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October 2010 Sermons:
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

"Will Our Faith Have Children?" — October 3
"Ask Boldy, Live Justly"
— October 17
"Choosing Hope"
— October 24
"Dinner With Jesus" — October 31


“Will Our Faith Have Children?”
October 3, 2010
First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

II Timothy 1: 5-14

At the church where I did my Seminary internship, I asked one of the elders why he never brought his children to Sunday School. He answered, “My wife and I want our children to make their own decisions about faith.”

Many parents say this. Some of my own relatives have said it, too. Every one of Laura’s first cousins has grown up un-churched. What these mothers and fathers don’t realize is that they have already made a decision for their children—a far-reaching decision—if they don’t raise them as practicing Christians. If our faith means something to us, we have to teach our children about the treasure of the gospel.

I hadn’t intended to put that elder on the defensive. I had wanted to encourage him to bring his kids to Sunday School. That’s all! But I think I made him feel guilty, because I came on too strong. His children didn’t come. But I’m still not sorry I asked.

Last Sunday, our Evangelism Task Force shared some statistics on Christian parenting. You may remember the insert we had in our bulletins for “Bring A Friend Sunday.” Kent Newhart had found results of a study about Christian nurture in America. That study surveyed adults who had been raised as Christians by both parents. The majority of these adults had continued to practice their faith well into their adult lives.

Let’s look at today’s epistle reading, the second one that Carol read, and the history behind it. Timothy, one of the first pastors of a Christian congregation, had been raised in the Christian faith. He had had wonderful teachers—his grandmother, his mother, and the Apostle Paul. There’s disagreement about the authorship of the Second Letter to Timothy. According to tradition, Paul wrote it from a prison cell in Rome. Some biblical scholars disagree. They believe it was written by an unknown Christian evangelist, soon after Paul’s execution in Rome. But we do know, for a fact, that Paul had been Timothy’s mentor. Let’s assume, for the sake of this sermon, that Paul did write this letter to Timothy.

Timothy was several decades younger than Paul. In the Second Letter to Timothy, Paul offers advice and encouragement to his protégé, in the way a father would encourage his son. Here’s the gist of Paul’s message to Timothy: You have this faith. It was given to you by your mother, and by your grandmother, and me, Paul. Now, you must share the task with us. You are to give the faith to others … pass it on. He puts it this way: “Rekindle the gift of God that is within you.”

Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, had been Jewish Christians. In ancient Judaism, the father normally taught the Torah to his sons, but this seems not to have happened for Timothy. History shows that Timothy’s father was a Gentile, and not a religious man at all.

The ancient followers of Jesus knew Christianity would die, if they didn’t teach it to their children, and to their children’s children. There are millions of Christians in the world today, thanks to them. And yet, our culture is hostile to Christianity—maybe even more so than the culture of Paul and Timothy. We can compare the good news of Jesus Christ to the bald eagle. It’s only one generation away from extinction. There are plenty of folks around us who think we are weird for devoting even one hour in the week to God and to the church. If we serve as church officers, well, that makes us religious fanatics! So, we’re shy, like Timothy was. We hesitate to profess our faith. We’re afraid people will think we’re crazy, or naïve, or foolish.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our children had a solid Christian education? It’s so important for churches to be child-friendly and teen-friendly. In a congregation where people feel free to ask questions about a scripture passage they don’t understand, in a congregation where people are encouraged to bring their hearts and minds to worship, faith can mature. It’s sad that children don’t have many opportunities to meet people of older generations—in church or anywhere else. Many grandparents are separated from the children in their families by hundreds of miles. In our church, six-year-olds can sit around a table with seventy-five-year-olds and celebrate a patriotic occasion, or Halloween, or the visit of the three wise men to the Christ Child at Epiphany. I’m glad to see that the adults in this congregation really enjoy the children. They will grow up to be loving adults, because they know people in this extended family of faith who love them.

