s poorest 20% consume just 1.5% of the world’s goods, while the world’s richest 20% consume 76.6%.[6]  I don’t  believe that God wants His children to live that way.

I know these issues are complex, and I don’t want to oversimplify them.  For the moment, I simply am looking at the big picture, the result of the way humanity has been living, and I don’t think that this is the way God intended us to live.

The “salvation of God” is the way we express the hope that God will fix things.  We may not agree on interpretation of prophecy and we may have different ideas of how God will get us there.  But the Gospel tells us that there is a way to God’s salvation.  It is a way that Jesus of Nazareth traveled, and it is a way that we are called to prepare and then to follow.  It is a way, a journey, that led Jesus to a cross, a way that leads to forgiveness of sins, but it also leads to healing a world from its brokenness.

How does one begin to find the way?

John says it clearly.  He says, “Repent.”  Turn around.  Change direction.  That is what repentance means.

For John, repentance wasn’t simply a matter of saying, “I’m sorry,” although confession is part of it.  Repentance means that we change the way we live.  Repentance means that we live as God wants us to live.  That we let go of our insistence on putting “me first,” and put God first.  That we live out the reality of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.  It means that we seek reconciliation, ways of living peaceably with our neighbor.  That we clear away from our lives the sins that so easily beset us.

And yet, we find that when we try to do this in our own power, we discover that we can’t do it on our own.  The good news of the Gospel is that we don’t have to.  The Gospel of John assures us that “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--
children … born of God.”  (John 1:12-14, NIV).

As we discovered in our Bible Study Class last Thursday, we can get caught up in a lot of theological discussions about how it happens.  Those are mysteries known to God.  But there is no mistake to the message from the man in the wilderness about what we are called to do—John calls us to a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, a repentance that leads to the salvation of God.

When we come to the Table of the Lord, we come signifying just that—our repentance, our intent to change direction.  We also come signifying our neediness, our emptiness.  We come with empty hands reaching out to receive the Bread of Life that is offered to us without price.  As you come to the Table this morning, may you use this as a time for clearing the way, asking God to show you the underbrush in your life that blocks your own journey with Christ.  May you seek God’s help to prepare the way of the Lord.  My prayer for you is that you too will see the salvation of our God.

May it be so!

Copyright © 2012 by Thomas E. Frost.  All rights reserved.

[1] Preached at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Keep the Light On 
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36  
December 2, 2012[1] 

In recent weeks, I have told a lot of stories about my Dad.  It’s time to give Mom some air time.

When I was a college student and home for the holidays or Summer Break and went out during the evening, I could always count that when I returned home, Mom would leave the porch light on for me.  She didn’t always wait up for me, but this was a way that she could connect with me.  She let me know that she had not forgotten me.  She was expecting me.  It was a great sight to see when I pulled in the driveway.  This was a practice that she continued, long after Carol and I were married.  Whenever we would come home, Mom would leave the light on for us.

It was quite a different welcome than my oldest brother had received one night.  He had developed a habit of staying out much later than his curfew time.  He thought he was avoiding detection by turning off his headlights before driving into the drive way.  He would take off his shoes when he entered the front door and tiptoe quietly in the dark to the steps, taking pains to step over the ones that would creak.  The door to the bedroom that George, Bill and I shared—dormitory style—was right outside my parents’ bedroom.  One night, my mother decided to welcome George in her own special way.  She took a jar of peanut butter and smeared the peanut butter all over the doorknob to the bedroom.  I wish that I could have seen the look on George’s face when he reached for the door in the darkness.  I also wish I could have seen the look on Mom’s and Dad’s faces as they waited in the darkness to welcome George home, to remind him that they were watching!

I greatly preferred the porch light treatment, myself!  That light was a beacon of welcome, of expectation, of hope.  It proclaimed the message that Mom was waiting for me.

When Jeremiah wrote his words of prophecy to the people of Israel, they were sorely in need of hope.  For years, they had been living in exile, taken away from their homeland after the City of Jerusalem fell to the armies of Babylon.  They had failed to listen to the warnings from God’s prophets, and now they were paying the price.  We say that they longed to go back, and sometimes we read the poetry from Psalm 137 expressing how much they grieved for their homeland.  I wonder, though, if that was true for all of them.  Did all of the exiled Children of Israel long to go back, or as time went on, did they adjust to their new surroundings, fit in with the culture, adopt the ways of their new homeland?  It would be hard to blame them.  After all—they were not in Babylon alone.  The Babylonian captors brought all the best and the brightest with them.  These were the "up and coming" class from Jerusalem, and it is likely that they formed their own community within this foreign land. 

