Wiping Away Tears 
Sunday, November 2, 2008, 08:00 AM - Sermon, Podcast
Revelation 7:17

The message below is available as podcast recorded live at our worship service. Click the image at the right to download this message in mp3 file format.

The families we welcome today know tears. We come together today to celebrate the saints, to wipe away the tears if only for a moment in anticipation and hope of the day when all tears are wiped away.

Even Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Tears come in times of grief, when we lose someone or even something. Some believe that the presence of tears is proof of the absence of God. Yet God does not prevent tears, God is the one who wipes the tears away. The tears are real, the tears are blessed. In the book, The Shack, author William P. Young has the Holy Spirit collecting tears in a bottle because she values them enough to collect them.

How is this possible? With the grief and suffering in the world, how can even God wipe away every tear?

She was born screaming. The bright light and open space assaulted her as she passed from warm, dark, quiet, confinement of the womb to the delivery room. Eyes squeezed shut and mouth super size she let out a cry and pegged the Agar score as if it should be the Richter Scale of earthquakes. But a few moments later laid on her mother's chest, she quieted down as her mother kissed away the tears of her newborn. She had wiped away her tears, for all the pain and discomfort, as real and overwhelming as there were moments ago, now, though no less real, were wiped away with the warm bundle of promise fulfilled and yet to come on her chest.

No! screamed the two year old with all the power and force of a toddler determined to bend the universe to her will. She was tired but nap time was the enemy within, to be resisted with screams of outrage and tears of rage against the grasp of unconsciousness pulling at her eyelids. Her father knew the tears could only be cured by sleep and walked around the house, his words like a whisper in a hurricane. But the demon spawn was transformed into an angel as sleep soothed out the stormy creases in her face. Gently he kissed away her tears, the salt stinging his lips in an echo of the siren wound down. The calm after the storm he thought, as he thanked God for his daughter and for the gift of rest; for both of them.

She looked at the back of her preschooler, running away toward her class. Will she look back? She didn't know if she wanted her to or not. Darn, I told myself I wasn't going to cry. Now I hope she doesn't look back. She didn't look. My baby is growing up, she thought, ready to take on the world, at a preschool level anyway. And the tears were caught with a satisfied, even proud smile.

Where is she? It is passed her curfew and no call and no daughter. Maybe he should give in and get her a cell phone. Yet he could get home on time without one. What if something had happened? Who was she with? Jenny? Sarah? He should have driven her, no matter how much she hated parental baggage. He jumped up, ignoring the drone of the television, was that a car door? Yes, the front door was opening and there she was. He didn't realize how tense he was until he saw her, then he caught himself slouching as the relief unlocked his joints. He dabbed at a little tear, he was supposed to be angry not weepy! She was late, but she was safe. What to do? “Sorry, I'm late. I told them I had to be home.” Relief won out, “Well, I'm just glad you're home safe.” And joy replaced the fear.

The room was still full even though she had moved to college. How is that possible? Is there some law of conservation of mess? She picked up a few clothes to provide a path through the storage closet with windows that used to be her daughter's room when she uncovered her varsity hoodie. How many times had she tried to get her not to wear that beat up cover up? She even had it on Easter Sunday! Now it was benched, new players were in the game. She said she wanted to do other things in college and just like pre-school, left the home field for new challenges and hadn't looked back. Now why was she beginning to cry over the pull over she didn't even like! Silly, she thought, it is for the best, as she dried her face with the discarded hoodie.

How many pictures are too many? Everyone had a camera at graduation and the combinations of friends, parents, parents of friends, classmates, dormmates, and roommates multiplied by the tsunami of emotions from squeals of victory to tears of separation made no face safe. The commotion of commencement covered the tears shed during the student's speech, when she realized that beginnings and ends are not halted by being captured in digital devices. No matter how many cameras were focused on the moment, commencement ends college as it begins adulthood.

