Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.
The Church in Central New York founded and consistently fostered by the GLBTQIS community. October 31, 2018 was the 35th Anniversary in our 36th year in Ministry.
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Sermon for October 17, 1999
Pentecost 19 A

The following are the Scripture readings as scheduled in the "Revised Common Lectionary," an ecumenical schedule of readings of Holy Scripture. Our sermons are based on these readings.

Exodus 33:12-23
Pentecost 19 10/17/99 (Year A)

Moses said to the LORD, "See, you have said to me, 'Bring up this people'; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.' Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people."

He said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." And he said to him, "If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth." The LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name." Moses said, "Show me your glory, I pray." And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, 'The LORD'; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But," he said, "you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live." And the LORD continued, "See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen."

This is the Word Of The Lord!
Thanks be to God!

Pentecost 19

Psalm 99

1 The LORD rules as king. Let the people tremble. He is enthroned over the angels.£ Let the earth quake. 2 The LORD is mighty in Zion. He is high above all people. 3 Let them give thanks to your great and fearful name. He is holy! 4 The kingís strength is that he loves justice. You have established fairness. You have done what is fair and right for Jacob. 5 Highly honor the LORD our God. Bow down at his footstool. He is holy! 6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests. Samuel was among those who prayed to him. They called to the LORD, and he answered them. 7 He spoke to them from a column of smoke. They obeyed his written instructions and the laws that he gave them. 8 O LORD, our God, you answered them. You showed them that you are a forgiving God and that you are a God who punishes their ŽsinfulŻ deeds. 9 Highly honor the LORD our God. Bow at his holy mountain. The LORD our God is holy!

Pentecost 19 (Year A)

1 Thes. 1:1-10

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

This is the Word Of The Lord!
Thanks be to God!

Matt. 22:15-22
Pentecost 19 (Year A)

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."

When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

The Gospel Of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.

Brother Benedict, Sermon 193

Pentecost 19A, October 17, 1999

Exodus 33:12-23
Psalm 99
1 Thes. 1:1-10
Matt. 22:15-22

Jesus instructs us to give to God what belongs to God in todayís Gospel (Matt. 22:21). I hope that is thought provoking for you. What is it that belongs to God? Jesus says all things have been given to Him and for His pleasure were all things created. We are "in Christ" and "co-heirs" of the eternal blessings. How can we not see that all reality, all of creation belongs to Christ?

The deception we are taught in society says this is "mine" and that is "yours" and this is "ours", etc. In fact, all things belong to God and to God alone. Satan is on a world-wide campaign of deception convincing millions of souls that Satan will rule this world forever. Satan is the motivation behind our self-centered lives. Satan teaches his own values which are summarized in the glorification of the self above the place of God in our lives. Satan teaches that all of our desires, all our lusts, all our needs can be fulfilled in this world by the inventions of mankind and the comforts that we are inventing for our earthly lives. Satan teaches salvation is through money, self-fulfillment and the acquiring of possessions. Can a person survive in our society without money, without paying for all the goods and services we have? No, indeed honest trade is based in the Christian principles of loving your neighbor as your self, or being willing to help a neighbor even to the point of losing oneís life for their friend. There is no command from Jesus that says we should not participate in honest commerce. No, in fact the Christian Testament says the worker is worth their wage.

If we expect our streets to be plowed, our street lights to turn on, our water to be purified, our sewage to be treated, our garbage to be collected, then, we should be willing to make an honest trade with those persons who are willing to provide those services. We expect the phone to ring when we dial it. We expect Fire Department to respond to our plea. We expect the natural gas to be at our house when we turn on the furnace.

Imagine if we were each responsible to collect and purify our own water. Imagine if we were each expected to produce the electricity we need every day. Imagine if we had to plant, care for, and harvest our own food. Imagine if we had to make our own furniture, our own homes, our own means of transportation, our own clothing, etc. No, we know we do not have to do these things ourselves because those who have a special interest in all the areas of service we depend on for our daily living are willing to do those tasks if we are willing to trade skills and supplies of equal value with them so they can make their financial living. So if we expect the United States Armed Forces to protect us, then we should gladly give the government all the financial support they need to provide us with that service. If we expect the city to plow out streets, come to our aid when emergency strikes us, etc., they we should be willing to financially support those workers so they can give of their talents and realize they will have the supplies and skills they need for raising a family. These are some examples of what Jesus said when telling his listeners to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Jesus was not against fair trade for supplies and services. However, He clearly expresses that His Kingdom is not of this world. Therefore Jesus instructs the listeners to give to the world what belongs to the world, but Give to God what belongs to God.

However, in our society we are teaching our youth that all their needs will be solved with an education degree, a job, a life-partner, good sex and good parties, good times. In fact, we learn rather quickly in our lives that nothing the world has to offer has everlasting value. We learn quickly that all things in our lives are passing. Does this mean we are unimportant and insignificant? No, but it does mean that we too belong to God.

