Prayer Requests

Requests as of May 3, 2015

New Requests: Hadley Eddings family upon the loss of their child, Dobbs; Susan Mullis; Ellie George Howe at MUSC (granddaughter of Stan and Mary Jim Howe); Jackie Rhame (cancer); Melinda Rogers (back surgery 5/15); Kirk Burnett and family upon the death of his father Donald (5/8); Mark Johnson’s father; Lynn Hill (daughter of Joanne Coker); Lodi Williams upon the death of her brother, Thadeus Huggins of Hemmingway 4/27;  Leann Edwards; Family of Zach Wenham (USC student who died this week); Chas Nicholson- heart surgery 3rd week of April; Stuart Peters (heart surgery recovery); Tricia Cullum (shoulder surgery recovery). Elinor Harris as she recovers from her Good Friday successful surgery;  Neva Loftis’ as she grieves the death of her mother, Tilde Armette (funeral 4/14 Loris, SC); Steve Holleman upon the death of his father, Hugh.  John LaFond, our treasurer- as he faces back problems and his son-Phil;We rejoice in Erik & Ashley Norton joining 4/12 with their children Sara, Anna, Margaret, and Charlie.   We rejoice in Gene and Kirstie Livermore who joined 4/5;  We rejoice in Evelyn Shealy born to Aaron and Virginia on 3/31/15.  Howard McKeone in Afghanistan; Our men and women in the armed forces.

Bereavement: Zach Wenham family (funeral 4/29);  Neva Loftis family upon the death of her mother (funeral 4/14/15); Steve Holleman upon the death of his father Hugh in Franklin, NC (4/10/15); Danny Hood family upon the death of his father, Jean (died 3/16/15 Goldsboro NC), David Ewan family, Buster Rhame family,  Lewie Harrell family; Betty McEntire family; Olin Rowe family Memorial service LMPC 7/19 2 PM; Lovic Brooks upon the death of his father, Lovic Brooks II- funeral 7/18 11AM Rosalayn UMC in Atlanta; Anne Peters upon the death of her mother 6/23; Pam Helms upon the death of her mother. Eric Rogers upon the loss of his grandmother; Ryan Donahue upon the loss of her grandmother;  Pat Griffin family (funeral at Westminster 5/15 7 PM); Shay Rube upon the death of her father; Kit Oswald upon the death of her mother; Becky Hash upon the death of her parent; 3/1 – John and Lee Riser upon the loss of his father.  2/7- Dede Elmore and family upon the loss of her mother, Betty Deane; 2/5- Danny Hood and family upon the death of his mother; 2/4 Will Clary- death of his mother in May, step-father in February; Jondy and Ken Loveless upon the loss of their nephew, Chase Loveless , Bill Salisbury Family, Hanes McEntire Family, Jenny Aldrich upon the death of her sister, Cathy Cook; Glenna Shuler Family, Bob Gjertsen Family, Neva Loftis Family, Sue Madden Family, Roland Lavigne Family, Dwayne Taylor Family, Mike Truluck Family OnGoing Health Concerns: Midge Burgess, Tricia Culluam, Paul Scott, Wendell Ligon Sr. (cancer);  Mike Burgin (Paul’s brother- heart 7/25); Nancy Whiteside, Shannon Harrill; Van Brown, Vickie McGahee, Phil Trefsgar, Paul Burgin, Joe David, Roxanne Edwards, Bill Bradshaw, Ruth Palassis Dave Shuler, Kay Sloan, Lewis Harrell, Otis Bobb, Marty Milam, Walt Rucker, Charles Cothran, Daniel White and Family, Serving our Country: Howard McKeone (Afghanistan); Cody Millager (Marines) Relatives and Friends:  Maureen Boeke- sister of Lorraine Gjertsen (cancer); Deborah Shields, sister of Judy Jarrett Brown, Bruce, Joanne and Mary Grace Loveless,brother of Ken Loveless; Praise and Thanks: Creighton Edward’s birth (Trish and Eddie grandparents); New Rogers baby- Julia Lane Rogers 6/15. LMPC concerns: “A Child Shall Lead Them” Campaign and Project, Construction- Speed and efficiency of the work; Session decisions, our church, presbytery and denomination, Sunday Schools classes and Bible studies, new offices, new parking and new daughter church “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear to dull to hear.” Isaiah 59:1