Besides, it’s not as though they always were the most devoted people.  That’s what got them into trouble in the first place—they forgot the covenant they made with their God.  My guess (and this is only my speculation), was that if they would forget God in Jerusalem, they would forget God in Nineveh.  Maybe they remembered their cultural holidays for a while—but did they remember Who it was that brought their ancestors out of Egypt, provided food and water in the wilderness, and brought them into the land that had been promised them?  Did they remember to tell the stories of their faith to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7)?  Did they remember the commandment to love the Lord their God “with all [their] heart, and with all [their] soul and with all [their] might (Deuteronomy 6:5) and to love their neighbor as themselves (Leviticus 19:18)?  Did they remember that they were called to be a chosen people, a people set apart?

It can be so easy to be drawn in by the temptation to blend in, to look just like those around you.  I had the gift of being born to some of the greatest parents around, but I knew that we were different, and I wanted to blend in.  I now can see that trying to blend in was my own sort of exile.  Not an exile of physical separation, not an exile of rebellion, but an exile nonetheless in which I left behind a part of who I was.

My guess is that few among us would call ourselves exiles—at least not in the physical sense.  Yet exile comes in many forms.

Sometimes, exile is external.  I truly doubt that any of us would knowingly choose to live in the exile of disease, hunger, or oppression. 

Sometimes, our exile is internal.  Forms of exile such as worry, doubt, guilt, shame.

And sometimes (perhaps most of the time), our exile is some combination of both.  The exile of loneliness takes the combination of the external circumstance of being alone, and responds to that external circumstance with an internal emotional reaction that we call loneliness.

Without wanting to trivialize the real pain that many people are experiencing in our world, I would identify yet another form of exile—the exile of estrangement—estrangement from our deepest selves, and from our God.  So many times, this exile of estrangement is the result of some other form of exile.  The exile of disease can lead to the exile of hopelessness.

Whatever its cause may be, exile seems to have a common effect:  exile separates us from living authentically as the Children of God.

Jeremiah’s message is meant for us too.  There is hope.  An expectation that things will not remain this way forever. A righteous branch will arise.  Justice and righteousness will prevail one day.  And on this first day of Advent, Jeremiah also is telling us here today that there is hope. 

But it is right here that the preacher has to be careful.  As a result of so many Disney stories and Hallmark Movies, it becomes so easy to reduce hope to wishful thinking, a superficial expectation for a happy ending.  Too many times, we limit our understanding of “hope” to mean delivery from external circumstances.  Don’t get me wrong—I believe in the words of that great hymn that testifies to “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”[2]  But I also recognize that sometimes, people living in the shadow can’t see the sunshine that is creating the shadow.

So for those shadow times, what do we do?  Jeremiah proclaims a message.  Let’s look at that message again.

Jeremiah proclaims a message of certainty.  “The days are surely coming …” (v. 14).  Jeremiah proclaims to those who can’t see the light that, even though they can’t see it, the light is there.

He proclaims that this message is not his own human message, but God’s message.  Whenever a prophet uses the phrase “says the Lord” (v. 14), that phrase signals that the prophet is not speaking for himself but for God.  Do you notice that the word “Lord” appears in all capital letters?  In Jewish tradition and practice, the name for God could not be pronounced or written down because it was sacred; so instead, they used four consonant letters—in our English alphabet, the letters are YHWH.  Over time, people began to fill in vowels between these letters and spoke the word “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.”  When Bible translations use the word “Lord” in all capital letters, they are referring to the One whose name could not be written or spoken, the sovereign God.  It is this God who is in charge.

“I will fulfill the promise I made” (v. 14).  Jeremiah affirms that not only does God remember His promises—but he fulfills them.  Our hope is not in the whims, the oaths, the “pinkey-swears” of humankind; our hope is in the promise of God.

Jeremiah’s message of hope is for a definite date and time:  he says “in those days and at that time” (v. 15).  Jeremiah is a message of certainty and specificity, even when the external evidence doesn’t support the conclusion.  But it is not a message tied to our time; it is a message of what will take place in God’s time.

Jeremiah’s message is assurance that God is at work in our world and in our lives.  Jeremiah’s message from the Lord assures us that “I will cause …”  (v. 15).  In a postmodern age, where we no longer trust physical or spiritual realities, the Lord assures us that there is some order to the universe.

“A righteous Branch will spring up for David” (v. 15).  For all the hopes and dreams that Israel placed in the great King David, David and his offspring were a sorry lot, indeed.  Our hope is not for more of the same; our hope is for a “righteous branch.”  This branch will execute justice and righteousness.  This is not just a reference to punitive justice, (an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”); this is justice and righteousness in which all people will be treated as God’s children.  Not better; but not worse either.

“Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety” (v. 16).  We shall one day experience the “City of God,” that Kingdom that Jesus spoke of—the Kingdom in which those who mourn will be comforted, those who are meek will inherit the earth, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied, those who are merciful will receive mercy, and those who are pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:4-8).

That promise is there, but we can’t see it.  We have lost our way of seeing things spiritually.  In our exile, we trudge along in the darkness. 

But the message of Advent is that God has His light on.  There is hope.  If we look for hope outside ourselves, we might miss it.  But that light that God has kept burning for us is a light that is internal.  It may take some work to see it again.  We may have to peel back layers of resentment, false expectations, grudges, guilt and shame to see it.  But that light is there.  The light “shines in the darkness, and the darkness [has] not overcome it” (John 1:5).  Thanks be to God!

[1] Preached at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia on the First Sunday of Advent.
[2] Thomas O. Chisholm, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” United Methodist Hymnal, (Nashville, TN:  The United Methodist Publishing Company, 1989), 140.

Copyright © 2012 by Thomas E. Frost.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Kingdom of Truth 
John 18:33-38 
November 25, 2012[1]

This Gospel Lesson is one that we usually read on Good Friday as part of a much larger story.  There is so much going on when we read the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday that we have little time to focus on this dialogue between Jesus and Pilate.  Within these few verses, Pilate manages to ask Jesus two huge questions that, on the surface, hardly seem to have anything to do with each other:  “Are you a king?” and “What is truth?”.  On this Sunday that we call “Christ the King Sunday,” these seemingly unrelated questions intersect in the person of Jesus Christ.

“Are you a king?”  As Americans, we have cultural baggage with that question. 

It’s hard for me to understand the whole notion of “royalty” in which someone like Louis the XIV reportedly claimed without blushing, “the State—it is I.”  (I read this morning that there is no proof that Louis actually said those words[2]—but even the rumor suggests volumes about how people viewed the monarchy in Europe.)  In my lifetime, kings and queens, princes and princesses have been an anomaly.

So many of us developed our perceptions of royalty from reading the Grimm Brothers fairy tales or by watching their portrayals in Disney movies.  From the handsome prince and princess to the wicked queen stepmother to the kindly but somewhat dimwitted king, somehow they all intertwine to develop a story in which the prince and princess prevail, get married, and live happily ever after.

Any romantic image of royalty went out of style in the American colonies almost two hundred fifty years ago.  The King of England became the villain that everyone could hate.  The history of Virginia was forged at a time when the rallying cry became “Give me liberty or give me death.” 

Today, the idea of kings and queens, princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses seems quaint.  We watch with curiosity as a modern nation such as England takes such cultural pride in an institution that has no political power.  We see the royals at weddings, funerals and an occasional charitable event.  We see the Brits follow the exploits of the family and accept, overlook and forgive their shortcomings.  Photographers literally will follow them to their deaths (as they did in the loss of Princess Diana—could it really have been fifteen years ago?) and risk almost everything to invade their privacy.  I understand that just this past Friday, the editor of the Irish Daily Star who dared to publish certain photographs of Kate Middleton resigned in disgrace over the uproar.[3]

Pilate had trouble relating to Jesus as King.  He was accustomed to rebels trying to free that troubled part of the world from Roman rule.  He could treat them harshly.  But the man he saw before him in the wee hours of that morning hardly seemed like a rebel.  I can almost hear the sound of astonishment in his voice as he asks his question to Jesus:  “are you King of the Jews?”

John does not tell us what was going on in Jesus’ mind as he responded to that question.  I can imagine, though, that Jesus could see clearly that there was no acceptable answer to Pilate’s question.  If he answers “yes,” his answer will be misunderstood.  If he answers “no,” he will be denying who he is.  So Jesus answers Pilate’s question with a question:  “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” (John 18:34).  Jesus was seeking the question behind the question.

Jesus’ next statement reveals a bit more about why Jesus was slow to answer Pilate’s question.  Jesus knew that people would misunderstand.  He tells Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world…” (John 18:36).  He is telling Pilate, in effect, that he can relax, Jesus is not a threat politically or militarily. 

Pilate says once again, “so you are a king.”  (John 18:37).  Jesus tells him, in effect, that those are Pilate’s words, not the words of Jesus.  Jesus announces that He came into the world for one reason and one reason only:  “to testify to the truth.”