Whatever resources we have in our life, whatever skills and talents we may develop, these are to be given to God for Godís use and Godís purpose. Even the desire to study, practice or rehearse a gift or talent is a gift from God. God gives us all we need to become the people that God sees we are called to be. Who better can direct our growth towards Godís goals for us than God? This sounds entirely too simple, too elementary, and watered down. You may be sitting there wondering where is the heavy theology; letís get past the elementary introductory materials and on to something important in this sermon. Have you considered the magnitude of Jesusí statement to give to God what belongs to God?

Listen! Psalm 24 says the Earth is the Lordís and so too everything that is on the planet belongs to God. We may use it, we may manipulate the resources of the planet, but the planet and those resources are never "ours". Paul reminds us we do not even belong to ourselves. Paul says; "You are not your own. You were bought with a price." Believers belong to God and are on an eternal journey to oneness in Godís eternal realm. Give to God what belongs to God. Begin by giving yourself to God with all your heart, soul and mind.

We begin this eternal journey by making our declaration of faith in Christ Jesus. By declaring our belief in God and our knowing the fact that Jesus is the Christ, we are given our "wedding garment" as the parable that Larry preached on last week spoke about. We are "saved," but then what?

Being "saved" isnít just a requirement to be checked off on a list of requirements for living, and then move on to the next requirement. Once a person has found belief and made a solemn profession of that belief in the Christ of God, then they are "saved" but this is only the very beginning of the eternal transformation. What we need to give God is much more than a statement of faith. We must have a total transformation of our desires, and our goals since before coming to Christ we were totally self-centered.

This inner transformation begins when we realize Christ desires to make His residence in our hearts so that we may live in a real and measurable relationship with Him. This relationship is knowable and can have a measurable effect on our lives. We need this living relationship of the real presence of Christ for our lives to be complete and for our living to have any real meaning.

Christ has given us the tremendous gift of the Church on Earth to provide us with a fellowship, a community, a family, a circle of friends to journey with as we live in Him. Our society has reduced the value of the Church to just another organization among so many from which we as consumers may choose to spend our time and money.

We live in a consumer centered society. It is truly an exciting time to be alive. Surely, society is becoming more technologically advanced every day. It is amazing to think what is happening with satellite technology, computers, the Internet, music industry, television, and so on. Every field of earthly service designed to make our lives more comfortable is advancing at amazing speed. What concerns us is this advancement is being portrayed as completely of human origins. We are told that all this advancement is the result of gifted men and women who creatively think and invent technologies for our pleasure. The entire advertising industry is designed to appeal to our learned and acquired need to be "personally" satisfied. Think of how many companies guarantee us their products and services will give us endless personal satisfaction. We have slowly, but very definitely turned the attention away from all things for the glory of God. We have slowly and surely turned the attention to all things for the glory of humanity. God and spirituality has been relegated to a place of being unnecessary and even a frivolous commodity or just a compliment to our real lives. Do we give to God what belongs to God on this the horizon of the 21st Century?

Along with all the other great advances we have made in our society, have we made equal advancement in faith? Have we equally advanced in doing the works of Christ and in fact doing the greater works? Has our spirituality advanced and improved at the rate of any modern industry, taking as one example the publishing industry. Where, for example, manuscripts were copied by hand in the day of Christ and today every person can publish from their desk top computer in paper format or even publish electronically through the Internet. Has the Church progressed at the same speed as the publishing industry in the same amount of time, working with the same people and circumstances faced by the printing industry? There has definitely been increase in the work of Christ over the last 1900 years, no doubt. Christ has supported the vision of the Church on Earth in spite of humanity placing just about every conceivable road block in the path of Christ and His People so as to discourage the Church from trying to do the same works as Christ and even the greater works. However, we must be honest and say we have not kept pace in our faith, our maturity in Christianity with just about any secular industry, entertainment, or science. How has this happened that we have progressed further in the things that belong to "the emperor" than the things that belong to Christ?

There have been many persons who have come into the Church over the last 1900 years with their own agendas, and they left the Church weakened rather than strengthened. The Church has been misled by such people down some very unfortunate and even very sinful paths. Leaders who had not given themselves totally to Christ were unable to lead the Church to be able to give to God what belongs to God. Through these times the Holy Spirit has called pockets of believers in the Body Of Christ to reform and renew the Church all through these 1900 years.

If you reform something, you re-make it, you re-new it, you form it again with the intention of correcting some mistakes, and incorporating a more mature wisdom than previously understood. Reform in the Body Of Christ, the Church should be welcomed and celebrated. Often, reform has been met with resistance and even persecution. The testimony of Christianity has shown the reformers are given a tremendous grace from Christ to live out their faith commitment to God in spite of the whirlwinds and storms their testimony may be causing around them from those less willing to give to God what belongs to God.