Today is World Communion Sunday. Christianity is still a worldwide religion. But did you know that there are more Christians in the Southern Hemisphere than the Northern Hemisphere now? In Asia, in Africa, and in Latin America, faith in Jesus Christ has grown over the last fifty years. That’s good news! Missionaries of the twentieth century did a good job. But we North American and western European Christians have really dropped the ball when it comes to sharing our faith with the younger generation. Most of us don’t want to convert the indigenous people of other continents. But we have golden opportunities to be missionaries right here. Our children and our grandchildren and our nieces and nephews need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

We ourselves were raised as Christians because people like Paul and Timothy, and Timothy’s mother and grandmother, risked their necks to go out and tell the gospel story. We know that God is in charge—that’s why we’re here today. If Paul and Timothy had stayed home where it was safe, and if missionaries like Albert Schweitzer and Narcissa Whitman and Mother Teresa had kept their beliefs to themselves, Christianity today would be nothing more than a small, splinter sect within Judaism, if it existed at all.

Paul invites Timothy to join in suffering for the gospel. We aren’t persecuted the way those men were, and thank heaven for that. But on the other hand, I wonder if Christianity has become so harmless that it doesn’t challenge anybody anymore. As Paul would say, we need to rekindle the gift of God that is in us. How? Think about those gospel stories people struggle to understand. Ponder those stories you don’t even like very much, like the parable of the dishonest steward and the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. You know, the one about the workers who get paid the same amount, even though some work one hour and others work eight hours. Those stories Jesus told, make you think. That’s the point. If you talk about them around the dinner table, if you challenge your teacher or pastor to explain them, that’s Christian education.

Our God is a God of memory. The words, “Do this in remembrance of me” are a familiar part of the sacrament of Holy Communion. It’s true, isn’t it, that information is power? Memory has enormous power. But memory fades, and we will all pass on. Do you have stories that get passed along in your family? Do they have the power to make you feel special? The Smothers family has a few. John’s mother played hide-and-seek with Margaret Truman, when they were little girls together in Independence, Missouri. My grandmother was the first woman to get a driver’s license in the District of Columbia. Just a month ago, our daughter shook hands with the President of the United States. You all must have family stories to brag about.

Let’s brag to our young people about Jesus. The gospel is the greatest treasure of our world-wide Christian family. We must not let it be forgotten.

Let us pray. Almighty God, take our lives and make them into a song of praise to your glory. Teach us to give thanks when we are called upon to witness to the truth of your gospel. Teach us how to plant your peace in our own small corner of God’s kingdom. AMEN

M. Eugene Boring and Fred Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004), 668.

II Timothy 1:6.

Acts 16:1.

 


“Ask Boldly, Live Justly”
October 17, 2010
First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

Luke 18:1-8

It’s scary to knock on the doors of strangers. If you ever sold Girl Scout cookies in your neighborhood, you know what I mean. You rang a doorbell, and you heard nothing. Three minutes, four minutes, five minutes! Still, nobody appeared. Was the doorbell broken? You stood at the doorstep, wondering if someone was staring at you through the peephole. If the people inside the house opened the door, sometimes they’d be rude—even to a Girl Scout. Most parents won’t let their children sell to strangers anymore, and I think that’s a good thing. I was never desperate to sell cookies. If nobody came to the door, I just went to the next house. The widow in our gospel story is different. She’s desperate.

This woman stands knocking at someone’s door—knocking and waiting, knocking and waiting, wondering if he will ever answer. The door belongs to a judge. We can’t tell, from the scripture reading, if she’s literally knocking at his door. But she’s being a real pain in the neck, according to Luke’s account. Over and over, she’s been demanding the same thing from this man: “Grant me justice against my opponent.”

This fellow is a bad judge. He’s probably a paid magistrate appointed by the Roman governors—not a Jewish elder. In verses two and four, we learn that he has no fear of God and even less respect for human beings. He’s the kind of corrupt bureaucrat who only helps people if they give him bribes. New Jersey is full of public officials like that. The widow in our parable has no money, so it seems as though she’s out of luck.

Women without husbands had no social standing in Jesus’ day. When a woman’s husband died, his estate got passed on to his sons or brothers. If her relatives didn’t act with justice and honor toward her, a judge would be called in as her final and only hope. And, what’s even worse—a widow had no right to file a complaint in court, unless a man did it for her. This woman had no male relatives to help. So, the matter was between her and the judge.

Jesus was good to the poor widows of His society. They had a place of honor in the early church. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy tells how the church was especially generous in supporting their poor and helpless widows. But this unjust judge is no Christian and he simply doesn’t care.