This answer from Jesus certainly would have resonated with Pilate—Pilate was a man of the world who, though Roman, undoubtedly knew of the influence of Greek Philosophers on the intellectual elite of the Empire.  These events were taking place roughly 350 years after Aristotle, and signs of Greek influence had made their way into the thought and life of the eastern Mediterranean.  That was plenty of time for the Romans to soak up the best of Greek thought and incorporate into the public conversation of the upwardly mobile.

Jesus tells Pilate that he has come to testify to the truth.  Pilate responds to Jesus with another question:  “what is truth.”  (John 18:38).  What a deep question!  Just the sort of question you would expect to find in John.  There are so many places in John’s Gospel where Jesus uses that word “truth.”  Let me remind you of a few of them.

Do you remember the story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well in Samaria?  The woman, recognizing the cultural gulf that separated the Samaritans from the Jewish people, asked whether God should be worshiped on the mountain in Samaria or at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus told the woman that the “hour is coming … when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth….”  (John 4:24).  Jesus was able to bring this woman face to face with who she really was.

In John 8, Jesus tells the Israelites who are following him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  (John 8:31-32).

And in John 14, Jesus comforts his followers with the assurance that “in my Father’s house are many dwelling places,” that he is going to prepare for them.  Thomas asks Jesus how they can know the way.  Jesus replies, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”   (John 14:6).

In all these places, Jesus identifies himself with truth, but I must admit that it is hard for me to grasp what he is saying.

We respond to this word “truth” in many different ways.

We think of objective, scientific facts as truth.  We measure and quantify.  We look for predictability, repeat-ability.  We use a scientific method to make sure that we eliminate the human, subjective factor.  But for all the scientific truth that we have accumulated, we still have a world that is hungry, at war, worried about the world-wide economy.

Some think of truth as something to be twisted, manipulated.  Of course, I never did that in my previous occupation, but I have heard that some of my fellow barristers did.  In our political debates, it has become standard for the so-called “fact checkers” to investigate and report on the truthfulness of the candidates.  When a candidate crosses the line dividing truth and lies, the candidate is branded with the childhood designation “pants on fire.”  I can’t believe that they really think this is a good thing.

In reality, there are some things for which truth is tough to determine in a vacuum.  Sometimes, truth requires interpretation, and we have to draw conclusions before we have all the facts.  We take our best shot.  But in doing so, we run the risk that truth will become purely subjective. 

I had to laugh when I was working with a young couple preparing for their marriage.  I usually take at least three sessions with a couple to help them explore how well they know themselves and each other.  This one young bride to be told me about an event in her childhood.  Her mother had confronted her with the facts about something the girl had done wrong.  The precocious child responded to her mother by saying “that is your truth; here is my truth.”

Yet, there is a subjective side to truth.  There are some areas where the truth is not just a fact to be memorized, but an experience to be encountered and lived.  You have heard me mention my dad several times in the past few weeks.  There is an objective side to the truth about my dad:  Raymond Albert Frost, born on June 13, 1926 to Harlan James Frost and Margaret Anna Frost.  Married on October 16, 1947 to Alice Elizabeth Wright.  Father of five children.  Carpenter who became Vice President of Operations for Ben Rudick & Son, a construction company.  Died on December 3, 2011.  Is that the truth of my dad, or is the truth more to be found in memories of my personal interactions with dad—the good times and the bad times and memories that sometimes are accurate, sometimes not.

Pilate asks the question, “What is truth.”  It’s a complicated question.  But I read a commentary this week that suggested that Pilate asked the wrong question.  He asked “what” is truth, as if truth was an object that could be possessed.  The commentary I was reading says that “Truth is a ‘who,” not a ‘what.’  A matter of personal encounter and relationship, a matter of worship and commitment that is experienced in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth who guides Jesus’ disciples into all truth…  [4]  Pilate was asking “what is truth” and failed to recognize the truth that was before his very eyes, speaking to him, engaging with him.

Are we all that different?  We have had the benefit of almost two thousand years of teaching, preaching, witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Yet, based on what I see and hear, the truth seems to evade us.  We continue to try to put Jesus the King into a pigeon hole that we can understand, that we can feel safe with:  the Baby Jesus, Jesus the Teacher, Jesus the Healer, Jesus the Good Shepherd.  Why do we do this?  

Probably for a lot of reasons.  I suspect that some people want a Jesus that they can control.  Some can’t take on the difficult work of moving from truth as abstract to truth as an encounter with the holy.  Some can’t take truth as requiring them to look at the mirror, at their own motives, facing their own shortcomings. 
“Are you a King?”

