Immanuel United Methodist Church
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sermon Archives

 
 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

 

"Regaining Structure"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

 
New Testament Reading:  Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30
 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

 

"This Generation?"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 


In a class on Pastoral Care, we covered some expectations about different generations:
 
Year born            Key issues
1883-1900            The Lost Generation; Industrial Revolution, Child labor and sweat shops
1901-1924            Greatest Generation; Depression, WWI; save everything, waste nothing,
                                Believed in our Country
1925-1960            Boomers – Built highways, made themselves prosperous, are still in charge
1960-1980            Gen X – MTV Generation, Everything is quick
1980-2000            Millenials: Cell phone, Facebook, creative and will try things in new
                                and different ways
2001-                     They were born after 9/11; always took shoes off in airport, can’t go to
                                Canada easily, they know technology inside and out, they even
                                   understand computer security.
Differences? Yes.
But one God, one Jesus
   I was told “When you go to Immanuel, it is cross-cultural.” No-it’s all God’s culture!
We are here to learn about God.  Jesus Christ died for us and for our sins.  In both of our services we have all of the generations and one message and one Pastor. 
Some church leaders think we have to add video to the service and we have to have Facebook and Twitter, and we have to text our members.  There is one true Word of God – there isn’t only one right way to talk to people.   Everyone likes to receive a handwritten letter in the mail-and you will open it. Maybe even faster than a fax, email or Facebook message.
Read Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
  The people weren’t listening to John nor to Jesus.
  People may want to be entertained. But I am here to educate you about God, not dance. I am talking about God’s generation!  We come together as one.  Yes, some like a certain service better, some prefer one kind of music.  The confirmation class was asked to visit the service they do not normally attend.  They liked something in the unfamiliar service.  I challenge each of you to visit the other service once in the next six months.
  It is God’s message. You are a child of God and you are loved.  Some people assume Millenials won’t like helping at MCREST or VBS.  Yet, they liked hanging with Grandma and learning from her, or the time Granddad taught you to fish.  We can serve and minister.  It is caring for someone.  It is being present in the moment – not just giving something.  Even inviting someone to check our website and listen to the sermon recording is ministering.  Just loving your family is ministry.
Pass on generational love.
Love God and what he can do.
  We share the communion table with everyone- gay, straight, rich, poor, white, black…the common denominator is Jesus.  Think of Jesus. Take his body and do his bidding. 
  Next week is VBS - we show the love of Jesus Christ . And next week we have one service so we can worship together and celebrate God’s love.
  He has us all. “Those” Kids, “Those old people”. It doesn’t matter. We are all one Generation-God’s Generation!

New Testament Reading:  Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30

Sunday, June 15, 2014
Father's Day

 

"Good Advice"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 


Fathers give us the best advice.
  For example, every child needs the opportunity to go fishing.  Webster’s definition of advice: recommendation regarding a decision or course of conduct.  My father was a stickler for being on time.  If you were early, you were on time.  If you were on time, you were late.  When I worked as a field tech, they were flexible about the hours because we worked long days.  My Dad couldn’t understand how I got an award for being a good employee when I was always late. It is different here at the church-it is clear that I need to be early – to be available. 
  Jesus gave the fishermen advice. They had already fished a long time, they were tired, and they didn’t want to follow the advice.  But they followed his directions and the nets were filled to overflowing.  Jesus said, I will make you fishers of men. Jesus wants us to create disciples and bring people to Christ.  In the midst of their work, he showed that he cared for them.  It is important work, but difficult. Read Matthew 9:35-48.  Few people want to do the work necessary. 
You are fishers of men. 
 The Gratiot Cruise had many volunteers – set up and break down went smoothly. There were many working: electrical, passing out Bibles, playing instruments, serving kids with face paint.  People saw us giving love.  We were the center of the cruise. We are the Center of Life and of God’s Love! We are the hands and feet in the community.  We let people know who God is.
  Read Matthew 25:35-46.  We take care of the least of these-this is how we do it. When Jesus told the disciples to go into the deep end of the lake, the fish meant keeping them and their families alive-they provided sustenance and money. Read Matthew 26:16-20.  Make disciples!  How? Sometimes you invite someone to join you at church and they say,  I will as soon as…. I get it together,  I buy nice clothes, I stop sinning.  But be willing to open your heart for God.  When you accept God’s love, you will be happy.  It is unconditional and powerful. When we get it, we want to follow his ways.  I realized I used to be late a lot because I was always running. My life was designed to make me late-multiple jobs, kids in different cities, different priorities.  I turned my love to God completely and became full time Pastor,  which gave the me breathing room I needed and now I am mostly on time :)
When we reach out to those who sin…
I am not a Pastor because I am a person who:
  • Likes to talk
  • Likes good church music
  • Likes to study the Bible
 I am a Pastor because a church welcomed me in and showed me God’s love when I didn’t have a parent, or a family in the church, or the best clothes. The best way to give love is to be a part of the congregation who gives love.  We will make errors, but we will keep reaching out.  We are called to make disciples of all.  How do you make disciples?  You love them! You take care of them! You give advice! Then they want to follow. 
  Out “Fishing” is one way to catch those who are in need.

New Testament Reading:  Luke 5: 1-11

Sunday, June 8, 2014
Pentecost

 

"One in the Spirit"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 

 Usually on Pentecost, we read and preach on Acts Chapter 2.
 
Today’s reading 1 Corinthian 12: 4-13 is about how we use the gifts. Jesus was in the upper room and told the disciples that something would be happening.
Read Acts 2: 1-11
 
Even the disciples who walked with Jesus did not have an understanding of who Jesus was. They needed the fire of the Holy Spirit. In the verse, they were preaching in their native language and people understood them. The United Methodist symbol is a cross and flame, and our slogan used to be “catch the spirit”.
 
There are many ways to catch people and make the church a part of the community. We use traditional music and current music. Even John Wesley, who wrote many of our beloved hymns set the words to music the people already knew—the bar songs of the time. Our early church was about educating and feeding those in need, and did you know they were active abolitionists?
 
Yesterday, at the Relay for Life event, old, young, rich, poor, some walked one lap, some walked all day—all to find a cure. Yes, it was sponsored by the American Cancer Society, but it was also brought by God’s Holy Spirit. We were working together to better the kingdom.
 
Read 1 Corinthian 12: 4-13
 
Use your gifts to bring others to Christ. I promised one person that if their family came to church I would do a cartwheel—well they were at Relay for Life and I did! I have the excitement of the Holy Spirit. If we are authentic in showing our faith, people will respond. We have different gifts. Connie’s gift was music. Not only could she play our wonderful pipe organ, but her gift is even more than that skill, she was able to coordinate the music with other aspects of worship, including the message. That was the Holy Spirit working through her! The gifts allow you to be where you need to be.
 
For the Gratiot Cruise, we need organizers and people good with administration, and the Quilting group needs people who can sew and can prepare materials. We are one in the spirit.
 
Charles Wesley wrote hymns to go with “bar” music so people would know and would connect. We try to reach out with all different kinds of music. If you are excited about what is happening at Immanuel, it will show in your face. No matter what you are working on, people can see your enthusiasm.
 
Read Acts 2: 12-14
 
People saw the excitement and thought something must be wrong- they are drunk. But no, we are excited about feeding, serving, loving! If you love seeing things come together at our church-that is how you keep energized. In verse 14 we are reminded that the people are not drunk—they are high on the Holy Spirit.
We are reminded that this was prophesized long ago. The spirit would come after Jesus. Event he disciples did not understand, they abandoned Jesus in the midst of the trials. They came back and Jesus told them another was coming. Being saved is not what we do.
Being saved is not how we do it. Being saved is what we ARE. There are a lot of churches in Eastpointe and in Macomb County. There is only one Immanuel! God is with us.
 
We want people to think of us.    Read Acts 2: 22-28
 
When you feel the love of God, everyone knows it!
 
New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 12: 4-13

Sunday, May 25, 2014

 

"True Service"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 

 
   The original Memorial Day observance was started May 5, 1868 as Decoration Day to put flowers on the graves of those who had fought in the Civil War.  The date was changed to May 30, because it was thought flowers were readily available all over the country by that date.  After WW I, it was extended to honor anyone who had died in service in any conflict.  In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday and was moved to the last Monday of the month.  1.32 million people have died – from the American Revolution to present.

  There is a commitment from our veterans – whether they were drafted or volunteered.  They have given service.  Would you?  You might be ok to give your life for your spouse or your children, or even your friends. But can I give my life for someone who hates me, someone who doesn’t believe what I believe, or even someone who does despicable things?

  In the verse today, Acts 17: 22-31,  Paul tells us how important God is and what Jesus has done.

  True service is when you aren’t getting anything. You give your life for someone else to have an opportunity.  That is what Jesus did for us.  He didn’t fight for a country, for a family, for land or mineral rights, he fought for our Salvation, and Life Eternal.  He willingly volunteered to be our servant.

  The most bloody war fought for our country was the Civil War.  We fought hard. Our country has continued to grow.  The strength didn’t come from the government or the president.  Our ability to come together came from our faith.  The government started wars, not soldiers. We have to honor our soldiers.

  Our country is 200+ years old and went from nothing- but we have the opportunity to worship, we have the opportunity for our kids to be educated, have the opportunity to drink water not contaminated, have the opportunity for food to be readily available.  This isn’t true around the world, and even in some places here.

  What should we do?  We teach, we love, we show who Jesus is, not who we want him to be, but who he is….

Everyone has the right to know Him

  When we hear the story of feeding the 5000, the disciples wanted to send them home, Jesus said feed them.  A kind boy brought fish and bread.  Give service: He said, Feed my sheep…HE said when I was sick, you gave me care….

Mathew 25 tells us how to be his servant.  Do we do it? Do we teach our young people about His love?  If you want your child to be a good servant, you need to be.

1.3 million people who gave their life for us should be honored.

Jesus served and gave his life.  The disciples turned away and denied him in the midst of the battle.  It might not seem like a battle, but he could have done something very different with his power.  His humbleness gave him the greatest victory.  His death on Good Friday leads to a celebration on Easter.

Our service in his honor should be to give love.  Every child deserves education, food, clothing. We serve through our church and individually. We have the opportunity to be in service, to be a servant of God.

Even simple everyday ways—when you are stuck in construction, do you let someone merge in front of you?  God sees these little things.  True service is showing God how much we care.

We celebrate, yet there is a scandal attached to the VA. Our veterans should be receiving the best care. This has happened when it has been about the Government, not about God.

True service is following the one true Servant—Jesus Christ. 

New Testament Reading:  Acts 17: 22-31
 

Sunday, May 11, 2014
Mother's Day

"Are You My Mother?"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Listen to the Mother's Day Sermon

 
  Today’s message relates to the early childhood reader by P.D. Eastman,
Are You My Mother?”  You might want to re-read it!

When someone asks, Are you my Mother?  Your answer should be YES!

I started thinking about the 45+ mothers who have helped me in my life.  In today’s Bible reading, John 19:25-27, we hear some of the last words Jesus spoke.  He essentially told John that he needed someone to take care of him and he told Mary that she needed someone to take care of!

In December 1977, when I was 12, my mother had a stroke. I was blessed to have my sister Causandra step into the roll as my Mom, even with her own family to raise. But right at the moment of grieving, when family and friends had descended upon us, a Mom rescued me.
Ms. Tina, our neighbor came down and took me to her house where she comforted me and let me just be a kid for awhile.

Mothers nurture, discipline, give sound advice, and tell the truth when you need to hear it.

I keep thinking of all the Mothers who have helped me. I consider you all my Mothers, because you take care of me in a special way. Even if you are young, if you are not a biological mother, or don’t have a biological mother, you can be one. 

One of my mother’s from St. Timothy took care to be sure I was able to participate in trips the youth group was doing. She saw to it that I had clothes, food, and money.  When we had the 8th grade production which included a scene with a grandmother dying, and I cried, Mrs. Higggins was a mother to me in hugging me and letting me grieve my own Mother.

Mothers are like super heroes. They may help you with cookies, money, diapers, how to change a diaper, and a swift kick when it is needed.

Once I had a boss who was like a mother. I had a work obligation in Pontiac at 1:00, but I had to pick up my daughter in Grosse Pointe at 11:30. I told my boss I couldn’t make the work meeting She said, “Go get your daughter and bring her to me, I will watch her, you go to the meeting.”

Recently, when I was making the decision to step away from a lucrative and stable job and full time into ministry, I was quite nervous.  I was afraid of the politics. I was afraid I couldn’t do it.  I called my daughter’s Grandmother, and she said, “This is what you were born to do.”

I am your mother. I build you up. I pray for you. We can all be spiritual mothers. Who have you talked to? Who have you helped? Even a stranger in the grocery store who needs a calm word when her toddler is misbehaving-you are the mother. 

Men can be a spiritual mother too. A good friend reminded me that I might have to be Mother and Father to my daughter at a time when I was so angry at her Mom, and I wanted to throw up my hands and walk away.  He pointed me in the right direction-to be there for my daughter.

Some say Mother is Love.  Remember 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

  • Mothers teach love.
  • Mothers give love.
  • Mothers are love.

If you are asked, “Are you my Mother?” Please say yes!

 Thank you Lord for Mothers!

New Testament Reading:  John 19: 25-27
 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

 

"Thank You God!"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 

 
  When someone goes out of their way or does something for you when they did not have to, hopefully you say Thank you. We should say thank you to God. Our altar this week is in honor of Earth Day. Each cloth represents a part of God’s majesty. We should say thank you to God each time we see his creation.

As the poet, E.E. Cummings wrote:

I thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(I who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday;
this is the birth day of life and of love and wings:
and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any
–lifted from the no of all nothing–human merely being doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

  God created it - not man. The scripture talks about our salvation. What do we know? We need to thank God-he loved us so much that he came down to the Earth as man. At Easter he conquered death and rose as our Messiah.

 We want proof. We are all from Missouri - “the show me state”. In John 20:19-31, even the disciples wanted proof. Jesus appeared to many of the disciples and Thomas did not believe. Many of us are doubters too. We want our miracles to know that Jesus is resurrected. We want the big one - but there are little ones each and every day. One day you forget your lunch and don’t have any money and a client comes in and brings everyone pizza, isn’t that a miracle?

 He shows us love and kindness. He gives us a chance to be in relationship with God. Some things have changed, some have not. While at a bell choir conference, unfortunately I was mistaken for a server. But 100 years ago I might have been in chains. Women are now CEOs and are not property of their husbands. Children were seen and not heard, but now they can advocate for other kids! We have a long way to go, but it is better than it was. We should thank God every day for the sins he took from us. We aren’t as forgiving. If someone owes us money and they are not managing their money well, we get angry. Then they ask for more money for a great investment. Are we likely to give them any? Would you trust their money with them? We do that with sin and he trusted us anyway! We can have a chance to do the right thing.

 He gave us the Earth — and we don’t always take care of it.  But we get another chance every day to recycle, lower emissions. God has every right to do something bad.  A flood?
No, he promised there would be no other flood. But he could destroy us in other ways. 

Give thanks for:  
  • The air we breathe
  • Beautiful sanctuary
  • Worship in freedom
  • Friends - even the crazy, zany kind
  • Family
  • Relatives — mend relationships where it is needed.
We couldn’t love this way. HE loves us so much- he was ready to die, so we can do the right thing. We must say thank you. When you go outside today, Thank you Jesus for the opportunity: · To be in relationship with God · To be the person I should be Isn’t it great that even though we fall short, He still allows us to be in relationship with him?
 
Thank you Lord!
 
New Testament Reading:  1 Peter 1: 3-9

Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014

 

"Dead Man Walking"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 

 

  The Green Mile was a thought provoking movie.  A man took on the burdens of others; so many times he was on death row.

  The scripture today is about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, on a donkey or colt.  People were aware of Jesus and were excited.  They knew about stories such as Jesus raising Lazarus. Palms were laid on the road, so even the animal didn’t touch the ground.  Like all parades, the people were excited.

  But we are fickle. We have parades for athletes and athletic teams when they are winning….but if they have an issue, we turn away.  If they fall, we criticize. 

