Worship Times and Styles

Saturday, 5:00 PM in the chapel

Traditional worship in a relaxed, intimate setting

Holy Communion every week, open to all believers

Sunday, 10:00 AM in the sanctuary

Traditional, liturgical worship in our beautifully designed main sanctuary

Nursery available for children under age 4

Holy Communion every week, open to all believers

Children are a part of the body of Christ, and we encourage families to worship together. Activity bags are available in both worship spaces, and Pastor Jerry shares a fun, meaningful message for children every week.

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Sunday Sermon - Mark 1:9-15

Like many of you, my wife Ann and I have been together a long while, married over 37 years. When you’ve been together that long, you have a lot of shared memories.  Well, actually, what you have are a lot of shared experiences which you almost always remember differently.  I’ll begin to tell a past story and she will immediately begin to correct me. I do the very same thing to her. Something like, “We were having lunch at Colbert Hills one Saturday” and the other will respond with, “Actually it was dinner on a Friday night.” This ongoing scenario provides a lot of, well, “debate.” Usually we end in some sort of agreement, but sometimes we wonder if we were both there together at all. And this can go on for one story or half the night. I can truly relate to what my father-in-law lovingly used to say to my mother-in-law, “Between the two of us any more we don’t have half a brain!”

It’s a good thing then that we can be sure that God’s memory is better than ours; clearer, more precise, and, most importantly, more to be trusted. After all, God has promised that “When I see the (rain)bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant.” And that covenant God speaks is, “. . . that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood.”

Now most of us who were raised in church, know the story of Noah and the flood and can think of God’s promise, at least momentarily, when we see a rainbow.  But do you remember that the rainbow was intended as a sign to God, not to us?  That the rainbow is intended to help God remember God’s promise, God’s covenant, to not destroy all flesh?  I know I forget.  Even though I’ve studied it many times, I usually remember it differently.

Novelist and New Testament scholar Reynolds Price said there is one sentence beyond all else that people yearn to hear in all stories: “The Maker of all things loves and wants me.”  Professor Liston Mills of Vanderbilt Divinity School often said a similar thing, “All theological questions boil down to one thing, ‘Can God be trusted?’ ”

The story of the great flood is a story that tells us that God can indeed be trusted.  It deals with issues of human sin and divine wrath, of our fragile vulnerability in the face of the world’s unpredictable power and violence, and the possibility that God can repent, change God’s mind, and in the future remember a promise to be merciful.

The psalmist remembers God’s promise to remember and holds God to it.  Verse 6 and 7 use “remember” three times.  It is not by accident that the writer first calls upon God to “Remember your compassion and love.” Look to the rainbow, God.  Remember your promise.  Then the psalmist invites the Lord to “remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions.”  Finally, God is asked to remember the person, not the deeds but the person, our person, in light of God’s own steadfast love and goodness.

Both the flood story and the Psalm reflect a consistent theme that runs throughout the Hebrew Scriptures—the theme of God’s compassion and mercy and love outweighing God’s judgment and wrath and condemnation. And remembering is the key. Both God and us remembering God’s promises to us; God’s covenant of grace with us. Methodist Bishop Will Willimon used to say that in preaching, “We do not so much need to be told as we need to be reminded.” We are again reminded as our new members join us today.

Similarly, 1 Peter today gives us a great summary of the gospel in the opening verses of this passage: “Suffered for sins,” “once for all,” “brought us to God,” “resurrection of Jesus Christ,” “gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God.” There’s a connection to the Noah story from Genesis, reminding us of the power (symbolic, or otherwise) of baptism. And, we get the quasi-ambiguous line about Christ “preaching to the spirits in prison.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but like the other mighty acts of God throughout scripture it is a work of the Spirit.   Just as Mark tells us that Jesus was baptized and then led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. It seems in the peculiar stuff about “proclamation to the spirits in prison,” and the flood waters being like our baptism; that Peter was trying to say that God had not forgotten those who died in the flood, those who, “in former times did not obey.”  With Christ “descending into hell” to invite those languishing there to “repent and believe in the good news,” God closes the circle and indeed makes Christ a sign that God’s love is for all people and for all time.

Simply friends, Lent is a time to listen to what God says to us. Our problem is that we’re always so busy telling God what we want, we don’t listen. The when we do as we want, we believe of course, that it is God’s will. We all need to think about that. We need to learn to listen. That means we don’t speak first. We listen first.

So after forty plus years, my wife and I do have some trouble remembering the same details of our life together, or actually remembering the same details the same way together—but we always remember we love and want the best for each other.  So it is with God and us.  We sometimes remember the story of God’s love differently; or forget details others think are important; maybe we harp on things nobody else cares about.  But beneath it all, we can be sure of one thing—“The Maker of all things loves and wants (us).” AMEN!