On this Sunday, as we celebrate Christ the King, our Christ reminds us his kingdom is not of this world—he is not an earthly King.  Instead, Christ our King comes to testify to the truth—the truth about who God is and who we are.  Just as he did with the woman at the well, this Christ confronts us with the truth of who we are—and like the woman, he tells us everything that we have done (John 4:29).  Christ our King calls us into a relationship with Him.  A relationship that starts with repentance, a change in direction.  But this relationship doesn't stop there.  Our King invites us into a relationship that is on-going, that cuts through our own tendencies to deceive ourselves.  Our King invites us to join Him in a journey that takes Him to a cross and an empty tomb, and He invites us to take up our own cross to follow Him.  This is the truth on which Jesus would build his Kingdom. 

Pilate asked two questions:  Are you a king?  What is truth?  Pilate didn't make the connection, but his two questions were answered in the very person standing before him.  Instead of answering Pilate with words, Jesus demonstrated with his very life that He was and is “the way, the truth and the life” by which we can come to God.

How did Pilate respond to this truth-king?  Pilate washed his hands, proclaimed himself to be innocent of this Man’s blood (Matthew 27:24) and handed Jesus over to be crucified (John 19:16). 

These two same questions come before us today.  Is Jesus your King?  Have you come face to face with the truth that He reveals—the truth about who God is and who you are?  Have you taken up your cross to follow the One who is the way, the truth and the life?

Copyright © 2012 by Thomas E. Frost.  All rights reserved.

[1] Preached at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia on Christ the King Sunday.
[4] M. Eugene Poring & Fred B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 350. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

An Attitude of Thanksgiving 
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22; 1 Samuel 1:4-20 
November 18, 2012[1]

My dad was not a college graduate.  He never completed High School.  He was not a poet.  But I cannot begin to guess how many times I heard him quote this little poem:

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.[2]

After awhile, I started to think I was "sophisticated" and I became skeptical about my Dad’s wisdom.  My college English professors would not have been very complimentary about this poem, about its literalism, about the sing-song nature of its rhyming patterns.  It sounded more like something reprinted from The Power of Positive Thinking than something from a book of poetry called Poems of Passion, the volume in which it first appeared. 

Yet for my Dad, this poem was not a surface-level “don’t worry, be happy” sort of thing.  This poem spoke volumes about the way he approached life.  Don’t be mistaken, my Dad knew tough times.  He was a child of the depression.  His father died when my dad was about 14 or 15, and my dad soon struck out on his own.  He tried his hand at working on the railroad and got bored with it.  He tried working in the shipbuilding yards in Norfolk, but he couldn’t stand it.  He joined the army, but he soon got a medical discharge—I was never quite clear if the discharge was because of a hearing problem or asthma.  But he served enough to qualify for the GI Bill, which allowed him to go to apprentice school to learn carpentry.  Outside of his God and his family, building was his passion in life.

My dad put me to work so that I could earn my way through college.  He was not an easy man to work for.  I wouldn’t have lasted long if, in the middle of a tense moment on the job, I would have started quoting this poem!

But my Dad was fair and he was respected.  You always could count on him to be looking out for the guys who worked for him.

In his later years, he would quote this poem more often—especially after Mom died.  He explained it this way.  He said, “I decided that I could go around being miserable and making everyone around me miserable, or I could make the best of things.”  And he did.  For him, the way of joy and thanksgiving was not a surface level emotion; it was an attitude that governed the way he lived.  Though he felt pain, he also felt thanksgiving for his God, for the woman whom he cherished until the day he rejoined her in heaven, and for his family.  So in his later years, every day he would get up in the morning and begin his day by singing "Holy, Holy, Holy!  Lord God Almighty!"

This all came to mind as I read these words from the Apostle Paul to the Church in Thessalonica:  “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).  On the surface, these words often have struck me as falling into that same genre, “laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone.”  Don’t worry.  Be happy.  But I started digging a bit further into these words this past week. 

This first letter to the Thessalonian Church is the oldest piece of Christian literature in existence.  It was written just twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  This puts it sometime around the year 50 A.D.  The scholars tell us that Paul was probably in Corinth when he wrote this letter, a long distance from Jerusalem.  This was before Rome began the intensive persecution of the Jews and the Christians that ultimately led to the complete destruction of the City of Jerusalem. 

This letter was written years before Paul was carried off in chains to Rome, before he suffered shipwreck and imprisonment.  It was written long before the words he wrote to the Philippians about how he had learned the hard way to be “content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).