  Jesus knew why he was going to Jerusalem.  Why would he allow himself in this?  The same people who were yelling “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna” would later yell, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”

  Newscasts have information about entertainment. The number one movie over the weekend is presented as news. What does this tell us about the real world? There is mental illness, and poverty and budget cuts to programs to help these issues. Our education system is in crisis, yet college tuition keeps going up.  This is the first generation where the young people do not feel they will do better than their parents.  Do we want to hear the bad news?

  Jesus knew what he was doing. They would yell, “Crucify Him”. Jesus did it so we can be fickle.  He offered redemption. He took the beating and the death for us. We deserve it.  Who among us can take the evil of society and allow us to have eternal life?

And I am coming, and I will die. In John 12:20-35, Jesus teaches about his death. He said he is the light but he would only be there for a short time. 

  There is a lot of bad news- recent stories on the news.  Such as the man who was beaten after stopping at the car accident. And the woman who killed her child and chopped him in pieces.  And the kid who took a knife to school and injured 20.

  But there is a tipping point. We shine a light on the issues. 6 of the people have been arrested; a fundraiser for the man’s medical expenses raised double the goal.  We are not letting the evil take over.  Can we forgive the 12 who beat up the man?  The others?

  That light shines on us too! Jesus went to Jerusalem for our sins. We can live and continue to shine our light. Can we be the light outside these four walls of church? Do we stand up for justice in our workplace?  If someone is harming you or your children, can you forgive? You can know who He is.  He obeyed his Father. He wants us in relationship with God. How can we solve the problem before it escalates to murder? Do we have a light to shine? He took a death march to Good Friday for a reason, and Sunday, Easter Sunday, we will hear the rest of the story…

New Testament Reading:  Matthew 21: 1-11

Sunday, March 2, 2014

 

"Transformation"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 

 

There is a difference between transformation and transfiguration.

Transformation - a complete or major change in someone's or something's
                                  appearance or form

Transfiguration - an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change

Jesus revealed himself to his disciples in Matthew 17: 1-9

Jesus showed himself to his disciples as their Messiah.  If this happened today it would be viewed as as hoax.  His resurrection was proof that Jesus is the Messiah.  He was transfigured into God, right in front of the disciples.  Up until then, they had viewed him as human,  but now they know him as God.  It is a hard concept for us to understand.  

What does this mean for us?  How are we to live our lives knowing this?  We are to be transfigured, too.  Be as Jesus is and was.  

How do We do this?
Re-read the scripture 1 Peter 1: 13-21.

How should we live our lives?
If we think clearly we will want to change  How do we make the change?
Through obedience.  It starts with your actions, not by what denomination you are.  Not by what church you attend.  God judges you by your actions. Give back the worldly things and focus on Jesus.  Not who you are,  but your love for Jesus.

Be a stranger in a foreign land . . practice Christian principles in a world that may not understand them.  You are a stranger in this world. Be obedient to God through your acts of service.  Live your life as Christ wishes.  We judge people by clothes and cars and status.  But doing that only means we are still stuck in the flesh. 

You know, Lent is not in the Bible.  It is based on the 40 days/40 Nights before Easter where we sacrifice to remember the suffering of Jesus.  But we practice Lent to keep us in check.  When we transform, people see us differently.  We look the same, but act more like God.  Transformation comes through obedience. it is hard work and not easy.  We attend service and sacrifice things during Lent to strengthen us.  Communion also does this for us.  When we pronounce "This is the blood, this is the Body" We are renewing our spirit.  Jesus is now inside you and you are transforming.

  You will never be perfect.  You will make mistakes.  But you will notice the difference.  Others will notice the difference.  Once you are transformed, you will think differently about the little things.  You will make better decisions.  You will do the right things.

Read 1 Peter 22-25 again.  And remember to transform and trade your sorrows for joys.

 

New Testament Reading:  1 Peter 1: 13-21

Sunday, February 23, 2014

 

"Teach Me Lord"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 


We go to school as kids, with the goal of being “done”. We go to college, looking to “get out”.  And we often only go because we have to.  But really, we should be going to school or learning in other ways simply for the quest for knowledge and understanding, not just to check off the goal.

 Psalm 119 is 176 verses. They are focused on:

1.  Teach me Lord, let me learn
2.  What are your rules/commandments, Lord?
3.   A prayer to be with the Psalmist (us)

Read Psalms 119:1-8; 33-40; 169-176
 There are 66 books in the Bible. My job as the Pastor is to help you understand what the Bible says. My views may be different from a previous Pastor, or different form the many commentaries written about the books of the Bible. But there are ten ideas in the Bible that do not need interpretation. You can live by them.  Of course, it is the 10 Commandments.  Name the 10 Commandments (from the congregation) No matter where you are from or where you go, you can live by them.  At work, if someone asks you to clock in for them, there is a commandment that applies.  If my former youth group members are getting married, and I am envious, there is a commandment about that; If you see someone who drops $100 and you have been having hard times, you still know what to do-based on the commandments. We all follow them, but we are sinners and sometimes we fail.
Then there is the great commandment.  
In Matthew 22:32-40 Love God, and Love your neighbor as yourself. You don’t have to learn everything in the Bible. By re-reading and studying you will learn new Points of view. If you read something as a youth and re-read years later, you gain a different perspective.  You do need to understand the 10 and the greatest 2. Even the secular world understands-call it pay it forward/karma/what goes around … If I want someone to help me, don’t I have to help others?  Most motivational books are based on the commandments.  All self-help books boil down to these basics. We allow the TV and internet to teach us-but we don’t let the Word of God teach us.  How should we feel? How should we love our Neighbor?  If something bad happens,we dwell on it.  You might eat out a thousand times and one time you have poor service, and you just can’t get over it and you tell everyone.  Stop living in the negative!  Our education system is bad, and a lot of people blame it on the teachers. But think back to your teachers, you had ten who were phenomenal, one who should have retired, but we focus on the “bad one”.  Every profession has good people who love their job, who work hard, who want to keep working. Following the precepts of the 10 commandments and the 2 commandments, we should respect the work of someone else.  The commandments say have no other God, no false images/idols. But money, and coveting a house, a degree, smart kids, we forget to accept what God has given us.  We get caught up in TV and TV perceptions. Are we liberal or conservative?  Who do we vote for?  Think about who you are voting for-do they glorify God? Do they love others?  Mostly they talk badly about one another-do we even want them representing us? God teaches us and shows us. He works with us and for us. Don’t let others teach us-learn the Commandments and live by them!

Old Testament Reading:  Psalm 119

Sunday, January 26, 2014

 

"Coming Together as One"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 The scripture today reminds us that we have similar issues today, “I’m Methodist”, “I’m Baptist”, I belong to a non-denominational church”…

How do we come together? As you know, I am a big Geek and I like all of the Star Trek series.  On one episode, there was a culture that assimilated every other culture - they take it and make it their own.  If people act/talk all the same, conflict would end, right?  They even have a United Federation of Planets which has to write rules for everyone to get along. The idea of melting pot seems unappealing—put your meat and your vegetables and everything you are about to eat into one big pot and cook it down—won’t it be flavorless and an ugly gray color?  Instead how about a buffet with many things to choose from, carrots, peas, green beans, and collard greens, all available for one meal.

In the scripture, Paul is criticizing the church at Corinth. He says, I am glad you weren’t baptized by me, or you would be claiming to belong to me.  Shouldn’t we all say, “We belong to Christ”?  At the end, Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins.  But there are many ways to get to the cross.  Just like, if I wanted to go to the Auto Show in downtown Detroit, I could take many different roads and still end up at the same place. Similarly, different denominations claim a different way to get to Christ.  We should all be in one accord with doing what God intends us to do.  Some people have even said, “God is Methodist.” Or “God is Catholic.”  OR God only loves music played gently on a pipe organ, or God only likes praise music, or God loves a good jazz riff… The truth is: God loves you and wants you to worship him and do his bidding. 

Are we changing people’s lives?  Are we taking care of the hungry, the poor, the downtrodden? We come together as Immanuel and in our community as the greater church. In the 2 ½ square miles that is Eastpointe there are more than 30 churches.  We haven’t come together to preach one accord.  John Wesley reminded us God is love.  He is our creator and he made us.  He came to us as Jesus Christ and died for us.  He showed us, “Our relationship is so strong, I will come and die for you.” We are caught up on liturgy and music and where and when we “do” church.  Did you come to the church for the call to worship or because you can serve on a committee?  We didn’t come for the preaching, or the music, but because we seek a relationship with God. We are not together every day. What sustains us is the relationship with God.  Why attend church?  You come to church to be with other believers. You support them and they support you.  It is a prayer, a hug, a relationship – a community of believers.   How do we have a relationship with others?  Churches are dying because we impose our wants with different ways to be in worship.  God wants us to be in relationship and to communicate.  IF you have a friend and you haven’t talked or written on a long time, can you pick up where you left off, even if two years have passed?  You can reach them and connect.  God just wants us to be in relationship! If I haven’t seen someone in a while and they say “Haven’t seen you…” I always invite them to church. I know where I will be on Sunday morning! Every denomination has a better way.  There is no better way.  We need to come together to do God’s work.  Not to diminish any work—it is just not the only way.  “We are supposed to do it a certain way.”  Young people are looking for authenticity.  They want to connect. Jesus Christ said come with a child-like open-mindedness - open to possibility. Have you ever seen a child who didn’t want to go somewhere? You cannot drag them! Love each person as they come.

In Matthew 4:18-23, Jesus asks the fishermen to put down their nets and become fishers of men.  Remember, fishing was a very traditional job in the region, and was passed down from father to son.  These two saw an opportunity.  They were Jewish, but trying to connect to the people.  We should heal the sick, that isn’t in any liturgy. We should feed the hungry, that isn’t in the liturgy. When the followers did this, they saw what could happen.  Not because Jesus was the greatest preacher, but because he was authentic and he loved them.  He gave them a chance to turn away from sin and to be in relationship with him and with God. If you come to the cross, he will love you. We can feed the hungry, we can hug; we can accept others where they are. They can feel the love! Who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?  Stop dividing ourselves – contemporary or traditional, denomination A vs. B, or church vs. church.  We belong to Christ.  It is not my job to bring people to the United Methodist Faith or to Immanuel. It is my job to bring people to Christ! Even if they end up going down the street and joining a different church – we serve a great God.

New Testament Reading:  Corinthians 1: 10-18

Sunday, January 19, 2014

 

"The Power of One"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

January 20th is the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I'll try to give you some more information about his background, something you do not already know.  I am going to share with you Rev. King’s letter from the Birmingham jail.  At the time, he was being persecuted for doing the right thing.  Eight Alabama clergymen sent him a letter.  The letter can be summed up as “you are an outsider and you shouldn’t come around here stirring up trouble.” And “Negros should wait for the court system.” 

Interestingly, 2 of the signers were Methodist bishops.  And the laws they wanted to wait for were unjust.  Rev. King responded with a long letter, I am going to share 6 paragraphs today. The whole letter will be linked on our website and Facebook page.

Martin Luther King, Jr. helped to change the status quo.

You can find the full letter at:  Letter from Birmingham Jail

Excerpts from the letter:


My Dear Fellow Clergymen,

While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas...But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

(1)  I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every Southern state with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some 85 affiliate organizations all across the South...Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promises. So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because I have basic organizational ties here. Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

(2)  I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White citizens' "Councilor" or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direst action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. .

(18)  I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshippers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is your brother. In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, "Those are social issues with which the Gospel has no real concern," and I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which made a strange distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular.

(23)  So here we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice.

(24)  I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at her beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlay of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over again I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave the clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when tired, bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of Complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?" .

(25) Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church; I love her sacred walls. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.

(26) There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.

(27) I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader, but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all of their scintillating beauty.

(28) Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

M. L. King, Jr.


Before he was a doctor, he was a Reverend. His father, grandfather, and-great-grandfather were pastors.  He was named after Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation.

In Rev. King’s time, the laws kept everyone separate.  I couldn’t be the Pastor of this church. People could not attend school together.

He was not alone. He came to help the protest.  And he told them, no matter hwat happens, you must sit calmly. You cannot raise a hand or say anything.  If you go to jail, you just go.  If you are beaten, you cannot raise a hand. If someone is yelling in your face, you cannot yell back.  This is what he preached – non-violence.   The black people were looking for the same opportunities.

He was breaking the law, but it was an unjust law.  By unjust, we mean that it applied to people who did not have a vote in passing the law.  Segregation is legal. And some would say, but the blacks can vote. But in order to vote, the black people had to walk long distances to the polls, and had to pass a test, and had to pass a person with a gun.

He inspired people. He was still preaching every Sunday.  His non-violence message came from the Bible.  Today’s verse was Luke 6:27-31, about turning the other cheek.

He wrote speeches, but the important thing was that people were inspired. Some saw him on T.V., some saw what was happening in their communities and they began to write to their congressmen.  Laws were passed.  But changing a law doesn’t change much.  Hearts have to change by meeting people and getting to know them. So if you can meet at school, and you can meet at worship on Sunday, it will be easier to be equal.

Although this challenge is not really over; the new frontier is economic rights.  We have warm church. Coffee hour, maybe lunch after church.  But there are people living in a cardboard box who are not warm. There are people who have not eaten today or yesterday.  You might hate school, but some cannot attend school because their schools are closing-not just in the big cities, but in rural areas, too.  Libraries are closing. Did you know that 15% of Americans have no access to the internet? Even if they can afford it, they cannot get to it.  Even closing a business such as Barnes & Noble cuts off access to books and learning.

The haves and have-nots divide is getting wider.  Differences of where a child is born makes a huge impact.  Why is a child hungry, why don’t they have clothing? This is our civil rights issue today.

How much does college cost? If someone doesn’t go to college. They have limited opportunities.  How about in Virginia where a factory was built up stream from the water supply. The company got a tax break, and the county got jobs, but the water was contaminated. It is a poor area.  Would it be allowed somewhere else? Here in our community, drive southbound on I-75 and notice the odors and the smoke. Would that happen northbound or in Bloomfield Hills? No!

How do we do what we need to do?  Matthew 25:34-38:

34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35 I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’

37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear?

We are going to start a noisy collection on the third Sunday. The children will assist us in collecting. This month the donation will go to the United Methodist Children’s Home.  The Children’s Home provides a family environment for vulnerable children.

It starts with the power of one.

 

When you think about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. legacy, think not just of what he has done,
but what one can do.

New Testament Reading:  Acts 10: 34-43
 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

 

"God's Favorite ________"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

 

We all have favorite things. But we are fickle and they change.
Our scripture today, Acts 10:34-43 reminds us, God has no favorites. He is for everyone.

You have the opportunity to be the favorite.  Today is the second Sunday in Epiphany when we traditionally celebrate the baptism of Jesus.  Baptism is an outward expression of you turning to God.

There are three ways to be baptized: immersion, pouring, sprinkling.  All are about the outward expression of turning to God.  When we baptize children, the parents take on the responsibility of bring the child up as a Christian. At confirmation, the child makes the pledge for themselves.   Baptism is a pledge to turn your life to Christ – you accept those things.  Baptism is a sign of membership, but you are only baptized once, even if you change denominations. 

Once you are baptized, you have a life-long relationship. Read Luke 1: 13-17 – the birth of John the Baptist.

John and Jesus were not Christian, they were Jewish.  Some call being baptized being born again.  You are a new person in Christ.  You are not perfect.  You will make mistakes and bad things will happen. But now you know sin is wrong and you ask for repentance.  When you want to change, turning to Jesus isn’t easy.  The evil powers will try to pull you back.  Want to meet the devil? Go to church.  You may start to question things. Do you make errors? Even the Pastor makes errors and others are there to say “I told you so.”  This is the devil.  Do not tell someone else how to live. Do not judge. Instead, live as though you are doing the best you can in your circumstances, and you are learning from your errors.

Turning your life to Jesus is a commitment to try to do the right thing.  Before, you didn’t know and ignorance was bliss.  But now you worry about others before yourself and about making God pleased.