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

“Pray continually.” I Thess. 5:17

 

Freedom of the Spirit 5-24-15 LMPC Dr. Sloan

“The Spirit of Freedom” 5-24-15 (Pentecost/ Memorial Day) Dr. J. Ben Sloan at Lake Murray Presbyterian2 Cor. 3:17

Baptism of Mike McCarson and joining of Mike & Joyce on 5-24-15 (click here)

Video of Sermon and Choir Anthem (click here)

Today is a unique.  It is a vortex of freedom.  Today is Memorial Day in which we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom.  Today is also Pentecost Sunday- in which we remember the Holy Spirit gives us birth.  As our passage says, “where the spirit of the Lord is- there is freedom.”  Freedom is much in the news these days.  Freedom of Religion is not to be taken for granted.  Today we appreciate the freedom won by those who served and gave their lives for our country.   Yet there is a freedom that the Spirit gives that is a different and deeper freedom.  No nation can grant the freedom that the Spirit brings and no nation can take it away.  One of the lessons of Christ is that they tried to take his life and his freedom away on the cross, but the resurrection is a reminder that God sets us free from even death.  Luther liked to say, “A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all subject to none; and a Christian is a perfectly free servant of all subject to all.”  Today I want to look at the freedom Christ gives and about freedom to speak of our faith. I. REAL FREEDOM IS GIVEN BY THE SPIRIT- Our Brief Statement of Faith says that the Spirt, “sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor.”  The Spirit is like the wind and we are like sailboats.  If the wind does not empower a sailboat, it just sits there useless, unfree, frozen.  Unless the Spirit of God empowers us – we just exist useless, stuck in today, pushed around by the waves of our feelings and the world, unfree, frozen.  But the Spirit enables us- gives us courage to not be consumed with ourselves or what people think, and do something of ultimate good.  The Spirit keeps us from being bound to this life and limited time.  The Spirit gives us the perspective of eternity and a direction and purpose.      We can be free from oppressors, free from hunger, free from housing needs and still be captive.  We can be captive to greed, captive to lust, captive to worry, captive to covetousness.  When our passage says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom”  many bristle at that.  Many say religion brings shackles.  Some of you may have felt like you were shackled into coming to church today.  Some say that rules about not lying, not committing adultery are inhibiting.  True freedom is finding direction and purpose.  If you want to go to the beach but you don’t know where the beach is or which beach you want to go to- it may lead to just the frustration of the freedom of no direction.  But if you know where you are going and what you are going to do it gives a sense of joy and anticipation and hope.  Too often we hurry off but we don’t know where we are going- like fire ants who know they are stirred up –but don’t know where to go.  Today is also my 35th anniversary.  Some say that getting married is like being “shackled up” or “hitched up- with a bridle in our mouth.”  But to me, it is a very freeing thing.  You don’t have to play the dating game any more.  You are secure in the love of another and they are secure in yours.  Freedom and commitment are not antithetical- but go together.  Do not be afraid to be committed to God or to one another in love- as if you will somehow lose your freedom.  Freedom comes with direction, purpose and commitment.      Jesus was a man of true freedom.  He said, I lay down my life freely- no one takes it from me (Jn. 10:17-18).  He knew where he was going.  Nothing scared him.  He touched the leper.  He confronted Herod and Pilate with boldness.  He walked through a mob of protestors.  He was not concerned with winning a popularity contest.  He slept through a violent storm.  He said, “Don’t be afraid of those that kill the body.”  Yet he was lovable- children loved him.  People respected him.  He ate and drank with sinners.  He came to tell us to be free.  “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  He said, “Freely you have received, freely give.”  Jesus shows us how to live freely and gratefully- escaping grudges and worry.  Everyone of the beatitudes begins with “Blessed are you”  or “Happy are you.”  He came to  bless us – and He did.  Jesus was and is a free man.  He is the truth that sets us free. II. REAL FREEDOM TO SPEAK UP AND SPEAK OUR MIND- When God prompts you to speak up for what is right, what is just, what you believe – do not be silent.  Jeremiah said he was too young.  But God set him apart.  Esther said it was too risky and not proper to speak before the king without being invited.  But she was raised up by God “for such a time as this.”  Moses said he stuttered, and he implied that God should send someone else.             What if Moses didn’t speak to Pharaoh?  What if Jeremiah didn’t speak up even when they were taken off to captivity?  What if Esther had done what was proper and millions of Jews were killed?  What about you? You are never too young, with not enough talent, and not enough opportunity to do something or speak up for God.  Jesus told this band of fishermen and tax collectors that he would send the Holy Spirit and He would tell them what to say!  For now, we have freedom to speak.  But there are those who would take that freedom away.  There are powerful people with lots of money and political power would silence any protest of unrighteousness.  There is a chance that if you take a risk and speak up people still will not hear you.  Jeremiah did this.  Ezekiel was told whether the people listen or fail to listen, you must speak up.  He said you are like a watchman on the walls.  It is not your job to make people listen.  It is your job to speak up when you see danger and evil approaching.  If you speak up you might be misunderstood and people would not like you.  