Yet Paul already knew something about persecution—because in his earlier years, he was one of the biggest offenders in promoting the rift between the Jewish leaders and the rapidly growing sect of Jewish Christians.  He also knew what it was like to have to flee under cover to escape with his own life.  He also knew of controversy, as the Jewish Christians debated the circumstances under which they should be preaching the Good News to the Gentiles and baptizing them. 

Paul had spent substantial time in the city of Thessalonica and had developed a strong bond with the church there.  He wrote this letter in response to a report that he received back from Timothy saying that there were some problems brewing with the church.

As he nears the end of this letter, Paul begins this rapid fire series of instructions—we use the fancy word “exhortations”:  “Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.”  But lest his readers dismiss these words the way a college student dismisses advice he receives from mom about laundry, Paul claims high authority for these instructions:  “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 

Paul was not talking about being polite.  Paul was not teaching people to say “thank you” the way we teach our children to say “thank you.”  Paul was not even tackling here the question that he would deal with later about suffering for the sake of the Gospel, although his words certainly would apply in that situation.

Paul was addressing a way of life, an attitude of life that we can grow into, a way of life in which our underlying attitude does not fluctuate with our moods as we bounce from one event to another.  Think about how often we fall into the trap of tying our moods, our emotions to our external circumstances.  It’s easy to be thankful when we have a full stomach, when we have a roof over our heads, when we are surrounded by those we love.  But let a job fall through or illness strike or lose a loved one or receive a bad diagnoses, our comfortable life is disrupted and we fall apart.

Paul is inviting us to see our lives differently.  He is not trying to tell us to ignore reality.  He is inviting us, instead, to a different way of seeing, a way of experiencing that whatever events take place in our lives, God is with us!  Even as Christians, we are so used to thinking about God as being a part of our lives; Paul is inviting us to see that we are part of God’s plan.

But so many times, we can’t see it.  In our Old Testament Lesson, Hannah could not see God’s plan at work.  Day after day, she would visit the House of the Lord at Shiloh and pray for a child.  She told God that if she had a son, she would offer Him to the Lord’s service.  She prayed so hard that Eli, the priest, actually accused her of drinking too much!  She explains her situation to him, and Eli offers her a blessing.  Hannah and her husband return home, and a miracle occurs.  She is with child! (1 Samuel 1:4-20).

So Hannah makes good on her commitment to God and she presents her young child to Eli.  Then Hannah offers her prayer of dedication.  It is as though God has removed a veil from her eyes and has given her the rare opportunity to glimpse just a bit of her part in God’s plan.  She speaks of the tendency of God to act in ways that we don’t expect, to break the bows of the warriors, to reverse the fortunes of the rich so that they beg for food, while those who used to be hungry are hungry no more.  She praises the God who has taken the barren woman and given her children.  And she alludes to the future kings of Israel who her son will anoint by saying that God “will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”  Could it be that she had some inkling of the One to come, the Anointed One that would be called the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?!  Hannah did not merely thank God for a good result in her case; rather, she was able to see that her life had a place in God’s design for the world.  For that, she could say, “my heart rejoices in the Lord.”  (1 Samuel 2:1).

So often, we approach Thanksgiving, (if we give thought to it at all) as a time to say thank you for specific individual blessings, for things that go right for us.  I can even recall hearing an atheist commentator on the radio saying that he was thankful for being able to experience another Thanksgiving Day, despite his cancer, although he wasn’t sure who he should be thankful to… a sad thing, indeed. 

I would like to invite you, this year, to approach Thanksgiving differently.  In addition to thanking God for giving us what we want, can you thank God for allowing us to be a part of God’s plan for the world? 

Can you look at your life and see the hand of God at work, bringing you to this time and place, to share in His work of ushering in the Kingdom of God?  Can you look at your part in God’s world and say “Thank You, Lord?”

Can you think of the people who have had an influence on your life this year, the past month, the past week, who have encouraged you in your faith, who have reminded you of God’s love, can you think of their part in God’s plan and say, “Thank You, Lord?”

Can you look at some of the circumstances where things didn’t go the way that you wanted—but despite your disappointment, your suffering, your loneliness, can you see the hand of God at work in your life supporting you, upholding you, and continuing to encourage and lead you in your journey?  Can you look at the hand of God at work in your life and say, “Thank You, Lord?”

In another letter from the Apostle Paul, he was able to do just that.  In his letter to the Church at Rome, Paul told his readers that, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39, NIV). 

To give thanks in all circumstances is to see our lives as part of God’s plan, and to know that as a result, whatever happens, God is with us.  To live like that is to live in an attitude of Thanksgiving.  And it is in that spirit, that I invite you to live in an attitude of thanks-giving.