Read Matthew Chapter 3: the Ministry of John the Baptist.  Jesus was baptized.

Are you God’s favorite?  God doesn’t have a favorite football team or a favorite person. There are 5 billion people. Everyone has an opportunity to be the favorite – to have a relationship with God.  You are always loved!  You might not turn away from your previous ways: cussing/drinking/gambling. What kind of Christian are you?  You don’t do everything perfectly?  But God does care about you! 

Read John 14:12-14. You can do what he has done and even greater things if you believe.  You can turn away.  It doesn’t make your history go away. It makes you change. Kneel at the throne. There is no color/no gender/no sexual identity. 5 billion people have an opportunity.  He only knows that you want a relationship and you will try.  Even when you change churches, he likes you. It doesn’t matter, as long as you desire to meet him.  Baptism is an outward sign.

What is the outward sign of your peace?  John told the Pharisees and Sadducees to come to the river based on their heart. He rebuked them for doing it because it “Was the thing to do”, and warned of being burned by fire. 

Similarly, a marriage license is an outward sign of a commitment. But some people live as though the commitment doesn’t matter and others, even without the piece of paper, are truly committed.  Do you act like you want to be together forever?

God wants you to say:  This is who I am and I want you to love me just as I am.  Everybody has the opportunity to be God’s favorite.

New Testament Reading:  Acts 10: 34-43

Sunday, January 5, 2014
Epiphany

 

"Be Radiant!"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

What are your plans for New Year?

  Have you made resolutions or promises? How about: Be more radiant with God’s love.  Today’s verse from Isaiah is about the birth of Jesus.  In Matthew 2:1-2, we read about the kings searching for Jesus. What is radiant/radiance? 
  By definition: "Emitting rays of light; shining; bright; sent out in waves or ways that cannot be seen."
  The Magi didn’t have mapquest or GPS. They were not there when Jesus was born. They followed a star for two years.  Then they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.  What is a baby to do with these gifts?  But they were of immense value to the people at the time. Just as the Magi followed a light; sailors used to use lighthouses at the shore to know where the rocks and land were. Before GPS, the lighthouses saved lives.    What does God want for our light?    We need to be radiant in 2014.  Our church can be a hub of love and kindness.  As people come in, no matter their situation, they will feel welcomed, at home, and loved.  This might not grow members – it is about bringing people to Christ.  So, even if they move on to another church, it is o.k., they are blessed and so are we.  Some will come to our church and never comet to worship. They might come to the food pantry, or to be tutored, or attend VBS or receive warm socks from our giving tree. They will be blessed.  The Northwestern University students who stayed with us may never visit again, but they said they had never been treated so well.  The visitors from Gaylord said they felt our love.  I have shared our church’s story with two former youth group members and their new spouses. Our story has reached Boston and California!
  As I am out in the community, people find out I am from Immanuel and they have pre-conceived notions about that “old, Gothic” church next to Andary’s.  They may have assume we are only doing old things. But they find out we have embraced some new ministries, and we have a way of blending the old and the new.  God’s love knows no age. We need to be the lighthouse in our community.  Other praise bands have seen what we are doing and taken ideas back to their churches, at the Gratiot Cruise, many prayers were put in our prayer box with the assurance that we would pray for them.  MCREST guests feel they are at home with us.  We will make mistakes and stumble.  We will have lively discussion and disagreements on committees. We will do something someone doesn’t like.  But according to Matthew 5:13-15 we are to be the salt and the light.  This doesn’t mean your life will be easy. No matter how much you attend church, give to church, pray, there still could be problems. God makes the problems palatable.  God strengthens you.  Once you go through the struggle, you are the light—you may see things you hadn’t noticed before.  Have you noticed when you shine a new light you see concerns—the corners may be dusty—but the light means you can now work on the concerns.     If we take care of the administration of the work of the church, then the ministries can happen.  We can focus on missions.  More organization means we can bring light to the work God wants us to do. You have a part to play.  You radiate light.  Any excitement you feel, people will ask you about. You will be able to share. Can you say, “I cultivate my relationship with Jesus at Immanuel”?  Your story can be shared with others, and may be carried around the world.  People will see your light and will seek you. Love radiates from you! 
With our thoughts, actions, prayers, even smiles—first radiate God’s love.
New Testament Reading:  Matthew 3: 1-12

Sunday, December 22, 2013
Fourth Week of Advent

 

"I Can't Wait!"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Christmas is a hectic time, even for Pastors.

  We are busy going from place to place, task to task. You might feel that way, hoping Wednesday would be over.
  Joseph probably felt that way. He said to himself, I will take Mary to Bethlehem and drop her off-and get away. The angel’s visit made him more patient. There are a lot of gifts given away on radio and TV at this time of year. Famous people giving huge gifts. It can make you cynical. I was feeling cynical. I have Brandon this week and he has to be at school at 7:15, adding three hours of driving to my day. And my daughter has lost her car privileges so I am driving her, too.
  How can I do it all? But three days I had both my daughter and my son eating, laughing, and driving together. We leave the house at 6:45 to get her to work and him to school. And we listen to Christmas songs every morning. OK, not my usual hip hop or NPR. Now we are smiling-three hours on the road. I realized this time was a blessing. It is the first time all three of us are in our new home, the beautiful parsonage, together. We are hearing stories of people being blessed on the radio. People who didn’t have something received a blessing. I had to get past my cynicism that the gifts were for a tax break. Even the turkey you are given from work that you don’t need can be a blessing to someone else. It is real—people are being blessed.          
    Beyoncé’s $37000 could be more, but what she does give blesses someone. I also watch “goofy” movies at this time of year. I watched Silver Bells, which just happens to be set in Grand Rapids about a Heisman winner. He never speaks about his faith, but goes out and does good works. His family always gives and volunteers for the Salvation Army. But in interviews, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He is giving an interview, and not opening up, until he is asked about Christmas. He lights up. He doesn’t talk about his faith because he doesn’t want to seem hokey or seem to be using it to gain benefit. He knows what the Salvation Army can do because he was given a football from SA and it changed his life. He wanted to honor baby Jesus because the football made him want to do his best. Give something—whether its socks, gift cars, shoe box gifts. Someone is being blessed.
  Doing things for the right reason is important. Even if someone does something to prop themselves up—if someone is blessed it is good. In the midst of the world, God gave us his best – his son. We get to read about Jesus, study his Word, all year long. Christmas should never be over-reaching people in prison, feeding people, giving Bibles can happen all year long. We are being blessed with opportunities all year long. I will close with a poem written by a WSU student and one of my former youth group members:
This Christmas
By Tayler Jones
With bright lights twinkling on every corner,
And in every store,
The sight of blushing cheeks,
Pink noses,
And clasping chilly hands intertwined…
The joy of Christmas is definitely on everybody’s mind.
Why are most expecting big boxes with large decorative ribbon?
Knowing that there’s something special waiting just for them,
Why are there trays of cookies and milk upon the mantel?
Is it fun? Or does it just pass the time waiting for the arrival of Christmas Day? Spending moments,
Carrying out tradition with the ones we love.
And we sleep, And we anticipate.
Does it truly matter what the present is wrapped in,
As long as it’s given with love?
What if we remove the fancy shinny paper?
And realize that Jesus was born in a manger, In a barn,
There for everyone to behold, Still just as pure,
Just as beautiful, Just as great,
To have impeccable power over the world someday.
So when we see the bright dangling lights,
Winter wonderland through whistling white snow,
And the growing need to be warm…
Let us think about peace and God’s love on earth,
Because no matter the condition
His love is stored in any and every package.
This Christmas Eve to this Christmas Day,
It is not too late to make God the focus.
During these cold winter nights,
May we all shed our burdens of darkness to come together in commonplace,
To worship in the bliss of God’s light.
Grasp His love and share it with others this Holiday,
And for always,
When we give His love to others, …the least of these,
He is feeling the love we have for HIM,
Just the same!
New Testament Reading:  Matthew 3: 1-12

Sunday, December 15, 2013
Third Week of Advent

 

"A Difficult Conversation"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Some conversations are difficult.

  When a man is single, and interested in dating, he worries about how to ask a girl out.  If it happens frequently, then it isn’t hard. But when it really matters, when he is smitten by one in particular, then he worries about every detail.  She is a beautiful girl and he wants to say, “You are beautiful, will you go out with me?”
  Today we need to talk about stewardship.  There are many ways to discuss this. We need to celebrate what we have done this year, and we have to ask you to give this year and next year.  We can candy coat it and have a big campaign, but let’s talk about reality. Let’s celebrate: The Gratiot Cruise:  visible in the community, 35 prayer cards turned in for our Tuesday prayer ministry to pray over. VBS: volunteers and kids had a great time, and when we invited them back in September for the ice cream social, they came back. MCREST—our guests had a wonderful time, we received a letter from MCREST about how we treated the visitors as guests in our home.
We have opened up our doors.
We have a Boy Scout troop meeting here on Tuesdays, once a month a Home School group is using our facility. Tutoring with the UM students is each Thursday.  We have had excellent services—all music Sunday, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, the 4th Sunday we’ve added the altar call. When we asked for additional support for the Hurricane and Tornado relief, we sent over $1200 in offering. 
  Our income is less than our expenses.  This is not an easy conversation, but I guess I am saying, “You are beautiful, will you go out with me?!” 
  It costs $10,700 a month to operate the building and pay staff.  This is before any ministries can occur.  People in the community are seeing what Immanuel is about. We will be implementing on-line giving so those who read about us and want to contribute can do so.  Our Facebook and our Website do receive a lot of traffic. One item on our budget is apportionments.  The apportionments are paid to the greater United Methodist Church.  For example, when we collected for hurricane and tornado relief, all of the money went to help the people affected.  The pay for the overhead and administration is from apportionments. 
  If we do not meet our budget, we cannot make our tithe to the greater church. This year, we are asking each to give a bit more if possible. You will receive a letter this week asking for your pledge.  This is not a bill. This is a promise between you and God.  The pledges are used to help frame our budget. If we don’t receive enough in pledges and/or actual giving, our finance committee will be diligent in finding areas to cut the budget. It isn’t only about the money.  We ask you to give of your time, talent, prayers, and witness, too. Witnessing is telling people about God. Invite them to join us.  Be here and be present in worship.  Our attendance is up. When you attend worship, people feel the energy and want to be a part of it.  Prayer changes things.
  Doors have been opened. We want to have more of a relationship with the High School. At the PACE event, I met the school counselors, and they will be expecting two hours of volunteer time each week from me. Time: Our committees need you. Work needs to be done. It isn’t always fun, but the committee work allows us to get things done here and in the community.    The communications and finance committee are working on how to change our on-line presence and increase messaging. You never know what the outcome will be from our work.   We want to do more!  The grant we use for babysitting and for Dr. Simpson is ending soon. We have to make a plan for what comes next.  We want to bring kids from the HS to use our computers.  We want to offer our sanctuary for a baccalaureate.  We want “Foot traffic” to use the word the Mall uses — all of this happening in our space,  means people will see us and perhaps we will touch someone.  People have agreed to host the Northwestern Students here-and while they are here, they will be painting for us.  And the home school group heard we need food for the food pantry and they will be bringing in donations.  We are making investments in our community and in our ministries. God has been good to us. If you can, pray you can do more—give time, talent, and treasures. Prayer costs nothing. 
  Our name is Immanuel - "God with us". Whether you visit, come all the time, or re-connect after an absence, God has been with you – here.
  God is with us.  
New Testament Reading:  Acts 4: 32-35

Sunday, December 8, 2013
Second Week of Advent

 

"Change"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Many people have difficulty with change.  Life has changed!
  I was used to running to keep up. I was always late. I had two jobs, two kids, and I was busy!  I prayed for one job. One opportunity to share God’s love. 
  Today’s scripture reminds us of the transforming nature of baptism.  If you are serious, you become a new person. When we baptize children, we ask their parents to answer questions on their behalf and they promise to raise up the children in Christ’s love.  Confirmation reaffirms those questions to the youth. 
  There has been a lot going on this week. We had several memorial services for people in our congregation, and Mandela passed away. He was a revolutionary and a rebel. And he was convicted for something he did indeed do.  But in prison he changed.  One of the first things he did in power was to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.  Everyone on both sides said what they did and some were punished. Some were forgiven, some were tried.  But there was NO war.  In contrast, when the Civil War in the US happened, 2% of our total population died.  In the past, every time one group overcomes another, the victor becomes cruel and becomes the oppressor. 
  Mandela changed for the betterment of his country and the world.  Whoever has the most wins wars, whoever wins destroys the losers. He fought with love.
  The number one way to make change is conflict. We don’t change our behavior until there is a problem. We should eat healthier, but we don’t until the doctor gives us a dire warning. We should give our marriage and our relationships attention, but we don’t until they are in jeopardy.  We don’t give our boss his due until we find out he might be looking for a new person.
  Change should happen because God tells you to grow! We must change in order to grow.  It isn’t always for the bad-the heart was still engaged. Work smarter, not harder.
  We wanted change. We wanted visitors to feel Immanuel, “God is with you”.  Recently I have had conversations about how much Immanuel has changed. I haven’t done anything – you have.  We have come together to make things happen. When I arrived there was a big deal about the fact that we have two worship services and they seemed pitted against one another. Instead, we have acknowledged they are different and embraced both. 
  There is nothing wrong with change!  We want change-we want to improve!  We want to make this place open to everyone.  When you are speaking to someone and they say, I am looking for a church that:
·         Has traditional service
·         Has contemporary service
·         Has a choir
·         Has a praise band
·         Has a youth program
·         Will embrace me
·         Has Bible study led by members
“We’ve got that!
  Everybody is welcome. It doesn’t matter where you are, where you come from. This is a place that allows God to change you.
  Change isn’t always bad. We are ahead of the curve.  We never changed our name—Immanuel—God is with you.
  We can’t always change what is outside our doors. We can change what is in our place. And we can keep doing the right thing and take our change out into the world. 
What is wrong with being different?  Try a different chocolate chip recipe, try a different route to work- you might not love it, but try it.
  I learned that I needed to change my schedule for my son’s sake. He was not having consistency in his life.  I am making changes to that schedule to assist him.
What changes do you need to make to let God work on your heart?
New Testament Reading:  Matthew 3: 1-12

Sunday, December 1, 2013
First Week of Advent

 