The widow in this story has only two things going for her—the ability to be a pest, and the fact that she has nothing to lose. She grabs every opportunity to get the judge’s attention. She shouts in his courtroom: "Give me justice! Give me justice! Give me justice!" Courtrooms were not the kinds of places where women were welcome in the ancient Near East. And yet, she is bold enough to walk right into the Hall of Justice and knock on his chamber doors. She even follows him home, shouting, "Give me justice! Give me justice! Give me justice!" We’ve all known people like this. They eventually wear us down. The judge gives her the justice she demands. Has he suddenly decided to be nice? No. He just wants to get rid of her. The squeaky wheel gets the grease! And that’s how this widow gets her way.

We tend to associate God with power. Does the judge represent God? Does Jesus mean, by telling this story, that we must badger God with prayers, night and day, to get what we want? Absolutely not! The story clearly says that the judge is NOT like God. God is concerned with justice and mercy. This particular judge is motivated only by his selfish needs. He has no sympathy for this woman.

So what does this parable mean? Luke, the gospel writer, has placed it second in a series of stories about Godly communication. We already know that the judge doesn’t represent God. I see the widow as the Godlike character. Does that mean God is female? No! God is neither male nor female. God is Spirit. And yet, most of us picture God as a male human being, so the idea of God being represented by a woman in a Bible story is unsettling. Think about hymns we know well, like “This Is My Father’s World.” The words to that hymn suggest that God is a “He.” We grew up hearing male actors’ voices taking the part of God, narrating films like, “The Ten Commandments” and “Ben Hur.” Even modern movies have actors like George Burns and Morgan Freeman playing God.

Jesus wanted parables to disturb. In every parable He told, He included a surprise to puzzle his listeners. In this one, we find a good woman and a wicked man. Jesus liked to put faithful women in His stories. He was friends with many good women, like Mary and Martha of Bethany, and Mary Magdalene.

What if the widow does stand for God in this story? It starts to make a lot more sense. Notice how the widow directs every single action to bringing justice. She is the model of a person who never loses heart. She is an irresistible force with the power to keep on, keepin’ on. She will absolutely not be turned away from this judge. God’s push for justice is a central theme in the Old Testament. And in the gospels, Jesus uses all His power and strength to help the helpless. So, if the widow represents God, who—or what—does the judge represent? He’s more attuned to the dollar than to the divine, that’s for sure. Are we like him? I know that nobody here tramples powerless widows under their feet. But do we hesitate to help people, unless there is something in it for us? Sometimes, we get cranky and we decide to “grease the squeaky wheel,” to stop the squeaking. I do this. We all do.

The persistent widow is modeling Christian behavior! Persistence and patience are important parts of discipleship. Christians are expected to keep knocking on heaven's door for the coming of God's will on earth, even as it is in heaven. “Knocking on heaven’s door” is a fancy way to refer to praying. We are expected to pray persistently for the sick, the lame, the poor, and the hungry.

And yet, we live in a world of instant gratification. Instead of having to look up facts in an encyclopedia, we find them on Google in two or three minutes. We pop a frozen French bread pizza in the microwave and have dinner ready in two minutes. Remember how we used to have to complete those long order forms in the Sears Roebuck catalog? We can do our Christmas shopping by computer now, or by telephone. How can we practice being like the widow, if we have forgotten how to be persistent? What if we never LEARNED how?

We can be persistent, IF we’re fired up for a good reason. At some point in your life, you’ve knocked on heaven’s door, to get justice for yourself or someone you love. The illness of your parent or spouse, a sudden financial reversal, or the suffering of a family member—all these things transform us into advocates for justice. We battle hospitals and insurance companies. We fill out form after form. We make phone call after phone call. We march on the town hall. We challenge the school board to arrange special education, or all-day kindergarten, for our children. We raise awareness and we raise money. Sometimes we even raise Cain. Why? We want good lives for those we love. Each one of us has enough courage to drive unjust judges crazy—when that’s the only way to get mercy and justice. There are many causes in this world that are worth banging on the doors of heaven about. Jesus says it is okay to ask for what you want, not once or twice, but over and over again. It is okay to ask so frequently that you think that you are pestering God. God is big enough to take your pestering. Not only is it okay to bother and hassle God about when his kingdom will come—it’s part of our work as disciples to be persistent in prayer. Go ahead, ask, ask again, keep bothering God by asking over and over. Be bold in your demands and strong in your faith. Be like the persistent widow. And God will answer in unexpected ways. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray. Father of compassion, may we pray not for what we seek but for what YOU seek; may we discern not our wants but YOUR will. Open our hearts to hear your Word of compassion and justice. Open our hands, that we may live that Word in acts of consolation and forgiveness. AMEN

Luke 18:3.