Copyright © 2012 by Thomas E. Frost.  All rights reserved.

[1] Preached at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
[2] Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “Solitude,” from Roy J. Cook, One Hundred and One Famous Poems with a Prose Supplement, Chicago, IL:  The Cable Company, 1929), 72.

Monday, July 2, 2012

What Just Happened?  Reflections on Ordination
Matthew 28:16-20
July 1, 2012[1]

I’d like to tell you about a pretty important day in my life.  A day in which, amidst the best wishes of family and friends, surrounded by pageantry in a large auditorium, I launched into a new career.  I had survived a long educational process, paper writing, examination, interviews.  On that day, I made some pretty solemn promises.  I had dreams.  I had visions of the good that I could do in the world.  The date was November 2, 1979 when I was sworn in as an Attorney and Counselor at Law before the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Recently, I had another pretty important day in my life.  I think about the similarities and differences between that event that took place more than thirty-two years ago, and the event that took place just eight days ago when we gathered for the Annual Conference in Roanoke, Virginia and I was ordained.  Once again, there were family and friends surrounding me.  There was pageantry and a large auditorium.  The day came only after the completion of a long educational process, paper writing, examinations and interviews (a process that was every bit as thorough, if not more so, than the process of becoming a lawyer).  Once again, I was asked to make some promises about how I would be faithful to my calling to ministry.  And I had dreams and visions for ministry.  So what was different?
In reality, the question “what was different” is only the tip of the iceberg for the much larger question “what is ordination, anyway.”  For me, it begs the question, “What just happened.”  Carol told me that the look on my face in some of the pictures after ordination betrayed that question—I had that “deer in the headlights look” that can come over you when you have the feeling that you have just encountered something or someone so much greater than you and you are trying to take it all in.
And there was a lot to take in.
·         There was the shock on Friday evening of sitting at dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse and hearing familiar voices from 550 miles away asking, “May we join you?”  Bob and Janet Machovec, dear friends of ours since 1980 took me completely by surprise by giving up a week of vacation time to attend.
·         There was the joy of having so many of my friends from Cunningham join us on Saturday to attend the Ordination Service.  I can’t begin to express how important your love, your support and your prayers have meant to me during this journey.
·         There was the joy of having my family present.  My extended family watched via the internet and beyond.  One of my siblings sent me a message following the service that said he believed my mom and dad were doing “high fives” in heaven afterward.  To have our children and their families present was both a joy and an honor.  And what can I say about all that Carol has meant to me during this journey together?  She has walked with me, hand in hand, for more than thirty-six years.  She has been my partner, my support, my editor, my wife, my best friend.
Yet, I had friends and family celebrating with me when I became a lawyer.  This occasion was so much different.  What just happened?
When you boil it down to the moment, it was simple enough.  Carol and I walked on to the stage.  I knelt down, with my Bible opened.  I had “cheat sheet” for Bishop Kammerer on top of my Bible, placed there to help her remember my name (I was, after all, part of the largest Ordination Class that the Virginia Conference ever has taken in).  I closed my eyes and soon felt the hands of Bishop Kammerer gently moving my hands on the top of my Bible so she could read the cheat sheet!  And then I felt the weight of the hands of Bishop Kammerer, Bishop Innis of Liberia, Brenda Biler, our District Superintendent, the Rev. Justin White, who served as my pastor while I attended Seminary, Carol, and four other representatives of the Conference.  Their hands were placed gently on my head and shoulders.  Bishop Kammerer spoke these words:  “Almighty God, pour upon Thomas E. Frost the Holy Spirit, for the office and work of an elder in Christ’s holy church.”  Bishop Kammerer then gave me this instruction:  “Thomas E. Frost, take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacaments in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 
And it was done.  A red stole was placed around my neck, a certificate of ordination was placed in my hand, and that was it.  Or was it?
To the casual observer, maybe.  But not to those of us looking through the eyes of faith.  For through those eyes, we understand this simple ceremony to mean so much more.
Throughout our Judeo-Christian heritage, the laying of hands has represented a couple of different things.  It has marked the passing of authority.  In our Old Testament Lesson, Moses laid his hands on Joshua.  The scripture tells us that the spirit was in him (Numbers 27:18).  The Lord instructed Moses to give to Joshua some, but not all, of the authority that Moses possessed.  Joshua was not expected to become a second Moses; he was, however, expected to take up the tasks that God had set before him.  In a similar fashion, Bishop Kamerer told me to “take authority”—not open-ended, all consuming authority, but authority to do certain two specific things.  To preach the Word of God and to administer the Holy Sacraments.  Within those two tasks, I think I have my hands full!
