Matthew 18:1-5, 101 The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child over, placed it in their midst, 3 and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
Do you hear the good news? Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Boy, this understanding can certainly turn things upside down on who is the greatest or how we define greatness. In the passage above each of the disciples perhaps thought he has the qualification to be chosen as number 1 or in first place. This is human nature at work.
Be honest: before you read this scripture passage, if you were asked to write the criteria for greatness would it be about achievements, prestige, degrees, wealth, and possessions?
Like the disciples, people want to be number one in their chosen careers. However, none of these human standards matter to Jesus. Now please do not get me wrong, Jesus does not have an issue with gaining wealth or prestige for it is by God they received these gifts. He would, I believe, ask how are we using these gifts to glorify God
Instead, to answer the question, Jesus brought forth a child and mentions humility as the main criterion for greatness in the Kingdom of God. To be humble like a child, we need to be converted, to have a new paradigm. We need to turn away from our propensity to compete with one another and focus on improving ourselves so that we change from our wicked ways and be transformed into the likeness of the Father which was our original nature.
We hold high our independence and self-sufficiency, however, Jesus is teaching us to be like a child, aware of our own powerlessness and vulnerability. To know our dependence must be on God. That it is in the teachings of Jesus we find greatness. Jesus knows that one day all the wealth, power, and prestige will not mean a thing and the sooner we realize this the sooner we will see the Kingdom of God. The goodness of God all around us. “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of hearts”, Jesus says in Matthew 11:29
1 Kings 17:7-10"And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath."
The bigger picture of this reading is that God sent Elijah to King Ahab with the message that there will be a drought because the people were worshiping Baal. Ahab wanted to kill the messenger so God sent Elijah to a brook and had the ravens feed him. Eventually though the Brook dried up. Now God, in His infinite wisdom sent Elijah even deeper into enemy territory, Zarephath, the home country of Jezebel. If there was anyone who wanted Elijah dead more than Ahab it was his evil wife.
To top it all off, Elijah was sent to a widow who was preparing a last meal for herself and son. But that was God's place for His prophet, and Elijah obeyed. And of course we know the rest of the story, Elijah was kept safe and provided for until the famine was over.
This story reminds me that we are to be obedient to the Word regardless if it sounds crazy. When we are obedient we honor and please God. Turn the other cheek, exhibit the Spirits of the Fruit, love thy God, love thy neighbor regardless if it fits our logic or not. We are called to be obedient. While we may not be called to sit by a stream, or declare a drought we are called to serve our Creator. In this time of life, I think there is no more important time than now to be obedient to God. Let us be leaders of kindness, hope, and positivity
In the men's group we talk often about living in gratitude and how it looks. A few Wednesdays ago I challenged everyone listening to live 48 hours talking and living in the positive and with gratitude. I have heard from a couple of people that said how they are seeing things and enjoying things they haven't in quite some time.The passage below is from one of my favorite Bible stories which we see another example of living in gratitude even when life is not easy.
RUTH 4:14a, 15 (NIV)The women said to Naomi, "Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth."
Gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are not an “accident,” but a divine choice. It is important to realize how often we have had chances to be grateful and have not used them. When someone is kind to us, when an event turns out well, when a problem is solved, a relationship restored, a wound healed, there are very concrete reasons to offer thanks: be it with words, with flowers, with a letter, a card, a phone call, or just a gesture of affection. . . . Every time we decide to be grateful it will be easier to see new things to be grateful for. Gratitude begets gratitude, just as love begets love.
Almighty and Holy God as the sun rises, may your love rise in my heart,a love that dispels my tiredness, a love that overcomes difficulty, a love that builds relationships, a love that inspires diligence, a love that delivers excellence, a love that develops trust, a love that produces praise. Lord, may I live in the light of your love. Father, I know it is through Your love that I have been forgiven. Thank you as I pray through Your son Jesus Christ. Amen
Have you felt like giving up or giving in. Just quitting. It all feels like an uphill climb. An impossible task to bring peace and hope to the world around you while everyone else is bickering? Us against them, right versus left, facemask no facemask?
I don’t know exactly where you are right now. Maybe all is perfect and you see differently than most. But what I am seeing and hearing is a lot of negativity. Either you agree or you're wrong. The simple conversations of yesterday are gone. Maybe it is health issues, pulling up your roots and moving, loss of a job whatever it may be, I am guessing, you too, have been tempted to quit at one point.
Here’s where I want to encourage you. And cheer you on not to quit. With God’s help, we can endure. In fact I believe we can grow through times of trials. I find It’s amazing how many times the Bible tells us to “be patient” or to “endure” or to “persevere.”