"Be Prepared"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Be Prepared!
  Yes, the Boy Scout (and Girl Scout) motto is “Be Prepared”.  But I was always prepared for the negative—I kept oil and jumper cables in the car; or if the phone rings, I immediately think, “Oh no, does my daughter need me?”
But are we prepared for the good?
  What happens when only good comes?  We prepare for the King of Kings now. Instead of focusing on the gifts, we worry about what might go wrong with the turkey or the ham. 
  Today’s scripture has us focus on peace.  Are we not prepared for the good things, too? 
Recently, my daughter, who loves celebrities was excited that she saw someone at Eastern Market.  She came home explaining about waiting in line and asking for an autograph.  She knows I don’t like celebrities. She knows I think they are often over-rated and should just do their job and get paid for their job. So as she finished her story, I said, “That’s great honey, someday someone will tap you on your shoulder and say, ‘Hey, are you Ariel Rush?’”  She walked away.  She was angry.  “You don’t listen.”  But I called her back and said, do you listen? I said, “Someday someone will tap you on your shoulder and say, ‘Hey, are you Ariel Rush?’ Someday your singing will bring you fame. It was a compliment.”  She was prepared for the negative, not the positive.
  God prepares us to the good, prepares us to see kindness. 
  Hanging of the Greens was yesterday. At meetings and through the last couple of months, “we won’t have enough help.” “It will take us all day.” But this year, in one hour and fifteen minutes, we had the sanctuary looking beautiful. We were not prepared for the positive.
I used to pray to God, “I want to be a part of your church. As long as you help me take care of my kids, I will be a Pastor.”  And when I was asked what kind of church I wanted, I would say a multi-cultural church that was open and accepting.    
  Once I was told of my appointment at Immanuel, I received all kinds of phone calls.  Everyone was focused on the negatives. Did you know there was a KKK meeting in Eastpointe?  Did you know they had a pastor of a different culture and he was not liked? 
  But, when I arrived, I was hugged, I was made to feel welcome. I was given a beautiful house to use and raise my children.  It is about what is in your heart.  It is not about looks. Old, young, married, single, gay, straight, all are welcome.
We are not prepared for success.  Read Matthew 22: 1-11 - The Parable of the wedding party.  People were not prepared. Those invited did not come. And even when he invited others and everyone came, one person was not dressed for the wedding. That person wasn’t prepared!  He never thought he would be invited. 
  In 1985, I was given a Christian Dior tie as a graduation gift. Of course, I would have rather had money. But I was told, “I want you to be prepared for the blessing God has in store for you.” Now when I wear a shirt and tie I am reminded to be prepared for the good.
  Last Sunday, we had a great service. There was a lot of energy! And the next day, I went to Bellview and performed the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving story for about 200 3rd graders.  It was very uplifting. 
  But on Tuesday I was invited to a political meeting to discuss some issues.  The meeting was at a church in Ferndale. When I arrived, I could not remember the name of the meeting. When I was greeted at the door and  I said, "where is the meeting"?   The person at the desk directed me to a meeting. BUT it was a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. She never thought to say, “Well we have two meetings tonight. This one is in this room, and that one is in the other.”  She judged me because I had on a hat and coat. I didn’t “look” like a Pastor. She made an assumption and it made me sad and angry.  Then of course the meeting was more of the same ol’ same ol’, no new solutions, no new ideas.  I was depressed.  I was seeing the world as it is, not as it should be!
  Tuesday, I came to prayer meeting and was uplifted a bit after sharing my concern.  But I was still depressed.
  On Friday there was a lifetime movie on starring Jennifer Beals as a military officer.  It was high drama and quite serious. A young woman was raped and told to be quiet. When she was not quiet, she was being kicked out. It turned out a similar thing had happened to Jennifer Beals’ character and she had kept quiet. But she was told: If you love something, you fight for the way it should be, not how it is.
  This stuck with me.
  I was raised United Methodist. I know some of our history. I know United Methodists preached to the slaves and told them God’s love was for all.  The United Methodist Church is open to all. What happens at Immanuel should happen all throughout the world. When it does not, I will not give up. I will continue to attend the meeting. But I will work to make it right.  When Jesus Christ is the center it can happen.
  As you know, Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America – I say not at Immanuel!  Some say if it is segregated, it will stay that way, and I say, not here! Some say, if the committee has to approve it, the work will not get done, but I say, not here!  Some say children should be seen and not heard, but I say, not here!
 
If you love something, you fight for the way it should be, not how it is!
Old Testament Reading:  Isaiah 2: 1-5

Sunday, November 24, 2013

 

"Working Together"

A Reflection on a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Thanksgiving Message
  When we think of Thanksgiving, it is often the food…turkey, green beans, stuffing, mac and cheese, rolls, pumpkin pie, peach cobbler.
  And we think we know the Thanksgiving story where Native Americans helped new arrivals have a successful harvest.
  And now, the stores are open and bragging about their long hours.
Instead, take the time to really enjoy your family and friends. Don’t get caught up in the hype. Stop and give thanks.  This is the holiday where family and friends are gathered together enjoying traditions.  Maybe it is watching the Lions, or learning to make Grandma’s peach cobbler. Or maybe it is time to start a new tradition.  Even shopping is o.k., IF it was part of your family’s tradition.
  Don’t get caught up in the hype. What will happen if we don’t shop? 
  Why would I spend time shopping instead of visiting my daughter who is home from college, or the cousin you haven’t seen in years, or learning that recipe from Grandma, or serving in a shelter together?
  Give thanks for what we have been given.
  Once pastor was asked what he was thankful for and he said: “Three things; I woke up this morning, I woke up this morning, I woke up this morning!”
  Let’s not get caught up in what everyone else will ask you to do. Instead give thanks, give a hug, give a kiss, cherish the family.
 
The Gospel according to the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Story
 Pastor summarized the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Story script. If you haven’t seen it lately, we highly recommend you re-watch it with new eyes!
  I see God in the midst in this story.  Even when Charlie Brown fall, I remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He believes. He will keep trying. It is the same for Immanuel.  No matter what happens, we will find a way to do God’s work and be there for God’s people.
  When Charlie Brown was asked to feed his family, I am reminded of the story in Luke about the boy with two fish and five loaves.  He didn’t have a lot but what he did have was shared.  And I am reminded of the passage from Matthew: What you do for the least of these, you do for me…When I was hungry, you fed me…
  I was taught lessons from a young age. If I came home for lunch with a friend and there was one hamburger, it was cut in half. Sharing was normal. 
  Peppermint Patty’s ungrateful response to the meal offerings reminds me of when the Israelites were led out of Egypt, they were not happy. God sent them manna and meat, and still they wanted to turn back. Sometimes we are like Peppermint Patty, we want everything, but we don’t want to work for it.  We want decorations on the altar, but will we come for Hanging of the Greens?  We want mission work to continue, but we don’t put drive the donations to Turning Point. 
  Even in the midst of our complaining, our God is a forgiving God.  When Marci went to apologize, Peppermint Patty came in. Marci introduced them, Charles, I would like you to meet Priscilla, Priscilla, this is Charles.  This reminds me of the passage from John:  He will know his sheep by name. God knows y ou by name—your real name.
When you come to the throne of God for forgiveness, we are reminded that we have been told to forgive 70 x 7 times. As Priscilla asked for forgiveness, no matter where you are, God will give y ou the greatest blessing.
  Remember at the end, the phone rings. It is Grandma calling and invites the friends to join in.  Once forgiveness happens, the Glory of the Lord opens up. 
  They all get in the car and sing, “Over the river and through the woods…”  All the kids come together, black, white, even the dog.
  This is what God wants. Look around.  In the Charlie Brown cartoon and in our church—we see Gods gospel coming to life!
New Testament Reading:  2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13

Sunday, November 17, 2013

 

There is Much Work
to be Done

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

  There is so much work to be done.  At most job interviews, you will hear the question, “Why should I hire you?”  What is your response? When Pastor Rush was asked this by the Staff Parish relations Committee, he could honestly answer I will work harder and more enthusiastically than any other pastor has.  Today’s scripture, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 reminds us that if we don’t work, we don’t eat. 
  Another time, Pastor was laid off and had applied and even interviewed several times. Finally a job offer came in for a much lesser amount, but still in the field of computers. He debated about taking the job.  He finally decided he needed to do something.  And only two days later the job he had hoped for came through!    You have to have a job and hustle—skills/abilities to put forth to find that job.  Because, you have a responsibility to keep your household afloat.
Today, work is divided into three areas: Sowing, Harvesting/Consuming
Read John 4:33-38
  Sowing is planting, cultivating, watering, fertilizing, and waiting for harvesting at a certain time/in a certain way.  You are a sower when you give of your tithes and offerings, you help keep the doors open and the lights on.  By serving on committees you are seeing work that needs to be done.  Whether you volunteer or even are paid staff folding bulletins and cleaning the church are important. No matter how good everything is, if the bathrooms aren’t clean, we will be judged by outsiders.  Just attending worship on Sundays helps to sow seeds—if the pews are empty, people wonder what is wrong. 
Read Matthew 9:35-38
  The harvest has to be planned—cotton needs to be separated, apples cannot be banged around.  Our harvest are those who do not yet know Jesus, those who are suffering.  For us there is a season: we need to know when is the right time. The only way you can know it is the right time is to be in relationship.  You can show compassion, listen, give a hug. Maybe the person is sad, don’t say “I told you so”, but instead give the hug at just the right time. At that moment, love is felt.  Bring them to church where they can be loved.  How much might a hug help?  How about a smile?  Did you share your joy with someone, maybe even in the grocery line?  That’s is how we need to be!
  Recently, we were disappointed that we didn’t get a call from EDHS when the young man drowned. They didn’t know we would have prayer warriors meeting and praying, we would open the doors for others to pray, or that Pastor would go and pray with the family.  We haven’t been out there letting them know.  We haven’t been out there letting them know—but we will do better!
  Sometimes we judge others for doing “less”. Oh you only volunteered for an hour, oh you only came to the bazaar for two hours.  Read Matthew 20:1-16. We should not judge the “new” Christian.  It doesn’t matter if they worked all day or one hour—no matter what they did, it will be blessed.  You are judged by what is your heart—by God.  Why should we judge?
We need workers. You are being called to the harvest!
  Perhaps you were watching a movie, and it made you think of your sister whom you haven’t spoken to. Did you reach out?  Or you ran into a one-time friend and gave a big hug.  Pastor found an old check from his old church for the harpist. It made him reach out and she was here today ministering to us through her music in the first service.
  We can be a consumer. Let someone take care of us.  Let people know you need something.  When someone says thank you, accept it.  Yes you are a worker, but you have a need, too.  Pastor came to church fretting about VBS and not in the right frame of mind for worship.  But a child rushed up and gave him a big ol’ hug—with joy. That child was Katie Beardslee and it was the harvest at just the right time!  The staff Parish committee commented that his friends who visited from the other church gave awesome hugs. Pastor had pulled back from the hugs, but now he is doing it unabashedly during the passing of the peace.  Everyone needs to consume the Love of Christ. Maybe you need to hear the word, hear the music, it is o.k. to just stop and listen for a moment.  Don’t let someone be embarrassed by their need. Just remember a time when you were in need, too.
  The message isn’t that we have to do more.  The work being done allows us to continue. It is for us, too.  The sowing, the harvesting, and the consuming.  We have fun, but it is a lot of work. Whatever you can do is appreciated.  There is much work to be done. Are you willing to be a sower, a harvester, and/or a consumer?
  We will do it for God and people will know we are known for an authentic love of God….no matter where you come from. 
New Testament Reading:  2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13

Sunday, November 10, 2013

 

The Best is Yet to Come

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

  We use a lectionary which is a three year look at the Bible. Each Sunday there is a New Testament, and Old Testament, and a Psalm listed.  Usually Pastor chooses the New Testament reading, but this week, we heard: Haggai 1:15b-2:9.
  Sometimes you might look back at a memory of church and think how great it was – but we can get stuck in the past.
  When we opened this church building, 80 years ago, 300 strong walked from the old location at 10 Mile and Gratiot.  There are a lot of stories that start, “I remember when…” 
  The scripture says you remember, but let’s talk about the prosperity of the future. The best is yet to come.
  Adults speak to children, “I remember when…” and state, “My children are spoiled.”  “When I was little I didn’t have…”  Isn’t that why your child is spoiled?  Because you didn’t have and now you are blessed enough to provide better?   Bernie Mac has a joke:  Our family was so poor, we ate cereal with a fork to save the milk.
  As a consumer, sitting in church as a young person, we weren’t cleaning, we weren’t setting up the alter, playing an instrument, giving, it wasn’t us.  But if you want that in the church again, then get up, volunteer, give, attend.  Some of the people who did the work before have moved on. We have to step up.  If you come less and less, the pews are not full. Then you come one Sunday and complain the pews are not full! 
  The Best is yet to come has to do with our future!  It is a different world today than even 80 ears ago.  Women work, kids have busier lives with projects, home work, sports. 
There is a difference. The Best is Yet to Come!
  As the end, we will be at the right hand of God – we know that scripture tells us that Jesus is preparing place for us.  Every step we take should be toward a better place.  Each year it will get better and better!  What God continues to do for us!
“I remember the good ol’ days.” But maybe I wasn’t all that good.  And there were problems. Were they really all that good?  But once we are in a relationship with God, things are better. You don’t need what held you apart-alcohol, gambling, partying, etc.
God is there every day. The Best is Yet to Come. Are there still struggles? Yes.  In a short while, we will be asking for pledges. Meanwhile good work continues to happen.  The choir room is repaired, the driveway is a work-in-progress, we have the Bazaar, Advent plans, the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, tutoring, and other ways we are in the community. 
Get off your behinds and Do Something!  If you can only do a small thing, that is ok, do it.  There are a lot of people who do not know God. How do we reach the un-churched? It is about knowing and sharing. There is something better-Jesus Christ.  No matter where you are in life, God is here. God doesn’t change/ He blesses this mess!  Even if something doesn’t go well for you. Did you learn something?  He has more for you.  Try to understand what God is doing with us.
  This is not all…The Best is Yet to Come!!! We will have a full church, horns in the praise band, musicians with the choir, more Sunday Schools classes, and one of our teenagers will be preaching to us. God is moving amongst us.
We are working and striving to be what God wants us to be.
The people in the past built a foundation. We are not stopping-we keep reaching out with the love of God.  Immanuel means God with Us.  
No matter where we are, it can get better: The Best is Yet to Come!
Old Testament Reading:  Haggai 1:15b - 2:9

Sunday, November 3, 2013

 

Saint, Sinner or In-Between

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

  Today we remember those saints who passed away during the last year; those from Immanuel and friends & family of Immanuel folks….
We also dedicated the new pew Bibles which were presented as gifts of designated saints.
 
Saint, Sinner, or In-Between
  What is a Saint?  If you google the question, you get 15 pages on the process for someone to become a saint in the Catholic church.  Just part of that process includes:  being a servant of God, live a life of heroic virtue, worked to improve spiritually, & done a miracle.  It also includes that the body will not decompose and the dried blood will liquefy.
In Webster’s the word Saint is defined as 1) someone officially recognized by the Catholic church, 2) one of God’s chosen, usually a Christian.
  In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul mentions sainthood. 
Pastor defines Saint as one who is selfless, individuals who have given their last, who keep going.  It is just a part of who they are. 
One example, the 7th grade home-room teacher who Pastor had twice, Patricia Hatcher.  Other kids called him stupid and he was not a nice kid.  He was dealing with some issues, but said some really terrible things.  She showed love. She was pregnant and told the whole class they were going to be god-parents to her child.  Thirty years later, he ran into her at Cooley High School.  He was working as a computer tech, and Ms. Hatcher was still teaching.  She admitted that she didn’t know if he would make it.  But she made him believe!   She is a person who is set apart by how she lives her life.
  Most saints don’t have everything, but they still find a way to give.  They can take care of themselves and their family but any extra goes to others.  They forgive.  The excess that someone has-what do they do with it?  Do they buy a 15 carat ring and propose in a stadium - or do they spend money on a race for Mayor in the City of Detroit, a city that is so broke?  Couldn’t that money our politicians are spending be put to better use?
Saints are the ones who do good works without being lifted up.  They take care of us because that is who they are. There are saints living here everyday.
  A second example is a faithful man at West Outer Drive Church.  Fred and his wife knew each other since fourth grade. They lived in the Brightmore area as it changed over from middle-to low-income to a dumping ground.  Once, the church decided to honor him.  But he said he didn’t want to be honored. He just wanted to stand at the door and welcome others into church, passing out bulletins.  He lived his life in respect and dignity.  He served on many committees and made many personal donations to the church.  A few years ago, a fire-bomb was thrown into the church; but the fire did not spread because back in 1955, Fred had purchased fire-retardant curtains!
  Luke 6:27-36 reminds us to turn the other cheek.  How are you kind when someone has used/abused you?  We don’t look up in hopes to be a saint.  Everyone has had someone who was a saint in their life—maybe you turned your back—if they are still alive, call and tell them thank you.  You cannot call yourself a saint.
  A third example of Saints are the Pastor’s Aunt and Uncle.  When his Mom passed, they had been asked to care for Albert.  But his brothers and sisters wanted to keep him in Detroit, not let him move to Cleveland.  They did what was right. And when he did visit in Cleveland and try to cause trouble, they corrected him.  He came back much more respectful.  The saint knows what to do and how to do it.
If you are recognized as a saint, it will be an honor. But you cannot train for it. 
For when the saints come marching in, don’t you want to be in their number?
New Testament Reading:  Luke 6: 20-31

Sunday, October 27, 2013

 