Jay Cormier, Table Talk: Beginning the Conversation on the Gospel of Luke (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2009), 194.

I Timothy 5:5.

Luke 18:5.

 


“Creative Management”
October 24, 2010
First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

Joel 2:23-32

So many factors in our lives are unpredictable—our health, world events, and, most especially, the weather. Weren’t you surprised by that hailstorm last May? People in our neighborhood are still having their roofs repaired—including us! But I wouldn’t call it a natural disaster. It wasn’t that big a deal.

I’m thankful for the sameness in our lives that keeps us going. We complain about the traffic congestion on Route 22, but we know the intersections to avoid, and we use our favorite back roads every day. We do things in the same comforting order each morning—turn off the alarm, feed the cats, pack the lunches, and start the car.

Is God predictable? Is there a pattern in the way God acts toward us? A major theme in the Old Testament is God’s promise to His people—that bad things happen, but catastrophe won’t have the final word. That’s what the prophet Joel preaches to his people in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, after all their crops are destroyed by an infestation of insects.

Have you ever read the book of Joel? It’s a great source of comfort in times of trouble. The three chapters of this book are a quick “read”. It’s so short that most people can’t find it in the Bible without turning to the table of contents to find the page numbers. Joel is one of the twelve “minor prophets” at the end of the Old Testament. Why are they called such an insulting name as “minor prophets”? Not because they are unimportant! The reason is simply that their books are very short. Isaiah and Ezekiel are major, and their books are really long. It’s that simple.

Very little is known about Joel. But this book shows he was a powerful and effective preacher. You’ve heard a verse or two from the book of Joel in May or June of every year, if you’re a regular churchgoer. The passage Melody just read, from Joel, gets paired with The Apostle Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost, because Peter quotes it . Peter lived in another time of extreme fear. On the Pentecost Day when Christianity was born, Jesus had just gone to heaven, and the disciples’ need for comfort was very great. We need hope today, right here and now—as much as Joel’s and Peter’s people did in those ancient times of disaster. I want to quote from an email message, from a member of our church prayer chain. She wrote, “Oh, my goodness! Prayers and more prayers!”

What, exactly, has been happening in Judah, four hundred years before the birth of Christ, as this sermon is preached? Joel’s congregation is reeling in shock. A plague of locusts has destroyed everything green, over dozens of square miles. Fields have been stripped bare. Feed crops are gone. Soon, all the cattle and sheep will die. Israel had an agricultural economy. Destruction of crops was devastating to people at every level of society. It’s no surprise that the ancients saw locust infestations as signs of the judgment of God.

Now, after this disaster, the people of Judah will have to live from hand to mouth, if they can survive at all. Joel sees this crisis as a warning to God’s people, but not the end of the world. Shocking surprises bring us closer to each other and to God. It was true then, and it’s true, now. Remember the deep spiritual conversations we all had with strangers in the supermarket or the doctor’s office on 9/11? By ourselves, we can’t do anything to make fear go away. We must turn to God and surrender our fears to Him. That’s what we did in those scary weeks of September, nine years ago. That’s what Joel hopes the Judean people will do after the locusts are gone.

Have you ever had a wake-up call that changed your life? You had a promising career—until you were laid off. Your home was destroyed in a fire. A loved one died an untimely death. That’s what happened to my brother, in 1993. I didn’t know how to help him. I didn’t know how pray for my family. We pray, but we feel like our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. That’s how I felt. Studying theology has given me some answers to the questions I asked God back then.

Joel helps us to make sense of disaster. According to this ancient prophet, God sends “plagues of locusts” into our lives for a reason. They serve as wake-up calls. Joel isn’t saying that catastrophes are good for us, spiritually. He isn’t telling us that we’re being punished for our sins. Not at all! Joel is telling his people to get right with God.

How can Christians respond to disastrous events? Because we’re human, we sometimes get angry and fight back. Sometimes we play the “blame game” and try to pin the fault on someone or something. Sometimes we work harder and faster, to block out our feelings. Sometimes we get depressed and stop trying. The Christian response is none of the above! It’s hope! Faithful folks have one thing in common. We know how to throw ourselves on the mercy of God.