2 Timothy 2:1-7 When the Apostle Paul was writing to young Timothy, he told him to be like a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. He was telling Timothy not to give up or give in.
1 Corinthians 4:12 When Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, he told them that when he was persecuted, his response was to “endure it.
1 Peter 2:20 ”Peter instructed Christians suffering wrong for doing what was right, he encouraged them to “endure.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 And the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “endured the Cross” for us. We were the “joy” set before Him.
There is no easy path. The journey is marked with pain. Our perseverance matters though. What God is doing in us and through us has value. The kind of person we are being shaped into is of great significance. The harvest in our hurt has meaning. But only if we keep going. Only if we keep staying faithful, fixing our eyes on Jesus.
As I was writing this devotion I wondered how often I may have missed out on what God was doing for me. Things I did not experience because I too quickly ran the other direction? Switched teams? Many have done this I am certain, and in doing so is it possible we missed or will miss a future harvest because we are unwilling to endure a present hardship or disagreement?
So here is what I would say; Keep going! God is good and He is faithful. He will give you what you need. We must endure, or patiently persevere. Keep close to Jesus. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. This will not last. There is hope. There is joy. While we may never fully get over our pain, we can grow through it. And by God’s grace, we can get through it too! Hope to see you later today . Pastor Carl
Almighty and Holy God, bless us this very day. Bless our nation, its leaders and those you have put into place for us. I ask you Father, to be with our troops, our first responders and those working for you to make this world a better place. Bless goodness Lord. Father, I ask you to forgive me of my sins, help me to forgive others. Lead to where you want me so that I may use my gifts in the best ways. Father, be with those who may be lost, lonely, hurt or sick. May Your will be done in all things. Lord, I pray this in the name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen
Mark 10:433-45 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In the Gospel of Mark (Mark 10:32- 35) we find two of the disciples jockeying for power and glory, and the other ten are “angry.” Jesus, as only Jesus can do, sees this as a teachable moment: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
Following the Christ, we too are called to cease our futile power grab, driven by our ego. As we humbly seek to serve rather than be served, we experience an anointing of divine power that propels us, like a pebble into the water, participating in the transformative ripple effect of God’s new creation.
Take this time in life to explore the many ways available to use your gifts in service through EOCC and partners. Identify how you would like to serve and as you use your gifts in service you become part of the ripple effect of God’s love! Mother Teresa says it well, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” I look forward to the rest of 2020 and into 2021 as we come together and cast our stones across the waters, creating ripples of God’s light and love!. May God’s blessings abound! PC
Almighty God we come before you in praise and humbleness. We thank you Lord for the blessing you have placed upon this church and Your people. May we live in continuous hope and love. Father we thank you for the answered prayers, especially those who are recovering from the Covid virus today. Yet Lord, our prayers do not rest, we continue to pray for all people to heal through Your Son's power, we pray for world peace, we pray for the strength to love , even our enemies, to forgive as you have forgiven us. Father we pray for our President and all elected people, for our first responders, our troops and all people . We pray for those running for office to remain safe and strong. Oh Lord, open our hardened hearts to the possibilities that lie ahead for each of us. May we remain in hope and compassion showing grace to all people. Father, give us this strength and wisdom. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen
Have you noticed the changing of the season? (we are close to peak) The leaves are turning quickly and brilliantly, the weather is getting cooler again (for the most part) and people are preparing for what lies next. This past spring Nancy planted her Delihas in the front garden in hopes they would bloom. Bloom they did. In fact this year the blooms were magnificent and plentiful, that is until the heavy freeze came and killed them all.
Last Sunday afternoon Nancy began the process of digging up the Delihas and preparing them for their winter storage. At the same time she was planting new bulbs, patting down the soil as if tucking them in for a long winter's nap. As I watched I wondered to myself, will these new seeds yield a harvest of spring blooms, will the Delihas survive yet another winter sitting in a bucket awaiting the next planting? I wondered what the coming months of changes and transitions will look like in my own life. Will there be change much like this past summer brought and with it an uneasiness, an uncertainty of what the next season of life will bring.
Fall, the season of transition. With Covid 19, the unrest in society, the elections and life within EOCC my mind wandered to the "what ifs." Will I allow outside circumstances to mire my journey with Christ or will it be one of healing, growth, abundance and joyfulness. I shut my eyes and I prayed. I sat and listened to the changes of the season happening now, the birds now more abundant at the feeders, the air smelling more crisp, the colors in my home reflecting the season and so forth. My heart relaxes as I hear, ( Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad): "Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One." Reminding me that while changes come, seasons change our One God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.. He is with us, forever faithful no matter the season or circumstances we may find ourselves in. For that we need to be thankful and spread this joy.