Not Like Them

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

 
  Have you used or heard the phrases “I am blessed and highly favored” or “But for the grace of God go I”?  Think what the other person may be thinking.  You just set yourself apart. You are blessed and I am not?  Are you saying, “I am glad I am not like you”?  Simple phrases can set us apart – do they say “I am better”?
  The Pharisees in today’s Bible verse are bragging.  The tax collector says “I am a sinner, forgive me.” 
  No matter how much studying I do, I am a sinner, no matter how much I preach, I am still human.  Some like to set themselves apart.  There is a new show on Oxygen about well-to-do Pastors in LA.  They have huge houses, fancy cars, and they are Pastors of mega churches with 50000 + people.  We are supposed to humble ourselves. Why are they on a reality show?  There are over 200,000 congregations in the US; only 5% have 5,000+ in a congregation, 70% have 200 or less, 50% have 100 people or less.  How about a show on a real pastor worrying about paying the bills, going out to visit the sick, they don’t have staff.  They don’t have gospel artists to lead the singing, they don’t have a book to autograph.  Instead, they are doing the work, visiting the sick, making pancakes at 6 a.m.  There are only a small number than can be on the reality show.
Jesus wants us not to set apart. We do sometimes set ourselves a part in:
1.  Prayer – I wish I could pray like them, I wish I could say the right thing, thank goodness I didn’t pray like them.
2.  Service work – we help people, it’s not about us, it is about being humble and taking care of those in need. What about building relationships? A parent who visited for tutoring mentioned she had been here before for the food pantry, Gratiot Cruise, Vacation Bible School, and she was thankful we are in the community.
3.  Worship – discussion still abounds about modern vs traditional. I am so glad we have “my version”.  Instead it should be “I am so glad we have the ability to worship!”
IS the style more important than getting the message?
  There are many denominations of the Christian church.  There are many versions of the Bible.  Pastors preach different versions of a message from the same passage of scripture.  We have a different way of doing things.  The Bible is important, but every church also has a version of the Book of Discipline. The rules for how we do things.  It is a way we separate ourselves.
What is the Core Value?
  Jesus died for our sins. He rose on the third day. We are all available for salvation. It should not matter what denomination. We should come together to do the work of God. 
I am glad Jesus dies for my sins.
We spend time trying to be “not like them”
  Pastor's father was known as “Rush” and would meet people he knew everywhere; even when they travelled out of state.  Pastor didn’t want to be known as “little Rush”. But his Dad was also teaching him to respect others.  Now, as he goes out his daughter n0otices that he knows people everywhere. 
  We try to separate ourselves instead of bringing together everyone and loving them anyway.  Society says we are different; but at Church, the house of God, we should all be together.  We are sinners, we need God. We are not better.
I need you Lord, now.
We serve a great God. It shouldn’t be “not like them”, instead it should be “Just like them.”
 New Testament Reading:  Luke 8: 9-14

Sunday, October 20, 2013

 

Be Still and Know I am God

Sermon by Dean Miles

 

This is not always easy.
26 years ago, I was broken physically and mentally – I claimed to be a Christian, but I was not living a Christian life.  I had PTSD and if it is not treated properly, it can lead to a dark, ugly place.  I was lost, on drugs, drinking, and my marriage fell apart and my kids suffered. No one seemed to care. I was very reckless.  I came to Michigan with a lady I thought I knew. I was removed from the Valley, but then she left me.  But God’s plan was to lower everything.  I lived in a small spare room of a friend, I was all alone.
I prayed, I gave it all to God. I can stay here and start new or I can go back. What direction do you give me? I was working in a low-paying job, lonely.  God sent Stephanie into my life.  We have been together now for 15 years.  She is my best friend and my love.  Past relationships didn’t last, but this one has.  She has seen a lot – good and bad. I have to give it all to God. We all have stories to tell. I watch the news. Our country is in a mess, our dollar is in danger. I pick a side, I think out loud. I worry about our nation.
Psalm 46 says God will take care of this. Psalm 23:4 says God will be there, even in the shadow of death. Today’s childrens' message was about David and Goliath. David was standing on faith to face the giant.  We all have Goliaths.  
Total surrender to the Lord will make it happen.
Worry - pray - we know God will heal. It might not be what we had in mind, but there will be healing.
Give it to God.
Don’t keep taking it back.
Give it to God.
Old Testament Reading:  Psalm 27:1

Sunday, October 13, 2013

 

It Can't be that Simple

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

 

  Do you make rice? Rice has fairly simple directions, but sometimes it doesn’t turn out. Once Pastor visited someone and the rice was perfect-light, fluffy.  So he asked and the hostess explained that rice is pretty simple to make - but you have to follow the instructions.  Put the water in, add salt, add rice (half as much as the water) bring to a boil, put the lid on, let it simmer and voila!, twenty minutes later you have rice.
  But it can’t be that simple can it?  We want to rush it- have it done in fifteen minutes, so we turn it up, or we open the pan and stir it a bunch of times.  Stop! Just follow the directions!
  In our Bible verse today, Naaman has leprosy, a chronic infectious disease.  He went to his King to e allowed ot travel to Israel. The King sent the King of Israel a letter of introduction. But the King of Israel was afraid – if he couldn’t cure Naaman he would be in trouble.  Elisha told him to allow Naaman to come.  When Naaman arrived with his entourage, a servant went out. The servant told him to bathe in the Jordan river seven times. 
  Naaman was furious and said no, and left to go home. We think of the Jordan River as sacred, but remember it was a dirty, muddy river then and it still is.  It would be similar to someone famous coming to Detroit to be cured, told to go to a beat up house at Gratiot and Six Mile, pull up in their Escalades and their Cadillacs and then have a servant come out and tell him to go to Belle Isle and jump in the Detroit River seven times.  Really? Would you? Could it be that simple?
  But a servant reminded him that if he had been asked to do something difficult, maybe give all your money and go on a two-year pilgrimage, you would do it. Why won’t you do this?  Why can’t you just follow directions?
  So, Naaman did it and he was cured. Then he celebrated and gave thanks.
Society makes it difficult. We know people who are sick and we pray and sometimes they get healthy. The doctors say they don’t know how, or maybe that new medicine, but we know the miracle came from God.
  The servant didn’t come out of Elisha’s house with fanfare. He just came out and said, go and do this.  It is the word of God, it works.  If you keep listening, it will work. 
We like to deviate, we like to take short cuts, we think we know everything. A person could have society’s version of “everything”: money, material goods, position, but still not have everything.  Let God set the directions.
  We listen to society, but society is fickle, and what is “right” changes.  God is consistent. Follow him.  It is simple. It may not be easy, but it can be done.
  Pastor made a big life change to leave his job and become a Pastor.  His goal is to be a part of a place that is welcome – is this church ready for this Pastor? He is asked regularly How is it really going?  And people seem surprised when he says there are no issues.
  You can’t do things this way—that is what Society may say.  But  God says just do it.  Faith makes it simple.  The waters of Jordan have no powers.  The Lord has the power. Your faith has the power.  People are making money selling holy water, anointed oil, prayer shawls—but there is nothing special. If the oil “worked” it is because of your faith. You could have used baby oil for the same results-if you believed.
  There is a vampire movie called Dust til Dawn with George Clooney.  A character is a priest who has lost his faith and he is told, I need you to get that faith back, then you can change this well water into Holy water.
It is faith that can change things.
It is faith that can turn around a church
It is faith that can let you see big plans for the future of Immanuel.
What is wrong with thinking big things?  There are no boundaries with God. If you can see it, you can do it.
  In Matthew 14:32-34, Jesus walks on water and invites Peter to join him.  We know we cannot walk on water and Peter knows that too. But with Faith he did—and when his faith faltered, he floundered.
  We are working. If it gets hard, will we stop or will we keep trying?  We have to follow the word of the Lord.  God gives us opportunities. 
  At his old job, Pastor was doing some work of the church on the company’s time.  Co-workers complained.  And he had to change, he wasn’t happy, but he changed.  Later, his department faced cutbacks and 15 of 45 people had to be let go. The supervisor asked him to pray for the group and called him in to ask for spiritual advice!  He was where God needed him to be.  You never know when you will be needed to be the word and the peace, because you showed the God in you, and showed you believed. 
  We are going to try new things, and we will try more than once.  We will never stop trying to reach out to our community. 
Every time, our rice will be fluffy and delicious!  We will follow God’s directions!
Old Testament Reading:  2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Good Manager

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Read Luke 16:1-13  (Common English Bible)
Faithfulness with money
1 Jesus also said to the disciples, “A certain rich man heard that his household manager was wasting his estate.
2 He called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give me a report of your administration because you can no longer serve as my manager.’
3 “The household manager said to himself, What will I do now that my master is firing me as his manager? I’m not strong enough to dig and too proud to beg.
4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I am removed from my management position, people will welcome me into their houses.
5 “One by one, the manager sent for each person who owed his master money. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 He said, ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil.’   The manager said to him, ‘Take your contract, sit down quickly, and write four hundred fifty gallons.’
7 Then the manager said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘One thousand bushels of wheat.’ He said, ‘Take your contract and write eight hundred.’
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted cleverly. People who belong to this world are more clever in dealing with their peers than are people who belong to the light.
9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.
10 “Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much.
11  If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
12  If you haven’t been faithful with someone else’s property, who will give you your own?
13  No household servant can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”The master commended the servant for his dishonesty? It might seem that way.  Have you had a good manager who said, “I will never ask someone to do a job if I will not do the job.”?

In the scripture, the manager was not good, and he found out he was to be fired. He thought to be nice to those he managed so they would take care of him later. Do those who work in this world and are OF this world cut better deals than Christians?
The end of this reading focuses on not serving two masters,
and is similar to Matthew 6: 19-24 (CEB)
Earthly and heavenly treasures
19 “Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them.
20 Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them.
21 Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Seeing and serving
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.
23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how terrible that darkness will be!
24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.As you move up, a manager might tell you to take care of only yourself.  

The Master recognized the shrewd business deal his manager was making and was o.k. with it.  Shrewd: having the ability to understand and make good decisions.  Even worldly people do things to take care of themselves and others.  BUT at the core is dishonesty.
Reread the scripture from The Message
The Story of the Crooked Manager 
1-2 Jesus said to his disciples, “There was once a rich man who had a manager. He got reports that the manager had been taking advantage of his position by running up huge personal expenses. So he called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? You’re fired. And I want a complete audit of your books.’
3-4 “The manager said to himself, ‘What am I going to do? I’ve lost my job as manager. I’m not strong enough for a laboring job, and I’m too proud to beg. . . . Ah, I’ve got a plan. Here’s what I’ll do . . . then when I’m turned out into the street, people will take me into their houses.’
5 “Then he went at it. One after another, he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “He replied, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’“The manager said, ‘Here, take your bill, sit down here—quick now—write fifty.’
7 “To the next he said, ‘And you, what do you owe?’“He answered, ‘A hundred sacks of wheat.’“He said, ‘Take your bill, write in eighty.’
8-9 “Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”God Sees Behind Appearances
10-13 Jesus went on to make these comments: If you’re honest in small things,  you’ll be honest in big things;If you’re a crook in small things,  you’ll be a crook in big things. If you’re not honest in small jobs,  who will put you in charge of the store? No worker can serve two bosses:   He’ll either hate the first and love the second Or adore the first and despise the second.   You can’t serve both God and the Bank. Be smart in the same way – but be smart for what is Right.  

Jesus is saying the manager is clever, he was dishonest and came up with another dishonest way.  Use your wits to get the best deal. When you are shopping you want the best deal, of course the salesperson wants you to do what “he” wants and might keep working on you.  But when the salesperson works ethically and makes a good faith effort, don’t you want to do business with them? And won’t you return to do business with them again?  That salesperson is also shrewd – he sees what the customer need and he meets the needs.The church parking lot has been a top priority of the trustees. And of that, the priority is to have zero puddles.  Other amenities are nice “extras”.  We paid one half.  The rest isn’t paid until the job is done.  It isn’t done. There are still puddles, so the second payment was not made.Jesus wants us to be wise stewards of everything given to you—for yourself and for God. Be a good servant to use your resources wisely.  This is true in wordly things.  How much better can we do with spiritual things?  What do we do with God’s things? Look at commercials, beer commercials sure show a perfect life everything beautiful and cool, but they never show the reality of being sick, drunk, or alcoholism.
  What about the church? Our message has to be that YOU ARE LOVED when you come here.  If we do it right and love one, we will see other visitors. Our job is to show Christ.  Are we going to manage with honesty and integrity and give opportunity for more people to come?  How we use new ways to get people in the door (for example, the Charlie Brown message) are great, but once they are here do we welcome them and love them? In the scripture the master was impressed with the cleverness—that we can use it for honesty.  If your heart is dark, it will get darker; if you are honest, it changes everything.  We are called to be good “managers” with the people who come in the door.  Are you able to say, “There is nothing I will ask you to do that I will not do myself?”  We are going to show the people of this community love!
New Testament Reading:  Luke 16: 1-13

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lost and Found

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Luke Chapter 15 is about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost or prodigal son.  Jesus was criticized for being with sinners and tax collectors and he shared these stories.  When a sinner comes back it is righteous. What does this meant to us?  Should we seek out the “worst” and drag them to church? Or do we meet and bond and then have a conversation and invite them to church?  A church may be welcoming, but it should be more — we need to be in relationship with those who come in.  You can welcome someone to your home, then close the door behind them and be glad they are gone.  Instead relationship means you care about their issues, you ask about their children, etc.  If we seek the lost it should be to be in relationship with them.Every church wants “young” couples.  But when a Mom is a first time visitor, she might not feel comfortable leaving her baby in the nursery.   If the baby fusses in worship, do we judge? If someone says, “Did you know we have nursery?” they may really be saying, “You are not welcome here.”  Instead, could we offer a toy, a candy for a youngster, or at least a smile?In the story of the coin, not only does it focus on how she keeps looking for that one coin, but once found, she celebrates in community.  
We celebrate when we have an opportunity to bring a new ministry.  But what happens if someone different walks into church-a woman who worked all night, who has been drinking or doing drugs?  Would we welcome her?  We should –she is seeking God.  Our job is to say God is here for you and you really are welcome. Some congregations are the ER/EMTs of Christianity – they go out into the mess and do clean up before surgery.  Maybe later they get the person to a bigger church. Immanuel needs to be a Medical Center—providing ER/surgery/recovery/long term care….We need to provide the help that is needed when and where it is needed.Pastor attended a multi-cultural seminar this week.  He didn’t learn a lot because we are doing a lot, but we still have a long way to go. How will we grow?  By all of us being in relationship with others. Look at your own relationships.  Do you have friends who think differently than you do?  Even look at Facebook, is everyone of the same opinion as you?  Diversity is in everything.In the story of the prodigal son, the son thinks “The way I am living is even less than the animals in my father’s barn.”  The father celebrated when he came back.  He told the other son, “He saw terrible things but let him come back!”Our Food Pantry serves needs in the community.  We have made a conscious decision not to take Federal assistance, so we do not need to collect a lot of information from the people we serve, keep statistics and do reports.  But sometimes you still here judgment. “Look at the car they are driving.” “Look at the clothes they are wearing.”  But we don’t know their story.  Maybe they are not making the best decision and choosing a nice car instead of feeding their family because appearance means so much to them. Or maybe something else altogether is happening.  We cannot know for sure and we should not judge.
Pastor rented a car in Rochester hills and found out they have some of the highest number of drive-offs where people take the car to maintain their image.  They are lost!  How do we help someone who is lost?  Do you know someone? Be in conversation. Be in relationship.  Sooner or later, they may say, “I’ve tried everything.”  That is the moment. You can ask, “Have you tried Jesus?”  They might be nervous, they might not know how to dress or act and be afraid of being judged.  You can explain that they are welcome here.  If your church isn’t welcoming, are you in the right church? Are you working to change it? Have you tried Jesus?  You are seeking lost sheep and you are building relationships.  How did you get back into church if you were lost?  Did a friend or family member invite you?  It is the relationship!  No one will hear the Pastor, see the great programs offered if they aren’t in relationship and invited in the door.
God counts the souls who are saved. It isn’t the preaching, the singing, the teaching, or the programs. It is the relationships!  The lost sheep was known by name and was found.
New Testament Reading:  Luke 15: 1-10

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Playdough

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Old Testament Reading:  Jeremiah 18: 1-11

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Can Do Anything Through Christ

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

New Testament Reading:  Philippians 4: 10-13

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Is It Time?