Joel, the prophet, says that God can, and will, do something about the locusts. God always answers when His people call, Joel writes. The prophet pictures a day in the future, when the Spirit will be poured out on all people and remain with them. The result of God’s gift of the Spirit is that wonderful, unexpected things will happen. Our threshing floors will fill with grain. God will live in our midst, and everyone will testify to God’s goodness. Age and social status and gender won’t matter. Not only kings and emperors will experience these miracles. Men, women and children will join in testifying to the goodness of God. Even slaves will prophesy. Everyone will enjoy hope and prosperity. That’s what Joel means when He writes God’s words: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh!”

We Christians recognize that this new world has begun. It started on that great first day of Pentecost, when the disciples received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit after the resurrection of Christ. The world isn’t perfect yet, but we have had a taste of the kingdom of God. We taste it every time we celebrate Communion.

Are you living with the locusts? If you’re seeing nothing but desolate fields and trees stripped of bark and a future of starvation, like those Judeans were, you need to open your heart to the Holy Spirit. God can and will offer hope. Joel preached that hope is always an option—no matter what’s going on in our lives--because God loves us so much.

Pastoral care in hard times is a huge part of ministry—not only mine, but yours as well. Let’s do more than pray for others—let’s share with them our hope.

Theologian Paul Tillich maintained that “the courage to be,” is our antidote to anxiety. The English word, “courage,” comes from the Latin word for heart. The ancients thought the heart was the center of human functioning. The Romans spoke about “being strong of heart” in situations of danger and challenge.

Jesus was strong of heart and faith. In His life and death, we learned that our destiny is not agony, but ecstasy. We learned that God is in control, no matter what happens. It doesn’t matter that the sun has gone dark, or that the moon has turned to blood. The New Jerusalem has no need of a sun or moon. Its light comes from the sun of righteousness.

Let us pray. O God, help us not to surrender to the easiest path that lies before us. Guide us faithfully along our spiritual journeys. Secure our hearts and minds with memories of Jesus and His courage. And enable us at all times to call upon your Holy Spirit to strengthen and sustain us. AMEN

Acts 2:14-36.

Andrew E. Hill and John Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 365.

Fred B. Craddock and others, Preaching Through the Christian Year (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press, 1994), 448.

Hill and Walton, 368.

Joel 2:28a.

LeRoy Aden and Robert Harris, Preaching God’s Compassion (Minneapolis: Fortress,2002), 87.

 


“Dinner With Jesus”
October 31, 2010
First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

Luke 19:1-10

Most pastors prepare for sermons by closing their office doors and looking through books, beginning with the Bible. But, ten years ago, the Reverend Dwayne Severance did research for his Sunday sermon in a different way. He wanted to understand what it is like to be homeless. So he put on old, worn-out clothes, left his money and his credit cards at home, and asked his wife to drop him off on a downtown street in Austin, Texas. The only thing that made him different from any other person living on the streets was that he really had a home, and he knew he’d be going back home in three days.

At the end of those three days, Severance was hungry, dirty, smelly and shaken. He said that there were many things he wished for, during those three days he was homeless—a hamburger, a bath, a blanket and a bed. The filth of the sidewalks, and dumpster diving behind restaurants, were degrading, it was true. But the dirt and the hunger didn’t shake him up as badly as the way he was treated by other people. The thing that frightened Severance most was the way nobody on the streets would make eye contact with him. Strangers looked right past him. He felt as if he had ceased to exist.

What this pastor learned is what homeless people need the most—more than food or clean clothes or a warm bed. They need someone to recognize them as worthwhile human beings. They need to be treated with dignity, simply because they are human. He started a ministry for the homeless, under a bridge in downtown Austin, in 2001. Severance died in a car accident last January, but his ministry has grown, and it continues under new leadership.

Zacchaeus was an outcast, too. He was rich and powerful, but he didn’t have the kind of social status good people wanted. Zacchaeus yearned to invite someone over to eat dinner at his home. But the common people of Jericho considered him a person who could not be trusted. He had no friends.

Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in his city. Jericho was one of the greatest taxation centers in the Roman Empire. At the time of Christ, it was the city where Herod had his palace. The tax burden for the people of Jericho was very heavy. What’s more, these people suspected that their chief tax collector was an extortionist and a loan shark. The Roman government levied an annual tax assessment on the whole district, and Zacchaeus got the money, any way he could.