Further ,let us, even in this time of uncertainty continue to sow seeds of hope, of normalcy and be consistent with the teaching of our Lord, Jesus. May we praise Him and Trust Him in every season of our lives. May our faith not waver but grow in its conviction and desire to be more Christ like. God is good.... God bless everyone. pastor Carl
Almighty and Holy God, Thank You for Your unfailing love for me, Your blessings, and goodness. Thank You for Your faithfulness to guide me and see me through times of uncertainty, for lifting me up, and setting me on high. Thank You for Scripture, especially the Psalms that comforts and reminds me of Your promises, plan, and provision. Thank you for taking away my worries, the what-ifs, and reminding me that my help comes from You. Father, help me be a good steward and to sow wisely. Lord God, forgive me my tresspasses and help me to forgive others as I ask this and all things in Jesus' name. Amen
Malachi 4:5-6 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse."
Another season is upon us and the harvest is taking place, the days are getting much shorter, Covid 19 is making changes and yet in the midst of the changes and strife we are still being the "The Church" .
The prophecy of Malachi says The Lord will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. The Son of God has changed many things in our world. As we are in the midst of change in life and season , we can see how the Lord has and will change families, brothers and sisters, and how the church does church.
Through the past 5 months many activities in the church have been canceled or postponed. Even today our activities are minimum. Yet we gather both live and livestream to worship. we pray together, we collect our thoughts in the presence of God, we allow God to speak to us, and His church is still active within our communities, The church is not "shut down."
The faith of our ancestors, the ones who built this, a community of believers, is still available to all. Our ancestors started with nothing but faith in God that God would provide for them as they prayed and prayed and then took action.
Some of their actions were out of necessity to survive. Embrace God's will in an extended prayer time. Seek what God wants from you to survive. Watch the changes taking place outside your window as God is changing what is inside our hearts and minds. Some of these changes are necessary for us to survive. Through our prayers we can turn our hearts as parents, and grandparents, as schooling is new. Our children's activities have changed and our normal way of life is how we live life at this moment.
I see the hearts and minds of the children in my life growing up in extraordinary times. For some this is what they know. For others, the older ones, they wrestle with the reality that their past memories of life will not match the future and their children's memories will be different as life moves on.
Well isn't that true for all generations? Malachi tells us thast the Lord will change the world. I remember my grandfather telling me how the fields I was looking at were plowed by horses instead of a tractor I was watching. My grandmother told me how she was the first female bus driver in Pennsylvania. Living without electricity or indoor plumbing and the outhouse that still stood in the middle of the yard. How a big trip was to travel into town.
Today we don't even need to leave our own houses to see all the world on our hand held phones. yet the Lord God is still in all of this. God is about families and through the generations we can see that, our own heritage. Malachi is talking about connectedness through the Lord.
Embrace each other, parent to child, child to parent. Then take this unconditional love, the love God blesses you with beyond your home into your faith community. Hereit will grow. How exciting. It will grow so you can take it out into your community and "Be the Church" of Jesus Christ.
During this time of change, watch what God has planned for all of us. Be ready, be faithful, and be prayerful. Then, even in troubled times, you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Almighty God, help me to find solace in these times of changes. Where Lord, it seems people are looking out for themselves and forgetting we are a community brought together by the blood of Jesus Christ. Help us unite in prayer, to live in patience and enthusiasm as we see the changes you may be making this very day. Lord, I pray that fathers and mothers reunite their hearts with their childrens. That Your Word is imprinted on their foreheads. Lord I pray you open the minds of this community of believers to see new ways of connecting that are open to all people. May I seek peace above right, may I not be anxious or worried but instead trust that Your Will be done. Father, I pray for this church. I pray for the Holy Spirit to come and guide us to be open to the changes in our time of need. Father, I thank you and pray all things int he mighty name of Your Son Jesus.
Earlier in the chapter Paul told the Philippians that he prayed for them. In this reading he outlined what he prayed for them. He prayed that their love might keep deepening, enriched by growing knowledge and insight into God’s purposes. That, he said, would empower them to discern “what really matters.” And living with that kind of insight-fueled discernment would fill their lives with “the fruit of righteousness” in ways that honored God. What a beautiful prayer,
Love, knowledge and insight. Paul connects these three words as he connects the head and the heart to learning and then growing in our love for Jesus. As we learn our heart grows deeper in Christ. Our lives become full of the fruits of righteousness and as Christians we become more spiritually complete. Col 3:14 Paul desires that when his readers stand before Christ, their lives will have been filled with… the spiritual fruit that comes from Jesus Christ, produced in them by the Holy Spirit.”