Ray Of Hope Church is a reform within the universal Body Of Christ. We have been called to this time and this place by Christ Himself to be part of this reform. What is the reform we have been asked to endorse in the Church? It is clearly spelled out in our Statement Of Purpose in detail. We can get a partial glimpse of it by saying we are called to take absolutely seriously the Great Commission given by Christ is Matthew 28 to go forth and baptize or totally saturate all people, all nations, all kinds of people into or to make all people one with God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and to teach all people to obey all that Jesus has taught and to teach all people that Jesus is faithful to His promise to be with us always and everywhere even to the end of the age. Frank Ward our Moderator has made a great statement of wisdom when he said this makes us "pre-denominational." Yes, that is correct. The reform we have been assigned with is to call all people anew to the pre-denominational vision of the Church, the Body Of Christ, the Bride Of Christ that Jesus has for us.

We should feel so humbled, so honored to be part of this great reform. This should be the greatest mission any of us have ever been on in our entire lives. God has answered our prayers for a purpose in life, for a call to serve God. We have our call, our mission, our purpose. How well are we responding?

Give to God what belongs to God and give to the world what belongs to the world. We are using our financial resources to daily improve our surroundings in the world. We vote to raise taxes so budgets may be increased. We give to many appeals for money to increase research into medicines or to relieve the conditions of poverty. We constantly update our appliances, our clothes, our entertainment, our computers, televisions, our housing. When we are all done with taking care of our needs we drop the left over money, if there is any, into Godís collection and offering basket and we say, hereís what is left after me and my needs are taken care of. Now that I have used my money to take care of my personal comforts God, you can have what is left. Oh, sorry it isnít more, but after all you are God and you can make money increase itself just like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, right?

We expect high quality services from Ray Of Hope Church. Most people expect the services of a church that has a thirty to forty thousand dollar budget. We expect twenty four hour a day access to a pastor to comfort us in all our needs and to celebrate all our joys. We expect printed media for all meetings, all statements and policies, a colorful weekly program bulletin, membership packets, etc. We expect top quality worship services, excellent music and excellent sound system engineering. We expect excellence in the training of future ministers. We expect our newly formed Leadership Teams to have twenty-four hour assistance and tutoring available to them. We expect the executive members of the Council to be meeting and getting the Bylaws, the PMVM, the Minutes Index, the Policy Manual, and other assignments re-written, revised, composed and printed and provided free of charge to any and everyone. We walk into the worship space and expect there is heat, lights, running hot and cold water, rest rooms that are clean, floors mopped and rugs vacuumed. Further we expect to walk in and find the worship space beautifully set up and our personal seat waiting with books neatly stacked at our place. When worship is over we expect to be able to say amen, thank you, good bye, see you next time; without even being expected to help clean up the worship space, re-pack the van for shared items, return furnishings of the place we worshipped in to their normal positions, and cleaning the space. We expect someone to check the bathrooms after we have used them and clean them up. This list could go on and on. While we have all these expectations, it seems that many of us feel very little obligation to financially provide a fair wage, a fair trade for the services we are receiving. Jesus tells us to give to God what is Godís.

We are telling God, sorry, you can only have my left overs to work with. When I am done with my needs you can tell me your needs for the church. We at Ray Of Hope Church are stifling Godís work and Godís reform because we are being very self-centered with our finances, with our resources, with our talents, with our time. If you are feeling offended by this statement it is a sure indication that I am talking about you! Those who have a free conscience right now have no reason to feel offended. It would be to your advantage to keep your expressions of being offended and insulted to your selves.

This weekend we begin concrete development plans for our budget for the year 2,000. This congregation has total control over its investment into the mission of Jesus Christ. This congregation has total control over what resources it provides the Holy Spirit to work with in a world that needs money for fair trade. This congregation has total control over how many people work for how many hours behind the scenes in behalf of all of us by how much financial resources we are willing to commit for fair trade and fair wage. This congregation has total control over the beauty and location of the places we meet for worship based on the resources we budget for that purpose. This congregation has total control over how much media evangalization we do in terms of advertisement in phone books, news papers, magazines, radio and television. It is all based on what decisions are made in terms of how much of our resources are we willing to give God to work with. There is more to be said about this and I will over the next few weeks. However, as each Leadership Team begins discussing the budget for the year 2,000 we must honestly ask ourselves how we measure up this very day to the command, not suggestion, but the sacred command of Christ to give to the world what belongs to the world, but give to God what belongs to God.

May almighty God bless you, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

TOTUS TUUS! Totally Yours, Lord Jesus Christ.

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