This did not stop Jesus from speaking and it did not stop Peter or Paul from speaking up either.  When Christians are silenced by the shame of evil that is awful.  Evil wins when the good people hide in the shadows out of fear.  Fear is the greatest enemy of freedom.  The church is not revived by Christians who are afraid- in fact the church is weakened by scared Christians.  You know what the church does if it tries to be safe?  Nothing.  You know what you do if you try to not care- to stay in your own little world- to not give of yourself to others?  Nothing.  To walk by faith and not by sight means to take a risk for God to do something for Him- to choose good over evil and not be afraid to invite others to do the same.  If you are waiting for Christianity to make perfect sense for you and to have a perfect church before you join, or if you are waiting to take the risk out of the faith- then you will wait forever.  Faith is not worldly perfect.   Jesus showed us that faith involves risk to be real faith.         Yesterday there was an article in the State Paper criticizing a religious organization that has existed for decades to help families and to help churches work together for a greater good.  It was caricatured and demeaned as a hate group.  A house member from this county said that Dabo Swinney [and implying any other coach],  should not receive an award because this group opposed a political position that he liked and Swinney worked partially for the government.  If you receive any money from the government- medicare, social security, food stamps, veterans pension will you be told you cannot go to certain places or speak in certain ways?   Freedom to speak, freedom to believe what you want, and freedom to worship in the way you want is not something abstractly threatened.  . This past week a Navy Chaplain- Lt. Commander Wes Modder was told by his base commander he could not pray in the name of Jesus.  Last week a chaplain, Captain Lawhorn was told he could not put Bible verses on a suicide training handout.  These are not secular psychologists, they are chaplains.  I believe there are times when we need to be respectful of others and the time and place of sharing faith.  But to indicate that we cannot share our faith is a travesty and a loss of freedom of speech and freedom of worship.  Peter was told, soon after his Pentecostal sermon,  by the local government that he should not speak about Jesus.  His reply was that he “must obey God rather than man.”   There is a freedom that no government can give or take away- and it is inside those who believe.  III. USING OUR REAL FREEDOM FOR GOOD- The Spirit gives us freedom in order that we might freely honor God with our lives.  We are no longer enslaved or addicted to sin.  We have been enabled, awakened to God.  The blind eyes have been opened.  The chains have been loosed.  The prison doors have been flung open.  So how do we respond?  Do we go back to prison?  Have we become so used to the chains of sin that we put them back on?   I worked with a prisoner in Asheville who had been in prison for twenty years and he was finally getting out.  He was out for two weeks when he robbed a convenience store and looked right up at the cameras.  I asked him why he did this.  He said he missed the security of prison.  In prison he didn’t have to worry about what to eat or what to do or where to go.   There are some who love being bound.      Real freedom is not just being set free from fear and oppressors like ISIS or those who would tell good people to shut up.  Freedom is taken advantage of when we use it to make the world a better place.      Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  We can be a slave to sin and selfishness.  But by the power of Christ we can repent and find real freedom to leave the sin behind.  As we said today in the baptism vows- turn from evil and turn toward Christ..      I am a big advocate of freedom.  People should be able to pray freely to whomever they wish.  People should believe whatever they want as long as it does not physically harm another.  As our confessions say, “God alone is Lord of the conscience.”  We should not be afraid of hearing about another religion or hearing another person pray in our world. Christians and others should have a right to assemble, to speak, to worship and believe.  We should also have the freedom to speak up and stand up for what we believe without fear.      Perfect love casts out fear.  Not being afraid brings freedom.  When you are not afraid to die- that is a freeing thing.  When you are not afraid of what others may think- that is a freeing thing.  The Holy Spirit brings peace, consolation, comfort and courage to be a believer and to love others.      Paul wrote great words of freedom.  But Paul had spent 5.5 to 6 years in prison for preaching the gospel.  Paul sang in prison and gave thanks in prison.  When there was an earthquake in Philippi he could have escaped but instead he stayed in prison and the jailer was converted.  It wasn’t being or not being in prison that made Paul free- it was the Holy Spirit that made Paul free.      Pastor Saeed Abedini is an Iranian American who went back to his native Iran in 2012 and was arrested for starting house churches soon after his conversion in 2000.  On May 11, 2015 the US Senate voted unanimously to ask for Iran to release him (they vote unanimously on very little).  Saeed wrote from prison at Christmas- that he had been beaten numerous times; that his prison cell was dark and cold.   But that Christmas was about Christ’s lava-like love coming into the world.  He said the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of God’s Holiness and Mercy that flows [to us] making this dark, cold wintry world into radiant burning brightness.  He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy, and love that is so different that the dark, cold, and wintry world that we used to live in.  He said pay any cost to speak up and bring the lava love of Christ to our dark world. So be free!  And use your freedom to speak up for the One who sets us free in the ultimate sense.

