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Celebrating 180 Years Of Worship, November 19, 2023

Genesis 1:26-31. So tell me, “What are you thankful to GOD for in your life?”

          Please raise you hand and say it loud.

                    WE ALL HAVE SO MUCH FOR WHICH TO BE THANKFUL FOR!!

          I have so much to be thankful for.  Today, I’m so very thankful for those hardy Germans who joined together and built a log church in 1843.  I’m so very thankful to have the humbling honor of being the pastor of Harmonie Church for the last 5 years.  We wanted to have some of the pastors come and share some stories, but all of the previous pastors are cheering us on as part of the Great Cloud of Witnesses in heaven.

          Some call those memorial markers in the cemetery “tomb stones,” but a wise woman shared with me that those stones are marking the beginning of folks’ life in heaven, for eternity.  Now I call them “heaven markers.”

          We are standing, and sitting on Holy Ground.  I’m not going to give an historic overview.  In just a little while Gene Cornell is going to offer an Historical Oration.  There is also a brief history on our website.  I’m so very thankful for this church!!

                    GOD has so bountifully blessed my family and me.  In October Hope, my wife, and I were able to travel by car to California for our son Jacob’s marriage to the love of his live Sarah Cox.  It was so wonderful.  And our daughter Sarah Kraus got to travel with Hope and me, before and after the wedding.  6000 miles in 21 days.  I thought about this day, this celebration as we drove through GOD’S beautiful creation.  We are so very blessed.  Thank you, church; Thank YOU, GOD!!

          But I have a problem that I’ve never confessed in front of a congregation in my 26 years of minister.  And now I’m going to do it.  My friends, I confess that I have contracted a case of the DIY syndrome, DO IT YOURSELF Syndrome.  I try to do way too much by myself; and I try DO IT MYSELF.  I try to do it myself, without praying to GOD first, with our asking GOD’S guidance. 

          And I know that many of you suffer from the same malady, you try to DO IT YOURSELF.

          So many people have caught the contagious DIY syndrome.  They try to do it themselves and make a mess of their lives.  GOD is there for us to lean on, provide for us and give us guidance.

          So soon we forget that GOD is the Great Provider.

                    That’s why we I picked this scripture from Genesis chapter one verse 26 and following, but this time I’m going to share the Message translation.  After GOD had created almost every thing in the universe in the first 5 days of creation, we come to day six.

                    “God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself,

              and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

          God created human beings; he created them godlike,

          Reflecting God’s nature.  He created them male and female.

          God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce!  Fill Earth!  Take charge!

          Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

          Then God said, “I’ve given you every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth And every kind of fruit-bearing tree, given them to you for food.  To all animals and all birds, everything that moves and breathes, I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.”

              And there it was.

          Genesis chapter 1 verse 31 God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!

          It was evening, it was morning—Day Six.”  This is the Word of the Lord, Thanks be to GOD.

                    GOD said His Creation was very good.  And so, everything on earth is sacred.  We are standing and sitting on Holy Ground.

                    GOD’S given us every thing we need to live in this wonderful creation.  But we try to do it ourselves.  That’s why GOD sent Jesus. 

                    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

                    Jesus tells us in John 14 that he is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life.”  On page 901 in your pew Bibles you can follow along for these desperately important words from Jesus in John 15 verse 1 and following, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” 

          Friends, that word translated as “prunes,” can also be translated as “cleans.”  So now hear verse 3, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

                    My friends, we can do nothing righteous without staying connected to Jesus.  The Universal Church is the vine of Jesus. 

          THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE GREAT HOPE OF THE WORLD!!

          Billy Graham said in a devotional, Wisdom For Each Day, on November 17, “Once we come to Christ we are no longer just individuals.  We are now members of his family—what the Bible here calls, ‘the church, his body’.  We are now part of that vast group of people throughout the ages who have trusted Christ and are our brothers and sisters in His family.” 

          “Although we’ll never meet most of them this side of eternity, we’re still united spiritually with them.  This transcends any local church or denomination; it includes all who truly belong to Christ.”  End quote.  After the devotion Ephesians 5:23, “Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the savior.”