Dr. Althea Lynn Simpson Preaching

New Testament Reading:  Luke 13: 10-17

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Good News

Lay Speaker Heather Nowak Preaching

Old Testament Reading:  II Kings 7: 9
New Testament Reading:  1 Peter 3: 15

Sunday, August 11, 2013

When Is He Coming?

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

New Testament Reading:  Luke 12: 32-40
 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Don't Be Anxious

Lay Speaker Bob Kern Preaching

New Testament Reading:  Philippians 4: 4-9
 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Lord's Prayer

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

New Testament Reading:  Mark 19: 29-33

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Preoccupied

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

  Do you try to multi-task? 
  Even computers cannot multi-task.  They do one thing-granted they do it very quickly-but they do one at a time.  Our brain is not geared to multi-task.  We switch back and forth from one item to another, giving both partial attention.  This is why texting while driving is so dangerous. A lot can happen in a few seconds in a moving car. Pre-occupied:  lost in thought; extreme or excess thought of something.
  In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus visits Martha and Mary.  Martha is being a great hostess. She views this as important.  She accuses Mary of not being a good hostess.  Jesus reminded her that this is an opportunity for her to hear directly from the savior.  Have you hosted a party and had no fun?  Have the bride and groom planned the wedding for months, only to worry about the details instead of celebrating on the big day?  All those little things might not be as important as what you focus on.  You get distracted-Pre-occupied?  Did it take you away from where you want to be?  Or away from where God wants you to be?
  Pastor was worried about dealing with the Trayvon Martin case.  We are all sad, a child died.  But while contemplating this…our community came together for VBS-old/young/rich/poor/black/white.  Why be pre-occupied with the Martin case and the world, when God was working right here.  New friends were made, new families came to church on Sunday. We are in the world not of the world. How do we deal with the world?  We don’t let barriers stop us from identifying with God’s love.  We are pre-occupied with God’s people and with doing God’s work.  Conversations need to happen, even here.  How are we part of the solution?  On TV the focus may only be on one issue.  In this Martin case it is on race. But we have so many issues: homelessness, budget, all sorts of things to work on.  We have to keep focused on God’s work.
  Read  Luke 9: 57-62:  the cost to follow Jesus is made clear.  People ask Jesus what they must do.  He reminds them that other things will take care of themselves. Trust in Jesus. Will this God who loves you allow you to feed your family, help your ill mother, support you?  Put God first. He tells you what to do. If you rely on Jesus it will work out.  Will you work forward in the wrong way or in the way Jesus tells you is the right way? 
  Read Luke 10: 25-37 :  The Good Samaritan story is also in this section.  The Good Samaritan could have been pre-occupied.   He didn’t believe in the Jewish God. But he did the right thing. Pastor knew someone who did not believe in God, yet he was a good humanitarian.  His goal at retirement was to buy an RV and travel around the world to build houses for Habitat for Humanity.  He is doing God’s work- even without belief.  He can be respected for his contributions.  Like Mary and Martha, one is listening to Jesus, doing “nothing” and one is working.  Jesus reminds us to love God with all your heart….and to love your neighbor as yourself. Listen to God. He will let you know when it is time to go the extra mile for someone or to do the right thing, and even when to relax. 
  Pastor is sick, he had to miss school this week, because he did too much last week, despite reminders not to overdo.  Being pre-occupied can lead to something negative or to something positive.  God said slow down, and make the focus on the Lord.  A few less jumps last week could have meant better health and few more hugs today. 
  Keep the focus on the Lord.
  If two things call you, do the one thing God would want you to do.
New Testament Reading:  Luke 10: 38-42
 
 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Good Neighbor

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

New Testament Reading:  Mark 19: 29-33
 
 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Are You There?

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 

  Are you there?  We’ve asked God, usually when we are in the middle of a difficult situation.  When you are in the mess of our own creation, did you ask this question?
Someone is always watching you. IN light of the news lately, we know the government is watching.  The stores are watching when we use our discount cards or give our zip code. The GPS can track where youa re now.  If the government is watching, don’t you think God is watching?
Read Psalm 77: 1-2 and 11-20
   The Psalmist is crying out, asking for God.  Then later, remembers that God is indeed here.  Often Psalms are good poetry and rhythm, but not always a story.  Today it tells the story – God is there. 
   There are times when we despaired.  We asked, “God, are you there?”  Sometimes when we are in the midst the devil makes us blame ourselves and move away from God.  Depression holds us down and makes us feel even worse.  Most of the time, the issues we are facing are things we either did that we should not have, or things we did not do that we should have taken care of. 
  Even in the worst times, wasn’t someone there for you?  Did someone call and offer a ride? A meal? The trials strengthen us.  We say to ourselves, “I ‘ll get through it.” Or someone says to us, “There is a season...”  We try to remember, if God is for us, what can be against us?  But we still beat ourselves up—“If I had done something better”, “if only I had….”
But it doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t say, “ If only you do XXX, I will be there.” No, God will be there every day.  Are YOU there with God?
   The disciples walked with Jesus, but when questioned, they denied knowing him.  But these are the people the church was founded upon.  In Matthew 27: 46  And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus is asking, “Why, God? For these people who betrayed me? These people who twisted your words?”
   But three days later came the answer-he rose.  Every lash he had endured was for us. Every drop of blood was for us.  He has our back.  We rejoice in the resurrection.  We rejoice in his relationship with the disciples. We rejoice in the advent of the Holy Spirit. 
There is someone who calls you.  People ask If you need anything.  People will tell you it is darkest before the dawn.  You learn that God was there, right by your side.  Keep on doing the best that you can, it is good enough for God.  Our lives are not perfect.  I will have good days and bad days, and I am sure I will have more good days and bad days, but I know I love God.     I have had rich times and poor times, and I will again, and I know God is there.  I will learn and gain wisdom and God will be there!
   Remember this poem?:
Footprints in the Sand
Author Unknown
 
One night I had a dream...
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and
Across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand;
One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before us,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
There was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest 
and saddest times in my life
This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You would walk with me all the way;
But I have noticed that during the 
most troublesome times in my life,
There is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why in times when I
needed you the most, you should leave me.
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious
child. I love you, and I would never,
never leave you during your times of
trial and suffering.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you. 
 
Old Testament Reading:  Psalm 77: 1-2
 
 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

We Have to be Authentic

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

   When Pastor was a youth pastor, the youth were always helping with the Advent dinner.      The kids worked hard to cook and bus and do dishes. One year, the sale of tickets was low, so the church members wanted them to pay for their meal.  The next year, before again volunteering, the kids were voting on whether to do the event again.  As the kids were going to vote, one young man said, “Before you vote to do this, you should be planning to be here for the event.”  He knew that sometimes people say yes, but don’t follow through.  His voice was authentic!
  Read: Galatians 3:23-29
  Some big community churches advertise that they have a cafeteria to serve the hungry, a play area for kids, a sanctuary with a state-of-the-art sound system…but the pitch sounds similar to one for time-shares!  It is a sales pitch for a consumer driven society.
  Do we go to church looking for what we can get?  We are a church that is going to challenge you.  You might not like it.  We work for God, God doesn’t work for you.  Does it have to be exciting and strong? The Bible verse reminds us we are children of God!  Why are we here? To hear great music? To hear a good sermon? It is simple….we are here to talk about Jesus, a carpenter.  He performed miracles, the people rose against him, he was crucified, and three days later he rose!  What better reason to come to church?  To be connected to Jesus.
  Jesus died and was resurrected. It is not about the band, the building, the program.  That has nothing to do with church.  If it is about the program only –we are a community center with a cross on the lawn.
  You didn’t come to get something from God—you came to do something FOR God.  Other things will end—consumers are fickle.  We want what we want when we want it.  We complain. 
  Are you learning about strength, caring, love?  Are you coming to give God what God needs? 
  Read the Apostles Creed
  Do we believe?  If we believe-then the drug lord can be forgiven, the murderer can be forgiven. If you believe in forgiveness of sins, everyone can be forgiven.  The authentic church will grow. It will last and grow and sustain over time.
  Why did God put you here?  Pastor’s sister followed him here to Immanuel.  He asked why.  Her answer:  Brother, you are authentic.  You are using your gifts. You preached crazy over there and you preach crazy here—it is you!
  Pastor assures us: He will work here in this place to bring the love of Jesus to our community.  We are authentic.  We make errors . We hurt each other.  A lot of work went into the cruise.  People said we were the center of the cruise action.  A person from the newspaper who was reporting on cars wrote about us!  It wasn’t about fundraising, biscuits and water for dogs, the dancing pastor, free face painting. It was us in the community being authentic.  The quote given was that we were here to bring people back to God.   We received over thirty prayer requests, and some are quite serious.  This week, the church received ten calls about VBS!  We will review and evaluate everything about the cruise, but what is important is that we were in the community and our goal was to bring them back to God.  God was working in our midst. Kids were passing out free candy.  It showed in all of the work that was done.  We were smiling in the name of God!  We invited people to a meal in the name of God.  We are an old gothic church building without the best sound system, the best band, the best choir (with apologies, a fancy electronic sign,  but we give our best!
Pastor will give his best!  He is authentic, and it is how he serves us. 

The question is, How will you serve the Lord?
New Testament Reading:  Galatians 3: 23-29
 
 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sink, Swim or Walk?

Marquette District Superintendent
Elbert Dulworth Preaching

 
  Do you know someone who is afraid of everything?
The definition of Fear: A natural human response to a perceived threat (real or imagined.)   Everyone fears something.
  The scripture for today, Matthew 14:22-23 reminds us that Jesus’ followers have fear – they are experienced fishermen, yet afraid of the weather and Jesus is far away from them on the shore.  We don’t know their full story. Is this a natural fear?  The Sea of Galilee is smaller than our great lakes, but a storm can be powerful and they were in wooden boats.
  Jesus tells them to take heart, and do not be afraid. This phrase is used in other scriptures when God’s angels and prophets speak to humans.  Perhaps the awesome presence of the living God is scary.
  If we step out in faith will God leave us stranded?  Peters asks to go out on the water and Jesus says simply, “Come.”  When you were a kid, sitting on the side of the pool and jumped in, did your father come to your aid immediately if you were in trouble? Peter got out of the boat. No one else got out of the boat.  Perhaps they didn’t know Jesus would be there. This disciple walked on water.  But when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he became frightened and began to sink.
  Isn’t that our worst fear? If we get out of the boat, God will leave us stranded?  We might bad mouth Peter’s lack of faith. The good news is that Jesus was there. God will be there when we step out.  What keeps us from getting out of our boats? What are we afraid of? Do we think the water is too deep?  Jesus calls to Peter and to you and says “Come”. God is with us. It is not sink or swim, it is walk.  It is not about Peter’s lack of faith. It is about what happened when he experienced Jesus.
  Many churches look pretty. Yet the parking lot remains empty many times.  They are empty shells.  The presence of our church on Gratiot during the cruise showed we are open to our neighbors. It wasn’t about fund-raising; it was about the mission of bringing Jesus to the community.   Rev Dulworth visited a church up north and he was a bit dressed up. He was certainly dressed differently than the regular members.  No one said good morning.  Someone actually went row by row speaking to other members, and skipped his row.  Later, when the Pastor came up to the pulpit, she saw Rev Dulworth and introduced him, the DS!  Of course, at the end people wanted to shake his hand.  What if he had been “just” a regular visitor-would he be back?
  What does it mean to get out of the boat?  Give thanks to those who have been brave in the past.  What boats does Jesus call us from?  What will our response be?
 
Sink…swim…or walk?

Lord, help us to walk.
New Testament Reading:  Galatians 3: 23-29
 
 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I Once Was a _________

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

 
  Read Galatians 1:11-24
Everybody once was something else….
He was Saul and was transformed into Paul.  Thirteen books of the new testament are attributed to Paul. He is talking about the love and strength of Jesus.
  Read Acts 7:54-8:4
Saul was persecuting those who believed in Jesus.  He had a passion for Judaism. 
  Read Acts 9
Saul hated the believers and his job was to drag men and women to jails.  He went to many synagogs and asked them to bring him believers.  But he is the same person who wrote “Love is patient, love is kind…” How could this be the same man?  Do you know how this could happen?
It was Jesus!
  He spoke to Saul and sent him another believer to give his sight back.  Here Saul was a powerful man who was struck down and had to be led around.  God changed him. 
Saul became Paul.  He once was a persecutor now he became the persecuted. 
  Once you were doing something you should not have been doing but God found a way to work with you and to bring you here.
  God used Pastors excitement with music and dance to work for God.  God wants you to use your gifts for the church.  You are a child of God. You know that what God can do for you.
Saul jailed others, but he wrote many of his letters from jail himself.
  Read Ephesians 6:10-18
There are people who say you are not right – but if you bring people to God – then it was worthy! 
 
You used to be something….now you are something else.
Our Lord is Good!
New Testament Reading:  Galatians 1: 11-24
 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Can You Feel It?

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 

  Pentecost is often called the birthday of the church.  
  3000 converts decided to follow Jesus. 
  Different forms of music can elicit different reactions and emotions.  Some make you dance or clap, some encourage you to sit and contemplate the lyrics or the movement of the notes.  Even though most people at a classical concert are going to be quiet, a particular piece can be so moving that your reaction is to clap.
  People have very different passions – some like to clean house, some can tinker with a car all day, a baker who purchases a new decorating tool can see the end product.  If you have passion for something, no matter how small, you can share your gift.  There are people who will see your passion and be inspired. 
  The Holy Spirit inspires excitement.  Is it a nod of the head, a tap of the toe, a smile – the spirit moves people in different ways.  For the pastor, sometimes it includes a pratfall while preaching! But it is done in the moment, in response to the Holy Spirit.  
In the scripture today – 3000 people saw the excitement and heard the word of God.  Even though they are very different from each other, they heard the word.  Some people love one kind of music only, some love a variety.  Imagine if we had the band come up and play and everyone heard the kind of music they liked-gospel, pop, praise, country and western…you hear the music that moves you.  As the band kept playing, t he audience reacted favorably- smiling, nodding, clapping. This is what the people at Pentecost heard it all, they were inspired.  
  Read Acts 2:22-40
  Peter is describing what is happening - God is doing miracles through Jesus.  God released Jesus from death.  The Lord is with us, his soul is alive.  Peter reminds them of the story of the prophet David—descendants would see the Messiah.  He would not be left as dead, instead, he will be raised and will sit at the right hand of God. David did not see this himself, but he told us that the Holy Spirit will come.  
  The people asked, “What should we do?”  Turn from your sins, be baptized, recognize3 that this promise is made to all. The Holy Spirit empowered Peter to speak. Remember, just a short time ago Peter was hiding and denying his relationship with Jesus. Now he boldly speaks of the miracles.  The Holy Spirit moved him. 
  The Holy Spirit acts in us, it moves us.  Others see the spirit in you and are motivated by your passion and enthusiasm.  Do you ever feel the need to do something? The Holy Spirit put it in your heart.  But if you didn’t do it, didn’t act, how do you feel?   Have you ever done a little extra for someone , for example:  gave a generous tip because the server was working against the odds – the place is busy, the kitchen is slow, yet the server is doing their best.  Do you say thank you? Do you write the letter? Do you do what the Holy Spirit has put into your heart?
  It comes like a mighty wind. It cannot be orchestrated. Do the right thing, someone will notice. Not notice to give you “credit” but notice to be inspired and to be motivated!  Listen to the Holy Spirit.  Respond now. Do what God directs you to do, you will not be ridiculed.
You will not be embarrassed if you are doing it for God, not for yourself.  If someone answers "Amen" and someone else does not –it does not mean they did not see the passion and they were not moved.