5-10-15 “Reinstatement” Mother Sermon

To see a video of this, click here.

Scripture Lesson: John 21:15-22 Sermon: “God Reinstates You”……Dr. J. Ben Sloan

There are things you may use once and throw away.  Such things are cheap and not very valuable.  Towelettes; baby diapers, bullets, fireworks, kleenexes.  Most things that you use once are not very valuable.  Things that last generally are more valuable than things that you can only use once.  Things that have a lifetime warranty are generally worth more than things that last for only 3 months.  A 30 year roof is worth more than a 15 year roof.      The relationship of mother and child is not one to throw away.  It is continually being remade with age.  Mother’s Day reminds us that once a mother always a mother.  There is only one original mother and it should not be treated lightly.       Mothers are the best, I think, at reinstating their children.  Mothers exemplify God’s love in their willingness to reinstate their own.  When Human love is at its best it points us to God’s love.  God longs for us to come back and love Him.  He longs to love us because He is full of love.  I want us to explore this in Peter’s life.

  1. WE ARE ALL PRODIGALS- Peter was a prodigal. He was the lead disciple. Peter denied Jesus at his arrest,  left Jerusalem and went back to Galilee to go fishing. He wandered off into the far country- taking Jesus teachings with him.  Thought that was all there was to this Christianity thing- just the teachings.  He found himself paralyzed in the mud of guilt.  The prodigal son was in the mud with the pigs.  Peter wasn’t so bad, but just was sad.

Who has not wandered off?  Who has never sinned?  Who has never rebelled?  There are people, but not many.

