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This week's sermons for Pentecost 3 and Father's Day:

               Luke 8:26-39  -  It Doesn't Have To Be This Way
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The noted author, John Killinger, tells a powerful story about a man who is all-alone in a hotel room in Canada. The man is in a state of deep depression. He is so depressed that he can’t even bring himself to go downstairs to the restaurant to eat.

He is a powerful man usually the chairman of a large shipping company but at this moment, he is absolutely overwhelmed by the pressures and demands of life… and he lies there on a lonely hotel bed far from home wallowing in self-pity.

All of his life, he has been fastidious, worrying about everything, anxious and fretful, always fussing and stewing over every detail. And now, at mid-life, his anxiety has gotten the best of him, even to the extent that it is difficult for him to sleep and to eat.

He worries and broods and agonizes about everything, his business, his investments, his decisions, his family, his health, even, his dogs. Then, on this day in this Canadian hotel, he craters. He hits bottom. Filled with anxiety, completely immobilized, paralyzed by his emotional despair, unable to leave his room, lying on his bed, he moans out loud: “Life isn’t worth living this way, I wish I were dead!”

And then, he wonders, what God would think if he heard him talking this way. Speaking aloud again he says, “God, it’s a joke, isn’t it? Life is nothing but a joke.” Suddenly, it occurs to the man that this is the first time he’s talked to God since he was a little boy. He is silent for a moment and then he begins to pray. He describes it like this: “I just talked out loud about what a mess my life was in and how tired I was and how much I wanted things to be different in my life. And you know what happened next? A voice!! I heard a voice say, ‘It doesn’t have to be that way!’ That’s all.”

He went home and talked to his wife about what happened. He talked to his brother who is a minister and asked him: “Do you think it was God speaking to me?” The brother said: “Of course, because that is the message of God to you and everyone of us. That’s the message of the Bible. That’s why Jesus Christ came into the world to save us, to deliver us, to free us, to change us and to show us that ‘It doesn’t have to be that way.’ A few days later, the man called his brother and said, “You were right. It has really happened. I’ve done it. I’ve had a rebirth. I’m a new man. Christ has turned it around for me.”

Well, the man is still prone to anxiety. He still has to work hard. But, now he has a source of strength. During the week, he often leaves his work-desk and goes to the church near his office. He sits there and prays. He says: “It clears my head. It reminds me of who I am and whose I am. Each time as I sit there in the Sanctuary, I think back to that day in that hotel room in Canada and how depressed and lonely and lost I felt and I hear that voice saying: It doesn’t have to be that way.’”

That is precisely what this story in Mark 5 is all about. Christ walks into the tormented life of the Gerasene demoniac, this madman, whose life is coming apart at the seams and He turns it around for him. He gives him a new beginning, a new start, a new birth. At the beginning of the narrative, it sounds like a horror-story. This wild-eyed, adrenalin-filled, madman comes running and shrieking out of the tomb. He is so unbalanced! He is convinced that he is being held captive by a whole legion of demons, who are pulling and jerking him in every direction.


This is an eerie, grim, suspenseful, frightening situation. Jesus and His disciples have just come through a storm on the Sea of Galilee. It is nighttime and having survived that frightening storm they are thrilled to now set foot on solid ground. But, as they get out of the boat, they encounter a different kind of storm… yet another scary experience. They hear strange sounds coming from the tombs… shrieks, growls, screams, moans, the rattling of chains. Then, suddenly, a horrifying sight. A madman with tattered clothes, bruised, dirty, bloody and battered with pieces of chains dangling from his arms and ankles, comes running and screaming directly toward them!

Now, let me ask you something: “What would you have done in that situation?” This was a perilous place, a bloodcurdling moment… a powerful, dangerous, berserk man, charging them. I think I would have run for my life... or jumped back in the boat.

But not Jesus! Jesus stood His ground and faced the madman. Undaunted, unafraid... Jesus stood there and dealt with this wild man. Jesus healed him. He brought peace to his troubled soul. He changed him. He cleansed him. He turned his life around… and you know (don’t you?) that He can do that for you.

Now, let me underscore this and spell it out a bit more by lifting three ideas out of this great story in Mark 5.


1. First of All...You Don't Have To Be At War With Yourself.
2. Second, You Don't Have To Be At War With Other People.
3. Third and Finally, You Don't Have To Be At War With God.

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Matthew 7:9-11 - The Role of The Father

Some years back Bill Cosby wrote a book simply entitled FATHERHOOD. If you ever get a chance to read it I suggest you do. It is thoroughly humorous. You will also learn a few things along the way. I would like to share with you two observations that Cosby makes about Fathers. He writes:


Now that my father is a grandfather, he just can’t wait to give money to my kids. But when I was his kid and I asked him for fifty cents, he would tell me the story of his life. How he got up at 4 A.M. when he was seven years old and walked twenty-three miles to milk ninety cows. And the farmer for whom he worked had no bucket, so he had to squirt the milk into his little hand and then walk eight miles to the nearest can. All for 5 cents a month. The result was that I never got my 5O cents.


But now he tells my children every time he comes into the house: Well, lets see how much money old Granddad has got for his wonderful kids.” And the minute they take money out of his hands I call them over to me and I snatch it away from them. Because that is MY money.


The other story that Cosby tells that I like is the difference between Mother’s Day and Fathers Day. He insists that Mother's Day is a much bigger deal because Mothers are more organized. Mothers say to their children: Now here is a list of what I want. Go get the money from your father and you surprise me on Mothers Day. You do that for me.


For Father’s Day I give each of my five kids $20 so that they can go out and by me a present--a total of $100. They go to the store and buy two packages of underwear, each of which costs $5 and contains three shorts. They tear them open and each kid wraps up one pair, the sixth pair of underwear going to the Salvation Army. Therefore, on Father’s Day I am walking around with new underwear and my kid’s are walking around with $90 worth of my change in their pockets.


Well, of course, Father’s Day is technically not a religious holiday, it is a secular day. But, it is not, for that reason, less appropriate for us to recognize it. We also don’t simply want to give equal billing to fathers this morning because we gave homage to mothers a month ago. We want to recognize dads for another very important reason. The message that is going out to so much of society today is that fathers are simply not needed. While the number may numerically be small, there are some women who actually chose to be single parent mothers. But there are far too many men in America today who father children that they have no intention of raising. The church, therefore, needs to send out the message loud and clear that fathers play a critical role in the life of the family. Father’s will have a powerful impact upon their families if they connect in three crucial areas.


1. First, the role of the father is to connect with his God

2. Second, the role of a father is to connect with his family

3. Third, the role of the father is to connect with his church

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....


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