          My friends, The Church of Jesus Christ, The Church Universal is the GREAT HOPE OF THE WORLD!!

          When people ask me how I’m doing, I usually say, “I’m bountifully blessed and wonderfully challenged.”  It’s always true.

          We all have so much for which to be thankful and we are all challenged, and we all suffer; but in Christ Jesus we can still have hope.

          On page 942 of your pew Bibles please hear Romans 5 verse 1 and following, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

          2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

          Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  He suffered, laid in the tomb and rose again to give us new life through the forgiveness of our sins.  Jesus gives us the opportunity to receive HOPE and be BORN AGAIN!!  That’s why THE CHURCH is so very important

          Harmonie Church is being BORN AGAIN!!  But it’s not going to happen overnight.  We need your help.

          Please hear this devotion from Henri Nouwen:

          “Passages to New Life”

          “One of the most radical demands for you and me is the discovery of our lives as a series of movements or passages.  When we are born, we leave our mothers’ womb for the larger, brighter world of the family.  It changes everything, and there is no going back.  When we go to school, we leave our homes and families and move to a larger community of people where our lives are forever larger and more expansive.  Later when our children are grown and they ask us for more space and freedom than we can offer, our lives may seem less meaningful.  It all keeps changing. When we grow older, we retire or lose our jobs, and everything shifts again.  It seems as though we are always passing from one phase to the next, gaining and losing someone, some place, something.

          You live all these passages in an environment where you are constantly tempted to be destroyed by resentment, by anger, and by a feeling of being put down.  The losses remind you constantly that all isn’t perfect and it doesn’t always happen for you the way you expected; that perhaps you had hoped events would not have been so painful, but they were; or that you expected something from certain relationships that never materialized.  You find yourself disillusioned with the irrevocable personal losses: your health, your lover, your job, your hope, your dream.  Your whole life is filled with losses, endless losses.  And every time there are losses there are choices to be made.  You choose to live your losses as passages to anger, blame, hatred, depression, and resentment, or you choose to let these losses be passages to something new, something wider, and deeper.  The question is not how to avoid loss and make it not happen, but how to choose it as a passage, as an exodus to greater life and freedom.”  Henri J. M. Nouwen

          In Isaiah 43:19 GOD said, “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

          On Feb. 10, 1990 the church that was standing in this exact same foot print as the church we’re sitting was burned to the ground by an arsonist.  Those folks in the community got together and rebuilt this building you are now sitting in.

          COME DREAM WITH US!!  GOD is doing a new thing at Harmonie Church; we are making a comeback after the COVID virus.  We’ve got a new sign; the shrub club has landscaped the side of the church.  We got new goals for 2024.  But we need you.  Please turn to the back page of your bulletin, where it says “Committing to Jesus Christ: Our Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service, and Witness.”  When we do that we are growing disciples of Jesus Christ.  Please join us as we grow in our depth of faith and number of disciples of Jesus Christ.

          I’ve invested in Harmonie Church, in January of 2024 I’m taking a 1/3 of my salary pay cut until we get our offerings to increase.

          Please find your insert: PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

          From The Book of Common Prayer.

                    Let us pray together: “Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that You have done for us.

          We thank You for the splendor of the whole creation, For the beauty of this world,

          For the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

          We thank You for the blessing of family and friends,

          And for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

          We thank You for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, And for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

          We thank You also for those disappointments and failures

          That lead us to acknowledge our dependence on You alone.

          Above all, we thank You for your Son Jesus Christ;

          For the truth of His Word and the example of His life;

          For His steadfast obedience, by which He overcame temptation;

          for His dying, through which He overcame death;

          and for His rising to life again,

          in which we are raised to the life of Your kingdom. 

          Grant us the gift of Your Spriit,

          That we may know Christ and make Him known;

          And through Him, at all times and in all places,

          May give thanks to You in all things. AMEN

                    Please rise as you are able and let us sing our closing hymn, “We Are Called To Be GOD’S People” verse 2.  It’s printed in your bulletin.

         

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