How many times I have heard of a child who turned to their parents and say, “I hate you!”  In Judaic Christian thought this has been a very evil thing- a sign of rebellion not only against the parent but against God.  It is, a prodigal statement- maybe THE prodigal statement.  It is a denial- similar to Peter’s. Yet it is something very common.  It is important for a young person to find space with their parent.  If a parent tries to absolutely control or smother their child- out of fear for them- rebellion is often the result.  Yet as there is hope for those who deny their mother there is hope for those who deny their God.       It is apparent that God used Peter’s denial to make Him a stronger person. When reconciliation happens, it is a sensitive- even hurtful thing.  But it is wonderful.  Yet God uses it to strengthen us.

If you are dealing with a prodigal- remember that Peter was a prodigal.  Remember that all the disciples ran away.

  1. THE LIVING JESUS MEETS WITH US- This is not secondary. The agent of change is not our own will.

He extended grace to Peter- who denied him. Some have said that Jesus was being harsh here.  But Jesus did not openly bring up the denial.  His words “do you love me” were not quite the same as the words asked of Peter “do you know this man?”  It was a step deeper.  Knowing is one thing, but loving is something else.  The question is not do you know about Jesus- but do you love Him?  That is our question- it is the question to every mother’s child.

He asked him three times- to correspond to three times of denial “Do you love me?” Jesus did not just shake his hand and welcome him back- he didn’t just affirm Peter in his sin.  He didn’t scream and yell at him for his denial.  Peter’s restoration was purposeful.  It was undoubtedly hard for Peter to go through- but this reinstatement was a springboard for Peter. The resurrection helped transform Peter- but even after the resurrection- Peter went back to fishing.  It was by this lake- that Jesus called Peter one more time.  The next time we see Peter he was preaching the sermon at Pentecost and thousands came to Christ through a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit.      The ironic thing is Peter was one of the few who followed Jesus after his arrest- everyone but Peter and John scattered- ran away.  Peter still loved Jesus- but his words of denial didn’t match his heart.  When a child says, “I hate you”- but still stays in your presence- it is a sign that there is still love deep down.

If Jesus meets with you- or with your prodigal (whoever that may be) they will be changed.  I’m not talking about know about Jesus or hearing about Jesus.  That is not transformative.  But meeting with Jesus and confessing real love for Him- after the crosses are through- that is life changing. Jesus does not just help us cope.  Our goal is not to simply cope with the problems and crosses of life.  Our goal should be to overcome the crosses- to transform the cross and the prodigal into the resurrection and a redeemed person.  Mothers, the best thing you can do for your child is to introduce them to Jesus and pray that they will confess their love for Him.      A very good friend of mine (I’ll call him Ed) was depressed.  He was very talented and smart.  But he was sad over leaving home and his friends to go to college.  He loved his mother and family dearly- to the point that he was having a hard time coping with going away.  He dropped out of school- went back home for a bit.  But when he got his courage together- and I do not doubt it took a lot of courage for him- he met Jesus at a Bible study.  He had been to church all his life- but now he professed his love for the living Lord.  This encounter changed his life forever.  Now his children and grandchildren are walking in the faith.  He goes to a local college campus every semester to seek out lost boys like he was- to bring them hope and a love of Jesus.  I wish we had more like him.       The question is not just do you believe- but do you love?  If you love Him- this will change you and change your world.

 

III. JESUS GIVES US A SECOND CHANCE-  As a Mother gives a son a second chance.  There have been times I have not been so gracious- but I have been amazed at Kay’s grace and the grace of other mothers that I see.

The greatest mothers are not the ones who never have a tough time.  The greatest mothers are those who see their children through their tough times. The mothers of special needs children;  The mother of children who are sick physically, mentally, or spiritually.  But a good mother never gives up on her child- and wants the absolute best for that child.  The best mothers know when to hold on and when to let go.  But a good mother never lets go of their child in their heart and prayers.     When a child denies their mother and denies their family the mother still holds on in love- giving them every chance.  That was the way of Jesus with Peter, and that is the way of Jesus with us.