Today the prayer Paul prayed, I pray for each of you. May our God so bless us all. See you later this morning. We have plenty of room available this morning so come and join us. Face mask required thank you.
Almighty and Holy God, as I/we continue to adjust and cope with the situations I/we face may we not lose focus on the countless blessings you have and continue to provide to us corporately and personally. Lord, I ask for blessings upon EOCC and its missions and messages to our world today. Father, lead me, forgive me and help me grow. I pray that your love, knowledge and insight enters into each and every member from the Orrington area, to Pennsylvania, Virginia, Carolinas, Florida and throughout this great nation and world. I thank you for the men's group, the trials, the families and everyone who has helped my journey in becoming a better person in this Kingdom. I thank you for my wife, and children as I bring all things before you in the name of Your Son Jesus, Amen
Philippians 3:8, 10-14 I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
The other day I was on a zoom call and the internet was acting up. Two or three times the video and sound froze and eventually “Internet is unstable. Please wait.” came across the screen. The truth is I didn’t want to wait. So I restarted my laptop, only to be met with the same problem.
In our world, where immediate gratification is crucial, Paul’s message can be hard to hear. And if you’re anything like me, “waiting” can be a struggle. For the most part I don’t like waiting for my coffee to brew, my internet, or waiting to see the Patriots once again win the Super Bowl. – That may be a bit far-stretched but the point is I don't like to wait.. The truth is I want it now. It's even hard to work for a far-away goal. I remember working toward my becoming ordained and how slow the pace seemed, of course now it is a blurr.
But there is something to be said for working hard and being patient, especially when it comes to creating the world God intends for us. It can seem like excruciatingly slow progress to give time and work toward a worthy cause – especially when it feels like nothing is changing.
But when we look closer, our efforts do have an impact—even if it's just one person at a time. If we hear nothing else from Paul’s message today, we can take away this—keep pressing toward the goal because our efforts are fruitful. You make a difference.
This week, find time to be in prayer and Consider physically noting each time you pray. If you tried this daily, when you look back, you have a list of 7 times that you committed to the work of being transformed by God, and thus better prepared yourself for the work of transforming the world.
Almighty Lord, I love you. Thank you for loving me and all of us first. In a world, where it seems a bit chaotic, reveal to us your faithfulness. Continue to bless and guide our work, but more than that, empower us to face the day, knowing that you are leading the way. We look to you, and strive to be more like you, the author, and the perfecter of our faith. Lord God, I pray this in Your Son's mighty name. Amen
A week ago, I was exhausted after the service and yet I felt I had to do. As I got home and my mind was filled with "the dos" I thought of the song and message from Sunday. Slowwww down... my own words. and Doug's. through the Holy Spirit was convicting me. Hypocrite, "Slowww Down" breath and hear God. Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God, R. W. Emerson said in my ear. It was astounding how many things presented themselves in the matter of minutes. Things I forgot to do at church, things that needed to be done, Emails unanswered but at the same time my heart began to slow, my mind relaxed, the dos faded.
I thought of a story I was once told. Everyone has a backpack they carry in life. Some are heavy while some are light. They are filled with the burdens of life. Burdens that get there by our own hands, some are snuck in there by others, some just fall into the pack. These burdens can be past regrets, present concerns, fears about the future, worries about your children or your parents aging, school, those crying out for justice and the list is endless. Yet some of the backpacks while full are extremely light and others are heavy.
The heavy ones are the ones we carry alone, refusing to let go and ask for help while the lighter ones have found the peace that comes from hearing and practicing the words of Jesus. give everything and everyone to me. An invitation He gives to all people yet few takes advantage of it.
I sat there, opened my palms and said Lord, I am yours, take this from me today. And my muscles relaxed, my mind was quieted and I knew today I was to be in paradise. And I sat, fell asleep and woke as if a new day began. Then I heard voices and I got up and found some friends in my driveway, and a few minutes later my wife arrived and we visited. No cares no worries but fully refreshed. I was only asleep for 5 minutes but it felt like hours. That's God time happening as I let go.
Jesus keeps repeating this invitation to me and to each of you. Start practicing letting go and see how minutes become hours and how your backpack, although full becomes very light. Trust, slowww down and God will bring clarity and peace.
Meet the pastor
Rev. Pastor Carl Schreiber has been serving East Orrington Congregational Church (EOCC) since March 12, 2006