But the laying on of hands also signifies for us the empowering of the Holy Spirit.  God does not send us out unprepared.  When Jesus commissioned his followers to preach, make disciples, baptize and teach, Jesus promised to be with them—even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).  That is the promise of Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit will dwell in us and empower us.  So the Bishop’s prayer for the empowering work of the Holy Spirit was not mere words; her prayer joined the prayers through the centuries that God would send people to teach and preach.
Some would say that Ordination is mere tradition.  Certainly tradition is present.  One of the certificates that I was given contained a sort of “family tree” of Methodist ordinations dating all the way back to John Wesley, who ordained Thomas Coke, who ordained Francis Asbury, and continuing through the generations until it reaches the final line that Charlene Kammerer ordained Thomas Frost.
But ordination is more than tradition.  And it is more than the end of a journey.  It is a directive—marching orders to get busy.  We have a job to do. 
Ultimately, ordination is not about the people who are ordained; ordination is about God.  Ordination is about the One who created us, who loves us, and who calls us back home.  Ordination is about the One who forgives us, and who perfects us in love.  Ordination is about the One who invites us to be part of the divine Kingdom of Heaven, a Kingdom that seems a long way off but, in some ways, already is breaking out around us. 
One part of the Ordination Service that will always stick out in my memory was that those being ordained formed an “Ordinands Choir”.  The anthem that we sang were based on the words of Psalm 84:9 that we read earlier.  The words to the anthem went something like this:
I’d rather be a servant in your heavenly house
Than to be a king living anywhere else…
I’d rather spend one day in your heavenly house
Than to spend a thousand thousand days living anywhere else.
Now I offer myself to you.[2]
Those words express exactly the way I feel about God’s house.  I was elated that night.  Even Ethan could sense that something special was going on.  As David, Nicole, Ethan and Grace were leaving the two-hour service, Ethan looked up at David and said, “Church was fun, Daddy.”  [Actually, we were proud of this moment because no one had told him that he would be attending a church service in the Roanoke Civic Center.]  Yes, Ethan, church was fun.  It left me so high up on cloud nine that not even a bout with food poisoning a few days later could bring me back to earth.
If ordination was only “fun,” then the fun will be short lived.  If it was only a celebration or a checkpoint in the journeys of the lives of 32 people, then its significance will fade away quickly.  But if Ordination was truly a call to action, a call to live and to preach the news of the Kingdom of God and to administer the Holy Sacraments, then the joy and the call of Ordination will continue—for we have a lot of work to do.  And it is work that does not only involve the thirty-two ordinands.  It is a call for all of us.
We all are part of the body of Christ that we call the church.  As the Apostle Paul reminds us, the different parts of the body have different functions, but we all are needed for the body to function in the way God intended.
Ordination was not about me.  Ordination was about God and the work that God calls all of us to do.  The same God who nudged me to seminary has a calling for you, as well.  Your calling may be to run a classroom, to run a library, to run a county or to run an office.  Your calling may be to clean a hospital, to clean a house, or to clean a church sanctuary.  Your calling may be to prepare health kits for people in need thousands of miles away, or to care for loved ones right in your own home.  Your calling may be to raise a family or to raise a vegetable garden.  Your call may not be the same as my call, but it is a call to do God’s work, nonetheless.  We are invited, in “whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, NIV).
As we were being ordained, a verse of scripture was displayed on the screen in the Civic Center.  Each person being ordained had been invited to select a verse that was significant to them in their lives and ministry.  The verse that I selected was Matthew 6:33—“Strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  My Bible was opened to that verse as I knelt before the Bishop. 
The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom I am seeking.  This is the Kingdom that I am working for. 
What about you?  In what ways has God been nudging you to work for the Kingdom?  Perhaps your nudge is one that is so gentle and so subtle that it is difficult to discern.  Perhaps your nudge is more direct, insisting on your immediate attention.  Either way, God’s nudge is one that must be listened to.  It is important to test out those nudges, to make sure that they come from God and not from ourselves.  But when they have been affirmed, I promise you that there is no greater joy than in responding with those words, “Here I am, Lord.” 
If you are willing to respond to God’s nudge this morning, I invite you join me in saying “Lord, I give myself to You.”
May it be so!  Amen!
Copyright © 2012 Thomas E. Frost.  All rights reserved.

[1] Preached at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia on July 1, 2012.

[2]Pepper Choplin, “I’d Rather Be a Servant in Your Heavenly House,”(Lorenz Publishing Company, 2011).