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This fall, Pastor Susannah and I have been reminding us of key stories that lie at the heart of Scripture, and shape our own lives as Christians.  While we have taken a break with the Houston Preaching Mission with Donald Davis (Oct. 17), and our Youth Sunday (Oct. 24), we return to these stories on October 31 (All Saints Day) as I preach about the life of Jesus Christ. 

 To remind you of where we have been:

 From Genesis 1, the story of Creation, I said that discovering the image of God in ourselves, in other people, and in Jesus Christ has profound implications about how we ought to live in these incendiary times.  Because all people have been created in the image of God, words should never be used to demonize, and dehumanize, and hurt.  You and I and all people are God’s children, and we ought to treat one another as loving brothers and sisters.

From Genesis 12, the Call of Abraham and Sarah, I reminded us that being called by God and responding to God is a gift that is available to all.  God did not just call Abraham and Sarah, or me, but all of us.  The Call is a gift.  We do not deserve the gift of being called.  We have not earned the right to be called.  But what God offered to Abraham and Sarah, and through Jesus, and to me, and to all of us is a life in which we are never alone and that may well become a blessing to others.  I do not know when, where, or how God has called you, but I do know that God has called you.  God’s Call, however, always requires a response.  How will you accept, embrace, and obey God’s call?

From Exodus 3, the Call of Moses, I said that many of us, our families, our friends, our neighbors, and people around the world, need to hear this story of call and liberation.  Many among us are slaves to many different Pharaohs and need to be set free.  Some of us are slaves to our work.  Some of us are slaves to addictions.  Some of us are slaves to our families.  Some of us are slaves to our own passions and desires.  Some of us are slaves to our possessions. Some persons in our world are slaves to dehumanizing ideologies or poverty or a host of other slave masters.   All of us are slaves to sin and death.  Yet, God continues to call each one of us, like Moses and Jesus, to tell God’s Good News.  God can set all people free, if we will simply tell this story.

Pastor Susannah reminded us that the Ten Commandments are a gift to us from God that enables us to live as children of God.

 Finally, two weeks, ago, as I preached about the Promised Land, We all face major obstacles in our lives.  We do not face raging rivers or giants or massive walls.  Instead we face fear, loss of jobs, the absence of safety nets, foreclosures of homes, a dysfunctional government, war, disease, and death.  We sometimes forget the promise of a Promised Land.  We sometimes imagine an incomplete Promised Land.  But God never forgets what God promised.  For all of us, there is a Promised Land and a New Jerusalem.  In these strange, dark days filled with obstacles, I reminded you, that “I am bound for the Promised Land” and I invited you to “come and join with me, for we’re bound for the Promised Land.”

 Do join us again on All Saints Day on October 31 as we continue to journey with God through the Bible.

The Promised Land

October 10 Sermon: The Promised Land — Joshua 6:1-24

Now the city of Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”

So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the LORD and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” And Joshua ordered the people, “Advance! March around the city, with the armed guard going ahead of the ark of the LORD.”

When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the LORD went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the LORD’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding.

But Joshua had commanded the people, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So Joshua had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there.

Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

On the seventh day, the people of Israel got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. . . .  All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into God’s treasury.”

When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it — men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. . . . Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD’s house.

What aspects of this story are most memorable?  Most surprising?  Most unbelievable?

 

What does this story reveal about God, and us?

October 3 Sermon: The Ten Commandments — Exodus 20:1-17

And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses God’s name.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but God rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

The biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann writes: “The Ten Commandments constitute the bottom line and reference point for all Old Testament thinking about ethics.”  Are these commandments your bottom line?

 Which commandment do you observe the most?  Which commandment do you observe the least?

The Exodus and Liberation

September 26 Sermon: The Exodus — Exodus 3:1-15

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and Moses led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

There the angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire the bush did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.”

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to Moses from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Then God said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey– the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers– the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob– has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

When and where have you stood on holy ground?

 

From what do you need to be set free?

 

The Path of the Exodus

The Call by God

Abram and Sarai

September 19 Sermon: God’s Call — Genesis 12:1-8

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when Abram set out from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So Abram built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to Abram.

Create a timeline of your life.  When and where did you experience the call or presence of God?

The Journey of Abram and Sarai

The Creation

September 12 Sermon: The Creation — Genesis 1:1-2:3a

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness God called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above the expanse. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning — the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters God called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in the fruit according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. God also made the stars.

God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning — the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created human beings in God’s own image, in the image of God they were created; male and female God created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work God had been doing; so on the seventh day God rested from all this work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on the seventh day God rested from all the work of creating that God had done.

What aspect of creation is God’s greatest gift to you?

What does it mean for you to be created in the image of God?

Davinci's Sistine Chapel

 

What do we learn about God when we look at other people?

(photo credit: LECY Design/Logos Productions)

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17

This fall, I will be working through key stories from the Bible that shape our journey with God: our creation, our call by God, the exodus, etc.  The little picture above provides an overview of the journey we’ll go on together.

We begin this journey this week by focusing on the Bible.  We United Methodists used to be called “Bible Moths” because we spent so much time hovering around the Bible as a bright light.  An illustrated Bible sits on our Table of Holy Communion.  The Bible is God’s Word that contains all things we need to know for our salvation.  The goal of our reading the Bible is to transform our own lives and the world around us.

As I will do each week, I invite you to share your comments and responses to help me prepare for preaching the Word.  This week, where does the Bible intersect with your life?  What are your favorite Bible stories?  Has the Bible made a difference in your life?  As we speak together on this blog, we will find an authentic Word from the Word of God for all of us in these days.

To participate fully, I invite you to either subscribe by email (there is a link right under my picture on the right-hand side of the home page), or add my blog to your feeder (for the computer nerds among you, a little click at the top-right-hand side of the home page).

What does the Bible mean to you?

What difference has the Bible made in your life?

Hello world!

Welcome to my first post on my first blog: pastorandylangford!

At a Spring 2010 meeting at Central UMC, several members urged me to consider new ways of sharing my thoughts, and especially my sermons, with members of our congregation and maybe even a wider community.  They urged this old dog to try a new trick.

I thank my daugther Ann Green Langford Duncan for setting up this site for me, and for you.

Each week, I hope to share the Scripture for my next sermon, some initial thoughts about how to hear and respond to this Word of God, and maybe even some art to stimulate our thoughts.

I then invite you to share your comments and responses to help me prepare for preaching the Word.  Where does the Scripture intersect with your life?  What is happening in our community that this Word addresses?  What does the congregation at Central need to hear this week?  Together, we will find an authentic Word for all of us in these days.

This fall, I will be working through key stories from the Bible that shape our journey with God: our creation, the call by God, the exodus, etc.

To participate fully, I invite you to either subscribe by email (there is a link right under my picture on the right-hand side of the home page), or add my blog to your feeder (a little click at the top-right-hand side of the home page).

I expect to be stretched by this process and by you.  You may also engage with God, others in our community, and me in a new way.  May we together grow as the Word of God guides us in our spiritual journeys.