Everyone cries at weddings. No matter how much others tell you not losing a daughter, but gaining a son…you still “give away the bride”. You go back to your seat without her, you don't take them both back with you. Going down the aisle, the vision of her playing dress up intrudes, as if the moistness of your eyes wasn't troubling enough. She has been planning this day for years, you've seen it coming the first time you saw them together, why are there tears now and not then? Denial was easier back then comes the answer. Here it is, undeniably, another sad happy time together. Why does newness spring from tears like flowers from rain? Is the only way to happiness, through the sadness? She is happy, no, they are happy. The two shall be come one.

At birth, tears were wiped away by a new life, so too does Christ give us new life in heaven.

At two, tears were wiped away by rest richly deserved, so too does Christ grant us rest from life's burdens.

At preschool, tears were wiped away by a task well done, so too does Christ welcome the servant whose task is completed.

At sixteen, tears were wiped away by arriving safely at home, we are safe from all in this world and the next by the love of God of which nothing can separate us.

Going to college, tears were wiped away by a covering no longer needed. We no longer need the body, for we have new ones waiting for us in our next dwelling.

At her wedding, tears were wiped away knowing that the loved one was in care of one who loved her. So too we can trust the one who is the way the truth and the life to lead us safely in love to our eternal home.

Every tear shall be wiped away. As Christ gives us new life, rest from life's burdens, welcome to the servants, safety from evil, freedom from the limits and failures of the physical, and a life joined with the one who loves us like no other from either end of time.

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Church Loan 
Wednesday, October 29, 2008, 11:29 AM - Extra Christy
We paid off our church mortgage! A generous bequest by Ruth Foraker allowed us to pay off the remaining amount we owed. Our treasurer told us we will get an offical notice soon.

Yet I believe even then, the church is not ours. Some disagree with me; among them at least one Ohio judge, many congregationalists, even some Presbyterians. Who does it belong to? The easy answer is God, after all, all churches belong to God. An historic answer is found in our church consitituion that all property is held in trust for the denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA).

This Sunday we are celebrating "All Saints Sunday" where we remember those that have gone before us and now after death are in the church triumphant. Some of them were the ones who built the church building during the depression, others mortaged their own homes to contribute to the building fund, many others worked in choirs, Sunday Schools, dinner committees, youth programs or served as a deacon or elder.

All Saints Day reminds us of the faith of those that served God before us and even now are cheering us on as we take our turn between those that went before and those who follow us. We are stewards of the blessings of God which are lent to us while we are here. The blessings of God handed to us by the saints that went before us do not belong to the current generation anymore than the sky does. We do not own the church anymore than we can box and brand God's love just for us and our generation.

May you be blessed by all that the saints in your life have passed on to you, and may you enjoy them...and pass them on to others.

Of course, every house is built by someone, and God is really the one who built everything. -- Hebrews 3:4 (CEV)

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Pretty Please 
Sunday, October 26, 2008, 08:00 AM - Podcast
This message is available as a podcast recorded live at our worship service. Click the podcast image to listen now or right click the image and choose "Save As" to save this message in mp3 file format on your computer for playing later.

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What Tomorrow May Bring 
Wednesday, October 22, 2008, 11:27 AM - Extra Christy, Radio
Speaking with an elder about an unexpected death years ago, he said, "You never know what the day will bring." In light of the stock market and banking news, with the Dow Jones Index flying up and down (mostly down) lots of people suspect that no one knows what the day (or the hour!) will bring.

The author of James warns us against making financial plans for future profit for he points out that "no one knows what tomorrow will bring" He recommends adding the prefix: "If the Lord wills..." to all plans.

Ira Stanphill wrote a song after his wife left him and their ministry. You may not care for the style, but the words are appropriate half a century later:

I don't know about tomorrow;
It may bring me poverty.
But the one who feeds the sparrow,
Is the one who stands by me---

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

We don't know what tomorrow holds,
but we know the Lord holds tomorrow.

Come now, you who say,"Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." -- James 4:13-15 (ESV)

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Raising the God Tax 
Sunday, October 19, 2008, 08:00 AM - Podcast
Matthew 22:15-22

This message is available as a podcast recorded live at our worship service. Click the podcast image to listen now or right click the image and choose "Save As" to save this message in mp3 file format on your computer for playing later.

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