 

Mothers’ Day in Syria is in March. It is celebrated by a signature “Mothers’ Day Cake.”  But this year in towns captured by ISIS, these cakes and the mothers’ day celebration has been forbidden.  Thousands of Christians have left their homes- fleeing as refugees- now living in tent cities in Lebanon and Turkey.  In Norman Rockwell’s picture of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms- freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom from of religion and freedom of speech- there is a mother-like figure in all of them.  But no mother in Syria can assure their child of these kinds of freedoms.  Leila took her children and fled minutes before the ISIS forces came.  (Based on report of World Vision); Now her children do not go to school- the school is gone.  They moved from a house to a tent with no electricity or running water.  If you have freedom to go out today- or to have flowers or food in celebration of Mother’s Day do not take it for granted, and remember the mothers in this world who long for the freedoms we have here.  Today- right now- we have been blessed, and we can be thankful.  To live a grateful life and to share out of that gratitude is a huge part of being a follower of Christ.  Peter’s denial is a sign of his fear overwhelming his gratitude and love.  The Prodigal’s running away with his inheritance is a sign of ingratitude.  For him, his relationship with his father was something he could throw away like a used up cup.  The good news is we may come back- to appreciate the freedoms and blessings we have with gratitude.

 

 

5-3-15 “The Light in the Window”