Nobody really knew what the tax code was. Nobody knew what items were taxable. Few people could read Latin, and anyway the laws were written down far away in Rome—not in Jericho. Zacchaeus may have been short, but he had plenty of Roman centurions protecting his power. What this tax collector asked for, you gave him. If he collected more than the assessment, he got to keep the extra. Everyone suspected that Zacchaeus pocketed money to line his own wallet.

Tax collectors were so despised that there was an interpretation of Jewish law that said, in effect, that anyone who ate with a tax collector was forbidden to give testimony in the temple court for the rest of his life. No wonder Zacchaeus was shunned. “Zacchaeus does not deserve the friendship of anyone,” his neighbors complained. “Pay no heed to him,” people said.

Poor little, lonely Zacchaeus yearned for someone to look him in the eye. He longed to be treated with common courtesy and dignity. He wondered how it would feel to have just one person asking to have dinner with him. Friendless and outcast, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to get a better look at Jesus as He entered the city. He had heard that Jesus was the friend of the friendless. When Jesus looked up into the tree, He looked Zacchaeus straight in the eye. He called Zacchaeus by name, even though Jesus had never met him. He asked the little man to come down from the tree, and said, “I must have dinner with you tonight.”

Again and again, Jesus walked right up to people our society would call hopeless. He treated them like friends. It happened then for Zacchaeus. The tax collector repented and pledged half his savings for the poor. And then, Jesus pronounced salvation on Zacchaeus and his household. The same thing keeps happening down through history. Jesus comes to the friendless and the outcasts of our society, and treats them with respect.

None of us are outcasts. We aren’t wandering in the streets of center city Allentown, or the South Side of Bethlehem. We think of ourselves as normal middle class people. We’re here today because we’ve been looked in the eye by Jesus. We are part of the family of God. We are called to bring people to Jesus. People are never the same after Jesus has looked them in the eye. We, who have been looked in the eye by Jesus, are the only ones who can carry Jesus to others.

How do we do it? Just like Jesus did, so long ago. We, the church, are the eyes of Jesus, so we need to look people in the eye. But where do we begin? There are so many who need us. How can we know where to start?

Let us begin by looking the people of our community in the eye. When I look past people on the street, I’m not being mean, nor am I usually worried about my safety. I’m just preoccupied, or in a hurry. Have you been to neighborhoods like Times Square? Nobody looks at anyone on the street there except on New Year’s Eve, when the big ball drops. It seems like everybody in Times Square is a lost soul.

When we acknowledge the people around us, and when we speak to them, we honor them as fellow human beings. It’s not just homeless people who need our good will, but also the people who serve us, and even the people stuck in traffic with us. When you’re in gridlock on Route 78, and you secretly hope a hundred drivers will turn off at the next exit—but, instead, they all want to merge in your lane—remember to tell yourself that every one person in those cars is a child of God!

This week, I read a story that really touched my heart. An adult Sunday School class in an Alabama suburb had become concerned about the day laborers who stood in a parking lot every weekday morning, waiting for work. The class felt God was calling them to help the laborers. Now, every morning, two or three members of that class arrive at 6:30 a.m. at the parking lot with coffee and donuts for the workers. They’ve recruited a Spanish-speaking volunteer to help them communicate with the men. Their congregation is starting to offer a second service for one hundred Spanish-speaking Christians every Sunday in their sanctuary. It’s being led by a lay preacher for whom Spanish is the first language.

The story of Zacchaeus ends with the words, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” What does the word, “lost,” mean here? In the New Testament, it doesn’t mean “doomed.” It just means, “in the wrong place.” A person is lost when he or she has fallen into the wrong place. Jesus is calling us to help people into the right place in the family of God. And when we reach out to strangers, we will find that we are playing host to our most important guest—Jesus Himself.

Let us pray. Lord, pass by here. Renew our vision of your way, so we may see the world as you intend it to be. Call us by name and bring your salvation to us today. Draw us together as your people, we pray, so that our lives may show your love. AMEN

“Minister Fed the Spiritual Hunger of the Homeless,” www.statesman.com, January 17, 2010.

Carlos Wilton, Lectionary Preaching Workbook (Lima, OH: CSS, 2006), 334.

Luke 19:5.

William Willimon, “How Tall Was Jesus?” Pulpit Resource, October 31, 2010, 21.

Luke 19:10.

William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 235.


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