United Presbyterian Church  2360 Longwood Ave., Reedsport, OR 97467  (541) 271-3214
Sunday Service: 10:30: Choir Warm-up 10:15 — Office Hours: 9:00-2:00 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Pastor's Hours: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30-4:00Saturdays: 9:00-12:00
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 Disclaimer: The sermon below is what was prepared and sat on the pulpit; it may not be what was heard.  

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Pastor Buck during Joys and Concerns

GOSPEL: Matthew 9:35-38, 10:1-9

35. Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing all kinds of disease and all kinds of illness.

 36. And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. 37. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is rich but the laborers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers to his harvest.”

 

10:1. Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3. Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4. Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

5. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.

You received without payment; give without payment. 9. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts,

Sermon for Sunday, June 18, 2016

Sermon

To understand the Bible, you must understand the culture. This is hard to do because it was so unlike what we know today.  Jesus is going, by foot, from village to village.  He saw the crowds and felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.  That’s quite an image.  He has pity on them because they were harassed. 

Even though that’s a word I’ve used often, I looked it up.  It means: 1. To irritate or torment persistently. 2. To wear out; exhaust. 3. To impede and exhaust an enemy by repeated attacks or raids.  Today the people of Syria are harassed—but we’re not.

Those Jews were a conquered people under the yoke of the Roman Empire.  The Romans had no pity or respect for those they conquered.  Add to that the Jewish hierarchy; they, too, lived off the people and were also intimidating.  On top of that, there was no middle class to speak of.  There were the two percent rich; then there was the dirt poor. 

If you and I went back to that type of living conditions, we would not live as we do today; Our children and grandchildren would be living with us under the same roof of a small, two room house.  It was not uncommon for twenty or more people to live together under one roof.

That’s just the way it was in that era at that time. 

Ever since I can remember I’ve gotten up in the morning and gone to work.  Those people didn’t have that luxury.  Have you ever wondered why so many large crowds followed Jesus?  They had no jobs and nothing else to do.  Think of the stories Jesus told of men hanging around town waiting to be hired; hoping someone would give them a job.  The point I’m trying to make is that life was hard and there was very little opportunity.  This is why so many people were able to follow Him—they had nothing else to do.  Even fishermen, such as Peter and Andrew, made only a bare-bones living, in part because there were so many of them.

The author of Ecclesiastes said that: 3:1. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.  Jesus said the harvest is rich; it is time to harvest, meaning to bring people into the Kingdom of God.  Well, there’s more behind that than a simple a metaphor—He’s saying that we were planted to be harvested; that we were created for service in the Kingdom—a Kingdom that is gained by accepting and living the truth of the Gospel. 

Then He told the apostles to pray that God send laborers into His harvest—catch that phrase, HIS HARVEST.  We belong to God.  We’re just unaware—even today.  And all we have to do is take Jesus’ teachings into our hearts and live out of them.

The crowds followed Jesus because He gave hope.  That’s why the Sermon on the Mount has so much prominence in the Gospels—it gave hope to the hopeless; hope to the harassed.

As Jesus took stock of this seething mass of harassed people, He knew what to do to right the wrong—gathering His 12 together He said to pray—pray for more harvesters.  And, by the time Jesus died there were 120 teachers ready to teach what must be done in order to change the world and make it a better place to live. 

But, no matter what, in order to do it right, it must be done with prayer—“Lord help us do your will.”

In the 1950s, while I was still in high school I read a book by Norman Vincent Peale entitled, The Power of Positive Thinking.  That was many waters under many bridges ago, so I don’t recall too much about it except that I bought into it, hook, line and sinker.  I remember that it was a spiritually based book stating that we can do anything we set our minds to do.  I still believe that.  So, when I ran across this story about an event that happened while Norman Vincent Peale was still a Methodist, naturally I read it. 

Once, while he was preaching at a Methodist conference in Atlanta, Georgia, he told the congregation that God can change a life, no matter how hopeless a person might seem.  The gist of his message: Never lose hope.

After the service, Peale was meeting with three other ministers in the pastor’s office when the church secretary interrupted to say that a man wanted to see the Peale.  The pastor told the secretary to send him in.

He came in disheveled, unshaven and smelling of booze.  He had been in the congregation, and heard Peale’s message.  He looked at Peale and asked, “Do you really believe that Jesus can help me?” “Without a doubt!” said Peale. The man asked for prayer, and the four ministers gathered around to pray for him.  When he left, the bishop said, “If that man changes, we’ll all be surprised, won’t we?” 

I suspect that bishop did not believe strongly in the power of prayer.  Many pastors don’t.  But, he didn’t close the door on that possibility.  He just noted the unhappy reality that change is difficult, and many people do not change.  That’s because it takes more than prayer; it also takes sincere desire.  When we have that, though we’re weak, God will do the rest; there may be setbacks, but God is with us.

Six months later, Peale was sitting in a hotel lobby in Clearwater, Florida, when a well-dressed with two little girls in tow approached him.  At first, Peale did not recognize him.  Then, as he came closer, he realized that it was the drunk they had prayed for in Atlanta.  He was a new man—living a new life—an answer to prayer.  He had come to thank Peale for imparting faith on that day six months ago. 

Peale said that it was one of the most emotional and unforgettable experiences of his life.

God is in the life changing business.  It’s a lesson we often forget—or we surrender to something else—such as a higher education, or to the government.  I’m all for higher education—especially today’s where if you don’t have a master’s degree or a doctorate, you’re going to get left behind—at the very least, the work you find will much harder and pay much less.

But no matter how educated we become, we’re still dummies compared to God.  We’re not even in the same league.  Today’s society is a great example of what education and good intentions bring about when God is not a part of the equation—great technology, but world-wide dysfunction. 

You want to make a difference in the world?  Then pray.  Ask God to lead you so you can make a difference—a difference that really works and that will have a lasting effect. There’s simply too many stories of God turning people’s lives around—like the one I just told.

Here’s the formula:  Pray; listen; do.  Pray; listen; do. Pray; listen; do. Pray; listen; do.

You think you can’t make a difference because you’re old?  Well listen up—you are the older generation.  The young are fired up and ready to go, but you have the experience; you have the wisdom.  You lived life and learned.  Share what you’ve learned.

Believe me: you are not too old to make an eternal life saving difference in someone’s life.