To View Video of this sermon, click here; http://youtu.be/GNxJCxydziA

The Light in The Window  5-3-15 1 Jn. 1: 5-7; Mt 5:14-16

This past week I attended a funeral of a senior at the University of SC.  There must have been a thousand young boys there in blue blazers.   The young man died of an overdose.   The young man appeared to be handsome, nice- had lots of friends, smart, his family even went to church.  Friends, we have to do something to keep our young people alive and give them hope- let them see the light of Christ and give themselves to Him.    There is a light in our window.   I think it got there one Christmas.  Like Tom Bodette- “we’ll leave the light on for ya.”  The Methodist minister in town said, “I see your light in your window each night- what is that about?”  That light is a prayer of welcome for all the prodigals out there- for those who stray away from hope and meaning, purpose and truth- to come home to the light.      I THERE IS AN IMPORTANT LIGHT TO HOLD OUT- One of the great images of the church for many years is a lighthouse.  The job of the lighthouse is to both show you the hazards and to show you the way into the harbor where the still waters are.  Jesus is that light.  We are called to reflect that light- and shine it.  As we hold forth the teachings of love and truth- grace and holiness together we bring something to the world that it does not normally see.        Several have asked me, “Okay so we have a new building, where do we go from here?”  Well the building is not an end in and of itself.  It is a tool to reach children and families with the faith hope and love of Christ.    Our mission statement formed years ago- and that I think is still very valid, says that we exist to “call the wandering heart home to Christ.”  We are to be like a light house.  It is not about the numbers or the money or the building.  In fact, we have said in our thinking that we do not want to purposefully become a mega church.  Yet we also know we cannot put signs out saying, “we are full- and you are not welcome.”   Our task is to be a lighthouse.  The church is an ark- but we are also  an ark that lights up and says “get inside  its raining out there.”  I am totally convinced that if we seek to love each other and to hold onto the light of the faith and hold out the light of the faith God will guide us- and be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
II. OUR TASK OF LIVING AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT- We should not just talk about the light- we should live in the light   Our passage says, “Let your light so shine before people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father.”  1 John says, “if we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another.”  Let us walk and not just talk.  40 years ago some started this church.    I hope we can have the vision that we do not want to keep our light under a bushel. Let me give the example of Peachtree Presbyterian in Atlanta.  Peachtree is a model church in many ways- the largest Presbyterian church in our denomination. I love Peachtree.  I have been there many times, and held our graduation ceremony there.  Many of you once were members there.   It ministers to a diverse group and is mission and outreached focused. I wish we could do half of what Peachtree does for missions.  But Peachtree has lost 3,000 members in the last five years.  Part of the reason is what is going on in our culture- but I refuse to buy that.  There are other churches around Peachtree that are growing.  Part of it is it stopped starting new daughter churches.   When you stop being a light- you grow dim.  God will not bless your witness if you are embarrassed or withdraw.  We have something to say that no one else can.  Peachtree had it as a goal to start a church a year and to build three Habitat houses a year for the needy. When it did this the church ironically exploded in growth.   Some have said we should not start new churches because of the denominational problems.  I say that is all the more reason to start a church.  Never does the Bible say to stop your witness when the church is in decline.  It should be just the opposite.  Everyone knows there are subdivisions popping up everywhere in the Chapin Irmo area.  There are new really good schools going up, and the low crime rate- sparked in large part by our faith and values-  will attract people to our area.  But if we say we don’t care that these new folk have a place to come as long as we meet our church budget and our sanctuary is full is so very sad.  If you want to keep your values- if you want to keep the low crime rate then continue to reach the new people for Christ.  That is done best when we start new churches.  Many would rather join something new and plug in right away.  Today the confirmation class joins.  Statistically, about half of this class will stop coming to church, Sunday School, and youth group in the next two years.  Probably one fourth will never come back to church.  This is my challenge to this class.  Do not snuff out your light.  Pass on the light of Christ to the next generation- do not let the light die with you this day.
III. OUR TASK OF HOLDING UP THE LIGHT- Don’t hide your light under a bushel.  Instead glorify God- let your light out.  If you believe Christ has helped you- then that is a reason to tell someone else about your faith.  There is a sense in which we are called to find content and peace in the light of God.  But that does not come at the expense of reaching out to others.  You don’t have to know everything about the faith to share it- in fact some of the best and our best evangelists- are children who simply invite another child to church or Sunday School.  Don’t let fear make you hide your light- someone needs you to be brave. Don’t let your own comfort level keep you from inviting another to join you.  Christianity is an inviting religion- whosoever will- let them come to the light  I have seen some of our teenagers pick up other teens and bring them to lock ins or conferences.      One of the things I have really appreciated about this church in its past is its willingness to be flexible and to put reaching out to others ahead of being comfortable.  It has been this attitude that has seen us through some tough times and has been a guiding light for our future.   As we grow, we must be patient and flexible with each other- just like a good family does.  We must respect each other- our differences- but also not lose sight of the light that brought us together in the first place.  There is room here for young and old.  We have added this sanctuary- one of the largest and most beautiful around to accommodate people.  We have added space for children and freed space up for adults and youth by doing so.  We are not like the people who move to Chapin and as soon as they see what a great place it is put up a sign that says, “Keep out and go away.”  Our church is a lighthouse- calling the wandering heart home into the harbor of Jesus Christ.  The world needs that.      There was a long running TV show called ER- ran from 1994- 2009.  Dr. Mark Green was a character-star and he was dying of inoperable cancer.  He decided he would go to his boyhood home of Hawaii to die.  He gathered his children around him and gave them his last bit of advice- “Be generous” is what he said.  Now there are many things we could say, but this is not a bad word of advice.  Be generous with your time- your money- your life- your smile- your kindness.  The Bible says “a generous person will themselves be blessed.”  Be generous with your faith.  Share it in action and in words.  Don’t hide it- but let all the world see it.      One of the things that isn’t told that much is the role the church played in calming things in Baltimore where riots were destroying the whole west side of the city.  One hundred seventy-five ministers gathered on North Avenue- a hot spot in the city.  They joined arms and stood between the rioters and the police  They had no idea what kind of reception they would get, but what they found was that thousands of citizens joined them.  They marched toward burning cars and looters and they scattered.   Even some gang members, surprisingly, joined behind them in the end.  It is the pastors and church members who need to go to our communities and tell our young people to get off the drugs and to avoid alcohol abuse.   I am not saying this because I am a saint- but because I know God saved me from drugs- I have friends who died in the 70s or ruined their lives with drugs and alcohol.  We have the light. We have hope and meaning in a world without both.   We need to hold it up.  These confirmands stand in sharp contrast to the young people who stray away from the light.  But there is a light in my window.  I pray that there will be a light in yours as well.