In closing: Sing together Hymn #333:  I'm Gonna Sing when the Spirit Says Sing:

I'm gonna sing* when the spirit says sing.
I'm gonna sing
when the spirit says sing.
I'm gonna sing
when the spirit says sing
and obey the spirit of the Lord....

*Pray, Moan Shout
New Testament Reading:  Acts 2: 1-21
 
 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Can I get a Witness?

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

  In some worship traditions, when the Pastor says, “Can I get a witness?” the congregation responds, “Amen!”  To witness means to say something is true.
  Consider the recent events in Cleveland. The man who responded to the young lady’s calls for help was a witness. He didn’t have to act, but he did. Now, to some he is the punch line in a joke, and his privacy has been invaded. But he heard something and he took action.
  In Today’s Bible verse, Acts 1:1-11, Jesus has been with the Apostles for 40 days.  He wants them to know he has changed – he is no longer human.  Today is Ascension Sunday, and next week we will celebrate Pentecost.  Jesus needed the Apostles to witness - to witness to the power of what they had seen God do.
  At Immanuel, we have a sermon, music, food pantry, but we need to witness. What has God done for you?  The Bible doesn’t move you – but someone speaking to you about what God has done in their midst – that moves you to action.  We have to tell about God’s good works.  Imagine if you tell of the miracles of God.  Jesus wants us to witness!
Too many get stuck on what we cannot do, or we don’t have enough…but if we bear witness, we Can.  Pastor shared that as the worship leader at a small church with only 9 people in an economically challenged area; he saw that they were rich in spirit.    He was struggling, this was a part-time, volunteer job and he had a full-time job, issues with his daughter, issues with his work, concerns with the Pastor.  He started to think “I don’t need this.”” He was working hard—doing it all—cleaning, writing sermons, typing and printing bulletins, and feeling down-trodden.  He invited some of his coworkers from GM to his little church.  He wasn’t sure how the day would go, but the lead singer sang “The Old Rugged Cross” with passion.  Awhile later, after leaving GM, he wrote back to co-workers to check-in.  When his friend Rachelle asked about the church, he responded with a long note that he was feeling tired and was ready to give up.  She wrote back that he cannot give up—her family had been to several different churches, including some of the very large mega-churches.  Each week they looked for something, but her ten year old daughter said, “Why can’t we go back to that small church, where I felt love?”  And their son wanted to go back to hear the lady sing.  Rachelle wrote, if you do not quit, my family will come back.  They stayed for eight years-the kids both graduated from High School wile members there.  Someone witnessed to Pastor. It wasn’t the music, it wasn’t the building, or the money , it was the love!
We have to be about the love of God. Not over the top – you just have to love God. Pastor preaches with excitement.  Be who you are. There is a difference between witnessing and evangelizing.  Tell people what God has done in your life, invite them to join us.  Do not invite people to see the “show” of Pastor preaching – this isn’t a show. There might be a play, or special music, or a special trick – but it is about the message – “What has God done for you?”
  If you Tell, if you Believe, if you DO miracles – you are the one doing the work.  Anything that happens is because you came up with the idea, you donated, you believed. Some day this will not be the church next door to Andary’s;  Andary’s will be the restaurant next to that church that has three services, that has traffic backed-up on Gratiot, that has an active food-pantry open every day.    “Oh. You attend that church?”  It isn’t because we have a great Pastor, or a great band, it is because we know a Great God!  It is about God’s love!  And we will bear witness.
  Pastor mentioned that next week is Annual Conference. He actually doesn’t like to attend meetings as he is always asked “How’s it going at Immanuel?” “How’s it really going?” No matter how positive he answers and what words he shares – he feels they come back to asking again and not believing him.  Should he answer, “Well there is one problem, I am black.”  “Why don’t you ask what you really want to know?”  Is this some grand experiment?  The things you thought would be done will be done…the children will be raised up, the children will have music lessons, there will be tutoring, we will bear witness.  We can witness to our plans for the future- we will have a great choir, a full bell choir, and the money will come.  Why have music lessons? Because members of the band may continue to be strengthened by God and may move on, we need to build our new members. 
  We will find a way to love the people in our community.  We will have open doors, and invite young people in, and have a mature person’s ministry.  We will find out who you are and meet you where you are.  “It can’t be done” will not be part of our culture.  Pastor is here to empower us! 
New Testament Reading:  Acts 1: 1-11
 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

They Love Me

They Love Me Not!

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Read John 14: 23-29
We love Jesus randomly. When we need something, when we see a quote on a church sign. We don’t love Jesus when we don’t get what we want.  What does it mean to love Jesus? 
Is it enough to go to church? To give our tithe? To be a prayer warrior?
Today’s scripture:  Follow my words – what was the strongest message – Love your neighbor as yourself?
How can I love God whom I never saw, never spoke to, but hate my neighbor next door. Love Jesus, hate my sibling. Love God, treat my ex like garbage. There is only one way to love God – love others.
Read: 1 John 4: 7-21
God is love.  We have difficulty loving someone who is different from us?
Pastor saw the movie “42” and highly recommends the movie.  Some points:  Branch Rickey chose Jackie Robinson because they were both United Methodist.  He still had to break down barriers.  Pee Wee Reese complained that he had received hate mail, and brought in one letter.  Rickey pulled out the pile of letters Robinson had received. Later in the movie, Reese caught the ball and put his arm around Robinson.  He showed himself to all in the ballpark.  “Do you think God loves baseball?”  When God meets you, you have to answer to God.
Read John 21:15-18
If you love me, feed my sheep.  If you love Jesus, you protect the most in need and those who mean something to you. Do you love Jesus?  Check out this R & B Video that aligns with John 21:15-18 at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91NExZP5dZI
The song isn’t about an earthly love. “If you love me, then say it.” What is Jesus saying to us? Love on Sunday morning and on Saturday night, no matter what you are doing.
New Testament Reading:  John 14: 23-29
 

Sunday, April 28, 2013 

"Why 'THEM' "?

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Read Act 11: 1-18
In the Bible verse there is a sense of “Them” vs. “Us”.  Have we changed?
 We don’t pass judgment.  Do we judge on looks?  Tattoos, hair color, articulate, kind of clothes, gay, straight, immigrant…Do we judge someone who walks in to our church?  Why “them”? If your child brought home someone different, would we be excited? DO we ever ask beyond their looks, “Do they know God?”  Are we still using our old judgments?  What do we still act on based on what we thought/heard/believe “just because”. 
Read Isaiah 49:1-6
This was the prophesy of the coming of Jesus – he will do more than restore Israel. You will be a light to all people.  Peter’s dream: he referenced unclean meat. But God said, everything I make is clean.  Who are we to judge?  Are they not “enough” for us?  We were them once – didn’t follow directions, spoke too loudly, broke a rule….But God still loves us.  Stop judging and start loving.
In the scripture, the people in the house wanted to be baptized. Does God judge them? He cares about love.  Just because we are with people who look like us or dress alike are we reaching out?  Jesus was not of the world, but in the world.  In some communities, the church locks and gates surround the church – is that welcoming?  Is it because those walking by aren’t like “us”?
Have you made mistakes? Raise your hand if you haven’t….hmmm…no hands are raised.  Do you have the right to judge? We used to be them, and some of us still are. We forget where we come from.  As a parent, we imply perfection – instead of saying, “yes, I made those mistakes, here is how I lived through it.”  Instead we hide.  We don’t have to be perfect.
Come back to the cross—and be redeemed by the blood of the cross. 
Story:  At CVS, a young lady with tattoos and earrings was standing in line.  Another customer was judging.  The cashier asked the tattooed customer about the tattoo on her arm.  It was the 23rd psalm – and she invited the cashier to church. The other lady learned not to judge. Who are we to judge?
Why Them?
Why not Them?
Go to the streets, go to someone different, reach across aisles—racial/spiritual/.  Ghandi once said, “If I ever met a Christian, I would become one.”  Doesn’t Christianity say:  Forgive 70 x 7 times?  Turn the other cheek? Love one another?
Why wouldn’t we like to be like that?
Why not them?
New Testament Reading:  Acts 11: 1-18
 

Sunday, April 7, 2013 

"Seeing is Believing"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Thomas had to see Jesus, and the hole in his hand.  Aren’t we similar doubters?  
Why do we have to see?  Don’t you sometimes know in your heart? Everything in the last 9 months that Immanuel is doing came from someone in the congregation. You already believed-Pastor helped you to see.  Thomas had the right to doubt. Once he saw, he worked. How hard will you work for the church? Our forefathers helped Halfway/East Detroit/Eastpointe. When we asked for a new Pastor, we asked for some to help us grow in God’s will.  Some people said we have two churches. Guess what, Friday everyone got together and was doing the Hokey Pokey as one!  You do the work. You saw something, you believed. Let’s find a way to make it happen.  Last week the church was full-they came from you.  You believed in Immanuel and you were excited, so you invited others.  Sometimes small miracles happen every day.  Lilies are open this week and are beautiful on the altar.  When a baby takes his first step. The fact that you work up today!  It is a miracle.  God shows us each and every day.  It is ok to doubt, but you do not see the proof of the resurrection in your life.How has God been there? Did you make a mistake and you could have been in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Is it Luck – and No God?
Read John 21:1-15.  Simon Peter is going fishing.  He has caught nothing. The man on the shore tells him to cast his nets on the other side.  They didn’t know it was Jesus.  Did Simon Peter say, “This makes no sense”?  If there are no fish on the right, why try on the left?  If you have faith – it will make a difference.
How many times has someone given you a simple suggestion to solve a difficult problem? We struggled the hard way first.  Should you have listened the first time?  
Pastor shared a story. After a long day of a rummage sale, a lady had lost her keys.  They looked for several hours.  Finally, they got people together to pray about the keys.  Some kids playing outside kicked a ball in a snow pile and found the keys! 
Yes, our eyes are important, but they do not see all. The spirit is in this place – no matter how many people are here on a particular day.  God has something for every one of us. What does God want you to do for the church? Teach, show, give, empower, use your skills in music, cooking, listening, or organizing. You will help us “catch fish” – move in the right direction.
New Testament Reading:  John 20: 19-31
 

Sunday, March 31, 2013  - Easter Sunday

"Where Is He?"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

 Did you read today’s scripture: John 20:1-18?

Jesus’ tomb is empty!  They looked in and saw the cloths-but no body.  Mary saw Angels, then she saw someone she presumed to be the gardener…when he spoke she recognized Jesus.  The other disciples knew the scripture, but they did not know that what was foretold in the scripture was happening.  They walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus. 

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
"About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before Go
d and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Even his followers didn’t know who he was. They were repeating the gossip.  Jesus reminded them of the scripture; he told them they were foolish.

Jesus suffered for you. The scripture said the Messiah would suffer. If he didn’t rise on Sunday, he would not be the Messiah.  When the tomb was empty, they should have known.  If they didn’t know, even meeting him and talking to him, how do we know him?

We should know Jesus!  Did you receive forgiveness? Have you sinned? Has someone forgiven you? The coach or the teacher who pushed you and you did better…this is Jesus.  He wants the best for us.  With God, you step up and then he asks for more. Jesus is inside of you! Do you think Jesus was ok with dying? He did ask, ‘Why have you forsaken me?” Couldn’t it be someone else? Why do I have to die?   But he still had to do it.  Do you ever grump about what you have to do?  But you do it anyway.  Did Jesus really want to die?  He understood his sacrifice and what his purpose was. 

God gave you a gift, use your time, talent, gifts, and make the sacrifice. Can we do more for God?  Sacrifice for Jesus-take care of your family, help someone else. It comes from God.  Do it for God. Do it for Jesus Christ, for what you are called for? There is something burning in you – what is stopping you?

Your sacrifice brings you closer to God.

Jesus is walking with you and talking with you.  The love you give…God called you.  That is how you know he is alive! He is inside each of us/ The smile, the hug, the sacrifice of time-is the Jesus in you.  God allows you to pay it forward; the offering is increased ten times. Your skills, gifts, grow 10 times.  He is alive! You are Jesus!

In the scripture, walking to Emmaus, their heart was warmed. Jesus was inside of them! Working, living, breaking bread. He took the beating for us. He Hung on the cross for us. The third day – he is alive! He is not there – he is alive!  He is alive with spirit!

New Testament Reading:  Luke 19: 28-40
 

Sunday, March 24, 2013  - Palm Sunday


"The Headliner"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


 

 Everyone had their own understanding and expectations of Jesus-they had heard of the miracles.   Jesus knew of the expectations.  He rode into the City on a colt, and the crowds yelled “Hosanna”.  To them, the meek shall inherit the kingdom meant their lot in life would be changing.  Someone is going to change everything. We can look back with 20/20 hindsight and we know that Jesus is going to die. But the crowds did not know this.  In that moment, they didn’t know, and even those who had not seen the miracles followed along with the crowd.  They didn’t know what was going to happen, but oh, did they have expectations!  The promises from the Psalmists were coming true.

Read: Psalm 118:19-29.

This is what is expected. Success is assured. What does this mean?  They thought it meant they would be Prosperous in money and land;but they didn’t know what Jesus was about to do!  When the Pharisees tried to stop the crowds, Jesus told them, event the stones will cry out.  And still, the people did not know.

Some people have given their life to God. They thought the hard part was coming to the altar to praise and worship Jesus. But the hard part is still coming—it is the sacrifice!  The same people exalting and shouting “Hosanna”.  will soon be shouting, “Crucify him!”, and they will set a thief free.  People are fickle. We raise expectations that are unrealistic.  (Think of any sports team—if they win, we follow and shout, if they loose we won’t even take the free tickets!)

The parade of people waving branches and shouting Hosanna was far out of Jerusalem.  Read Luke 19:41-45.  The people don’t see the opportunity Jesus and God is offering.  They are celebrating, but they do not see the sacrifice.  We have to sacrifice!

We have a wonderful church building—decorations, band, sermons; but it all means nothing if we do not understand that he came to Jerusalem to die for us!  We have an opportunity to be his arms and feet in the community.  We have the vision of the past—but what do we have for the present and the future?  The Christian faith is filled with pride for new Christians.  But, would you say you were Christian if you had to sacrifice? If you had to sacrifice for other believers who you felt were worthy? If you had to sacrifice for those you thought were unworthy? 

We have expectations of all kinds of headliners—when we go to see a band, we expect certain songs. If they don’t sing those songs, didn’t they still practice? Didn’t they still put on a show?  Could you do the exact same thing every day for 365 days?

The crowd wants Jesus to repeat miracles.  BUT he came to save everyone—everywhere. He is going to take the lashes, and carry the cross, and die for you.  Jesus came to save you and to give you the opportunity to live!  This is not the show. Jesus is the light and the truth.  As the music plays, and the kids lead a parade of palm leaves, Jesus will be more than the headliner!!! He will be inside each of us!

New Testament Reading:  Luke 19: 28-40
 

Sunday, March 17, 2013  - Fifth Sunday of Lent

"Moving Forward"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

 

New Testament Reading:  Philippians 3: 4b-14
 

Sunday, March 10, 2013  - Fourth Sunday of Lent

"True Worshippers"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

 

New Testament Reading:  Luke 13: 1-9
 

Sunday, March 3, 2013  - Third Sunday of Lent

"Room to Grow"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Today’s Scripture: Luke 13:1-9 (re-read it!)
Do you have a green thumb? 
   Most plants will do well with some love and care. Usually we are not patient. We have to nurture and take time. We cannot make up for a drought with a flood!
Also read Galatians 5:16-26
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.  
   Jesus is saying that you must repent.  Repent means? Yes, say you are sorry.  Yes, say that you don’t plan to do it again.  And apologize to those whom you have sinned against.  We are sinful, you plan to never do it again; but sin is fun!  It is a trick of the devil. It separates you from God. But you like it so you do it again.  You cannot just say I am sorry, then do the same sin again tomorrow. No, you don’t plan to do it – you must really try not to.
   How does this relate to the fig tree?  If the tree isn’t doing well, we have to give it care.  Someone has to fertilize it. And someone fertilized you—someone threw manure-they told you the truth about yourself!
   You may look in the mirror and say “I am not who I say I am”  You have the fruits of the spirit to make and grow fruit!  What about those who are bare fig trees?  You might be tired of hearing it.  BUT give them manure-the truth will set you free. Once you give it, back off and give them room.  They need support:  you provide light and the Word.  Invite them!  They will bear fruit. You were Jesus and the spirit to them.
   Encourage them. People will be judged on the fruit they bear.
We are encouragers . . . the scripture reminds us it isn’t about who was first or last or worst or best, we were sinners. We can improve and help others to improve.
   Pastor shared a story of an improve group through Star Family Services that he presented with.  They shared a skit with a group of young people in a youth home, awaiting jail.  The story focuses on one bad child. He caused his grandmother’s house to be burned down, his sister to be beat up, and he was stealing money from the family.  The family gets together and because they cannot handle it anymore, they will end his life. They feel it is only a matter of time before he dies; it might as well be them.  The point is he never knew what he was doing to hurt his family. So the next scene is the parent taking the kid around the corner and the sound of gunshot.  One young man who was presented this skit jumped up.  He was crying!  He said, “Why did you have to kill him? He could have changed! I could have changed!”  Everyone was moved.
  Can you change? Can you help someone else change? We are sinners, but we keep repenting!

New Testament Reading:  Luke 13: 1-9
 

Sunday, February 24, 2013  - Second Sunday of Lent

"Stand Firm"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching


"If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything".  
"Those who stand for nothing,  fall for anything".  


You may have heard these quotes before, 
one from Malcolm X, one from Alexander Hamilton.
 
Read Philippians 3:17-4:1. Paul was in jail when he wrote the letter to the church at Philippi to encourage the people.  In verse 17, Paul says to imitate him.  If there is someone you admire, you might try to imitate him.  But you also have to remember the hard work.  Don't just imitate what they have become, imitate the work that is required every day.  If you aspire to be great, there is sacrifice. We should aspire to be like Jesus and bring love, strength, and power to others.
 
Respect people who stand firm on their beliefs.  When a candidate runs for office, then they vote in the same way, even if you don't agree, you have to admire that they stuck to their beliefs.
 
We want to fill the church pews, but if we compromise our values, where are we?  The gospel isn't only five minutes of "God loves you!" It includes trials and tribulations but you will get a through it. God has a plan. 
 
Read Romans 8:28-30
In verse 29, we are told to conform to the image of Jesus.  In Philippians 3:17, we are told to imitate Paul, who imitates Jesus.
 
Remember, You might be the only Jesus someone sees!  If we represent Jesus with kindness and love, others will be encouraged to learn about Jesus. Jesus was persecuted for us, his friends turned on him, he dies for us, he endured the cross, so we may live! Our body is just a body,  the spirit lives on, and is not of this world.  We are striving to be like Jesus, not obtaining perfection, but striving.  Paul said be like me, I was Saul, but I have been changed.
 
Follow God, imitate Paul, stand on the word of God.  You cannot believe 'everything' and still
stand for some thing. 
 
Look up the lyrics to the gospel song "Stand"...it starts out, "What do you do when you've done all you can...."
 
Stand Firm!
 
New Testament Reading:  Philippians 3:17 - 4:1
 

Sunday, February 17, 2013  - First Sunday of Lent

"Fighting Temptation"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

Temptation; tempt: “to entice to do wrong by a promise of pleasure or gain”
  Commercials lead us into temptation!  But did you ever notice that at the end, they often have disclaimers, such as: “We remind you to drink responsibly”? 
Re-read today’s Scripture from Luke 4:1-13, the story of the devil tempting Jesus. 
Jesus is able to quote scripture back to the devil. So let’s look at where he got the lines from. The first is in Verse 4, “Man does not live by bread alone.” 
  Read Deuteronomy 8:3: He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 
What happened when the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years?  Jesus reminds us that he lives by the word of God. The temptations will be there, but he will trust in the Lord.   Another choice will be available to you.  Perhaps a person who is quite hungry and has a family to feed sees something in a car. They have the option to steal to help their family. But instead, they find out about Immanuel, knock on our door, and receive food from our food pantry.  We fed them, and we kept them from temptation.  In Deuteronomy 8:3, we are reminded that God took care of the Israelites. 
 In Verse 8, the devil offers all of the kingdoms of the world.  But Jesus references Deuteronomy 6:13: Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.  God is reminding us: There is only one God, if you do as God says, God can do things for you!  God can make things happen.  Instead of the world telling you—if you vote a certain way, then this will come to you.  This doesn’t mean sometimes we are given advice or even temptations and we don’t consider them—sometimes voting a certain way IS the right thing to do.  But we are not beholden to another.  Decisions need to be made carefully.  Sometimes money can be this way. Do you have a luxury car, a luxury home, the best new toys and technology?  Money can become too powerful, and replace relying on God.  Do you have to do whatever you have to do to make money?  If the job is held over your head, you might make bad choices.    
  Next, the devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and told him that God would protect him.  The devil was referring to Psalm 91:11-12  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  But Jesus refuses and tells the devil that he will not test our God.  He quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16.  Jesus reminds us that God will protect and guard you in your daily life. BUT not if you make poor decisions—such as jumping from the pinnacle!  The devil chose to misquote/turn around what was written. You only test something you do not trust.  If we have faith in God, we don’t have to worry.  
We don’t know what will happen in the future at Immanuel.  And there are facts and there are figures....but God has a plan. We might have an idea and no idea how it will come to fruition, but God will provide!  Someone with the right prayers, the right skills, the right knowledge will help us listen to God’s plan! 
Don’t let faith be misplaced.  God is talking to you.  God tells us when it is time to go—Go! How do we fight temptation today? 
  1. Logic - if it is too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true!  We can’t cut corners. 
  2. Common sense - use your kindness, if you know it is wrong, it is wrong. 
  3. Obedience - God gave us laws, follow them. 
  4. Love - do not sin against the heart.
  Think about how much your words or actions may hurt another person Remember the words from 1 Corinthians 10:13: 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 
  When you fall into temptation, you are weak.  There are always options to do the right thing. Don’t try the short cut., it doesn’t usually work out. 
 You can do it!  Use the word and use our God!
New Testament Reading:  Luke 4: 1-3
              

Sunday, February 10, 2013  - Last Sunday after Epiphany

"Transfiguration"

Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

New Testament Reading:  Luke 9: 26-38
 

Sunday, February 3, 2013  - Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

"Amazing Grace"

  Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

What is grace?  If we look at the dictionary definition it is “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification.”  Unmerited, meaning you didn’t do anything to get it!  God just gives it to you.  There are 3 forms of grace which we have each been blessed with: prevenient grace: the grace you are born with; it is given to you at the moment of conception; anyone who understands biology knows what a miracle it is that any of us are born at alljustifying/accepting grace: this is the grace you receive when you claim Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Just saying the words “I believe” gives you this grace, again you didn’t have to actually do anything. This is the point where you understand that there is something different about yourself, but do you stop sinning? sanctifying grace: the grace of ‘mature’ Christians; we can receive this grace, but did we really stop sinning? Grace is God’s way of showing his love for you and protecting you.  How many times have you said in your life “if it wasn’t for the grace of God I wouldn’t be here?”  You’ve been places you shouldn’t have been, took something you shouldn’t have, drank something you shouldn’t have drunk, been with someone you shouldn’t have been with and yet you made it to this point!  If it was based on your own behavior alone, you wouldn’t even be here but God’s grace is given whether you deserve it or not!  Pastor Rush shared the story of John Newton who wrote the song Amazing Grace. Understanding some of the story behind the song makes the song that much more powerful. John Newton did things in his life that he wasn’t proud of, things he knew were sins, and he never apologized. All of his work couldn’t make up for his history and prior sins, only god’s grace could do that. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”  John Newton knew that he didn’t deserve god’s grace, he was a despicable vile person, but that’s the best part of God’s grace: it is given without question, without restrictions.  Because we all have grace we need to let the past be the past. We need to understand that grace has made you who you are today. You are not the same person you were at age 7, 10, 18, 25, 39, or even last year. God has changed you with his grace. Where you have been and what you have done doesn’t matter, God’s grace has brought you this far, the here and now is what matters.  While God freely gives his grace to us, we tend to not give it to others. We don’t give it to those with a different background than us. We don’t deserve all that we have, but we want to make sure that others deserve what they get. Before we give food to the hungry, we want them to be a part of our church. Before we educate/clothe/warm people we want a guarantee from them. Did God ask you for a guarantee when he saved your life? So how are we to ask that of someone else? Not only God can give grace; we should be giving it to! We should be helping people, loving them, strengthening them. We should be guiding others to the grace of god!  You did nothing to deserve it but God found you, gave you his son, and his grace!  
Lyrics of  “If Not for Your Grace” by Israel Houghton
   Where would I be if not for your grace
   Carrying me through every season
   Where would I be if not for your grace
   Came to rescue me
   And I want to thank You for Your grace 
   it’s the grace that restores
   Grace that redeems
   Grace that releases me to worship
   Grace that repairs visions and dreams
   Grace that releases miracles.
New Testament Reading:  Ephesians 2: 1-10
 

Sunday, January 27, 2013  - Third Sunday after Epiphany

"Exercising the Body of Christ"

  Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

We are the Body of Christ. We must operate as one system.  Our church has many parts- administration, worship, program...all the sub-systems must work together to get all of the tasks done.  And they need to work in harmony.  Sometimes the worship committee asks for something, and finance says no. Even as the head of the church, the Pastor may ask to do something and the worship team says no.  We have had several Pastors, but Pastor Rush has plans to stay with us for  long time!  How do we work together?  What do we need to work on? What do we need to energize us?  Love is the blood for this body.  We do not always agree, but we have to face all decisions with love!  Our two services-traditional and contemporary are both a part of the body and allow us to meet people where they are.  Sometimes, it is all about "me" - I like to worship in a certain way.  But it should be about the church and reaching others, not about what I want.  We could put three people in a room and find out they do not agree on ANYthing!  But we have a need for many parts--praise band, choir, trustees, finance.  We need to work together and to have faith.  When the body works together we can do anything.  Any one of us has skills and can say  "I can pray, I can give, I can...." Are you doing everything you can so that Immanuel can do what it is called to do?  We are here to save souls for Christ. We have to love ourselves and we have to love visitors and make them feel welcome.  As a body, we need to work together.  If someone is having an "off" day, but the person felt loved--they will come back.  So if the Pastor is crazy, the music is too loud, or too slow, but the visitor was greeted warmly and loved and welcomed, the visitor will come back.  Please use your skills--balance the budget, nag the Pastor for web content, make cherry pies--use your talents!  Exercise the body!  Be strong. When our church has 300 people, the sanctuary is beautiful,  and the bills are paid, we will still welcome the new person!  We will help those who come to our doors--we can help them with food, hugs. etc.  We are Jesus's hands in the world. We are one body with one goal - to bring the love of Jesus to others!  Exercise the body!
New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 12: 12-31
 

Sunday, January 20, 2013  - Second Sunday after Epiphany

"Still Dreaming"

  Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

 The Bible Verse today focused on the story of Joseph and his dreams.  Although we read Genesis 37:5-8  &  45:3-6  today, Pastor encouraged us to read the entire story in 
Genesis 37-45.  Joseph was a dreamer; he saw things in his dreams.  He told his brothers that he saw them bowing to him.  He was the youngest son and his older brothers were often jealous of him.  The brothers sold Joseph into slavery.  In Egypt, he still had dreams and was able to interpret other people’s dreams.  He was tempted to have everything given to him if he would indulge in adultery, and even though he said no, he was unjustly accused and thrown into prison.  In prison, he interpreted a dream for a baker.  When the Pharaoh had a dream that could not be interpreted, the Baker mentioned Joseph to the Pharaoh.  Suddenly Joseph was again in a position of favor, and he helped the people of Egypt to survive a drought.  His brothers came to Egypt to seek relief from the drought and were surprised to encounter Joseph.  His dream did end up coming true-the brothers had to bow to him!  The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.  Things are different today, right?  Do we have places where you can be stopped based on what you look like?  Today, it might be more about economics.  The line between the haves and the have-nots is often brought to light.  For example, you need a computer for school work.  You cannot afford the internet, or high-speed internet, or maybe even the computer. Ok, so go to the library….really?  The library has cut their hours.  Do you have the ability to do the work your cohorts can?  In June of 1963, the main parts of the “I have a Dream” speech were delivered in Detroit!  Men like Mayor of Detroit, Matt Cavanaugh and United Auto Workers President, Walter P. Reuther led the march to Cobo Hall. Cobo could hold 13,000 people, yet 25,000 squeezed in to hear the speakers, and another 125,000 were on the streets listening on loudspeakers.  The text was quite similar.  What happens when you give up your dream?  No matter what that dream is… what happens to a dream deferred? 
Pastor shared with us the poem by Langston Hughes:
        Harlem
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun? 
Or fester like a sore—And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat? 
Or crust and sugar over— 
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
—Langston Hughes (1902-1967) 
Picture it:  It’s hot, August 1963. You have marched and stood outside all day to hear many speakers. Dr. King is going to speak.  Encouraged by Mahala Jackson, the American Gospel singer to share his dream, Dr. King spoke to the crowd.  Some of the pieces of the “I have a Dream” speech as we know it today were extemporaneous, a reaction to the setting and the enthusiasm of the crowd.  Pastor Rush shared the speech in its entirety.
Old Testament Reading:  Genesis 37: 5-8  &  45: 3
 

Sunday, January 13, 2013  - First Sunday after Epiphany

"Humbly Laying Hands"

  Lay Speaker Alex Plum Preaching

New Testament Reading:  Acts 8: 14-17
 

Sunday, January 6, 2013  -  Epiphany

"Worship?"

  Pastor Albert Rush Preaching

   The title of today's sermon was: Worship?  If I go to church - is that worship?  
What is the difference between worship and church?  According to the hymn, "I am the Church", the church is not a building it is the people.  When you come to church you come to meet people.  You come to worship, but you could worship anywhere.  In the scripture today, the kings traveled two years to meet Jesus. They came to worship a king. Imagine them meeting a 2 year old--picture the active toddler they encountered!  They came because they knew he was the king. They came to worship.  
  Pastor shared that when he was younger he spent a lot of time at church. On Sundays for service and Bible study - but it was really a chance to hang with his friends.  Then other days for Boy Scouts and Choir - again about making connections with the people at church.  He found God in the people - people who were there to comfort in times of challenge, and people there to celebrate in times of joys.   On Sunday morning, we worship Jesus!  When Pastor first came, he heard a lot of "we don't like" the other service.  But we are caught up in what we want.  Pastor has been in churches where to have any music is a blessing, and here we have a choir and a band!  What a blessing!  We are one church with two worship services. How do we use these as a place to come together? With everyone's help we will have the best traditional service at 9 a.m. - with instruments and special music and bells, and we will have the best modern service with additional voices and special music.  Wherever you are - we can meet you so you can continue your relationship with God!  We only have a short amount of time. Sunday worship is the pre-game pep talk.  You have to live with your relationship with God.  Read scripture, pray, give service.  
   And on Sunday, come and worship God, and celebrate his presence with us. There are many ways to worship God. We come to give love and to appreciate what God has done. You can get inspiration by reading scripture, praying, giving on your own, even watching televised messages.  But when you come to church - people will love you, will pray for your baby, will tie a knot on a prayer quilt, will send you a card.  They will show you that you are not alone.  You are coming together to worship and be in relationship with one God.  Just being around other believers will strengthen you. Let's not get caught up in the "how" we worship - but remember the message. If Pastor does a prat-fall as part of the message and all you remember is that, not what he spoke about, he has failed.  You need to focus on the message.  Pastor gives us a snippet, read the whole chapter the Bible verse came from (Hebrews 10 and Matthew 2). Develop your own relationship with God.  God will encourage you.  Jesus was born to die for us - what can you do for God? Concentrate on the worship and your relationship with God.  We will have the best church because we are all sharing our gifts in worshiping the one true God!  
After today it is Worship! Not worship with a question mark!  
New Testament Reading:  Matthew 2: 1-12
 

 

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