Sermon, September 15, 2019

WHEN LIFE KNOCKS YOU DOWN

Ezekiel 2:1-7

      Once in a great while, some event comes along that completely knocks us

down. We find ourselves overwhelmed by some tragedy that blots out the future.

The wind is knocked out of us, the strength is gone from our legs, and hope is

absent from our hearts. Once in a great while, we find ourselves enervated,

immobilized, and unable even to try.

      In our text this morning, we find Ezekiel prostrate on the ground, so

overwhelmed by events that he can’t even stand. Like Job and Jonah and so

 many others, he has reached the point where he can’t go on. It is just at that

moment that the voice of God comes to him and says, “Stand up on your feet, I

have something to say to you.” With real surprise, Ezekiel tells us, “And when he  

spoke to me, a spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speak to

me.”

      Apparently, you can’t hear God on your belly. You must be standing up

before he will speak to you. But how can you stand when your legs won’t hold

you? Herein lies the central mystery of our faith. It is Ezekiel who must stand, but

he stands by a power not his own. James Stewart, the great Scots preacher, says

there is a sense in which the whole mission of Jesus was just this, to help

ordinary men and women like ourselves to stand on our own feet.

      The only way I know to talk about this is to relate some of the times I have

seen it happen. Let me tell you some of my favorite stories.

      “Stand up on your feet, and I will speak to you.” This is an important word

when there has been a sudden death. I think of a Rock Hill friend named Peggy.

Peggy was in her sixties when her husband died of a massive heart attack. She

was bereft. She closed her door and stopped going out, refusing invitations from

her friends. I would remind her that sometimes just putting one foot in front of

the other is a great victory. Each step put her one step closer to the future God

had planned. She began to socialize again and regained her balance. A couple of

years later, Peggy called and wanted to see me. She came in with this large,

smiling gentleman with a weathered face and a full beard. He was a retired

tugboat captain. Giggling like a couple of school children, they asked me to marry

them which I did. They owned a large RV and traveled the country, but every time

they were in town, Peggy and the Captain would stop by to see me. Peggy told

me, “I never thought I would smile again, much less be happy and laugh.” “Stand

up on your feet, and I will speak to you.”

      “Stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” Several years ago, a

colleague of mine encountered serious heart trouble and couldn’t seem to pull

out of it. He had been in intensive care for several weeks, had become depressed

and believed he was going to die. When I went to visit him, I decided going in that

I would challenge him. I found him propped up in the bed with a full-face oxygen

mask on so he couldn’t talk. I spoke to him quietly of his friends and their concern

for him. I then said, “It’s time to get well. We are going to pray for healing.” He

turned away, shook his head “no,” and tried to pull his hand out of mine. I

persisted and said, “Yes we are. God isn’t finished with you yet.” I offered a long

prayer asking for strength, courage, and healing. A couple of weeks later, he got

out of the hospital. A couple of months later, I got a very nice note from him. At

the end of the note, there was a PS. “Thank you for your prayer. It was the

beginning. ” “Stand up on your feet, and I will speak to you.”

      “Stand up on your feet, and I will speak to you.” Some years ago, I went to

an open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous with a friend of mine who was going to

speak at the meeting. My friend began by talking about what it was like when he

was drinking, lost jobs, broken relationships, self-loathing, depression. He then

said, “But then something changed. I don’t know what it was but the thing I could

never do, stay sober, suddenly I was doing. First a day, then a week, then a

month. It was a miracle.” At the end of the meeting, they gave out poker chips as

a way of marking people’s progress. I’ll never forget, the young man offering the

chips said, “If you’re ready to stop throwing up and start growing up, come get a

white chip.” They gave out chips for certain numbers of day and months and

years. The young man asked, “Does any one here have ten years of continuous

sobriety?” My friend stood, and to loud applause, accepted his chip. “Stand up on

your feet, and I will speak to you.”

      My friend and mentor, Ernie Campbell, use to say, “The gospel isn’t very

interested in what put you on the ground, whether it was circumstances or your

own failure. The gospel wants to know if you’re going to get back up.” Stewart is

right, “The mission of Jesus is just this, to help ordinary men and women like

ourselves to stand on our own feet.”

      When some arduous task was completed, Grandmother Allen would say,

“Well, it was just all the Lord and I could do.”

                  September 8, 2019 Sermon

                        What is the future?

                            Luke 12:32-40

     We spent most of the week past in Camden where we lived for 15 years. This

is the fourth year in a row that we have evacuated there. It’s gotten to the point

where our friends text us and say, “I hear there is a hurricane. Look forward to

seeing you.” Mid-week, we were at dinner with friends when the conversation

took a strange turn. We had touched on all the usual subjects, weather, politics,

the economy, violence in the streets, but the conversation got darker and darker,

each subject seemed more depressing than the last. Finally, one woman spoke

up and said she had just read a book in which the author predicted a total social

collapse followed by a complete ecological disaster that would end human

history. The best chance for humanity rested in the possible survival of small,

self-sustaining villages. I felt like I was eating dinner with Chicken Little.

     I agree it is a time of increased anxiety. Anger is the reaction to fear. The

greater the fear, the greater the anger. Like two ocean currents going in opposite

directions, fear and anger rub against each other and create the whirlpool of

anxiety in which we live.

     The problem with predicting the future based on the present is it leaves no

room for the unexpected. I read about a futurist who studied New York city at the

turn of the 20 th century. He predicted that the city could never support more than

a million people, because it would require too many horses to move the

necessary good and services. He declared that if the city reached a million

people, the number of horses necessary would make the streets two feet deep in

horse manure. There was a bill before congress in 1858, to close the U.S. patient

office because everything that could be discovered had already been discovered.

     In the scientific realm, there is something called “the theory of emergence.”

Here is the definition: “In philosophy, systems theory, and science, emergence

occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its parts do not have on

their own. These properties or behaviors emerge only when the parts interact in a

wider whole.” The example is this: In studying the brain, you can investigate the

synapses, neurons, hormones, electrical impulses, all of the parts that make it

work and you can understand how the brain gathers and stores information, but

from the sum of the parts, you cannot predict that the brain will be able to make

decisions or produces self-awareness. Those abilities emerge from the

interaction of the parts.

     In religious terms, the theological equivalent is the theory of grace. Simply

put, we cannot predict what God will do, but we can say it will be for our life, not

our death. We cannot predict what God may choose to do but it will be for our

salvation, not our damnation. The absolute freedom of God is captured in the two

most important events in the Bible. In the Old Testament, it is the salvation of the

nation of Israel in the parting of the red sea, and in the New Testament, it is the

salvation of humanity in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Neither event is

predictable, both events arise out of the unlimited freedom of God to act for

salvation.

     The German theologian, Wolfart Pannenberg, maintains the thing that makes

us human is our openness to the future. When we stop looking to the future as a

series of as yet unknown possibilities, we stop being human. Without this

forward-looking stance, we fall back on instincts, habits, and previous experience,

just like all the other creatures. It is our ability to hope that makes us human.

For Jesus’ followers, it was a time of high anxiety. The brutality of Roman

rule, the persecution of the Jews, and the constant fear of famine made life a very

tenuous proposition. Jesus tells his people, “Do not be afraid, little flock, it is your

father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The future belongs to God and

his unexpected grace.

     How then shall we live? How shall we spend our days when we are

confident of God’s victory? We will do the things that are pleasing to the master.

We will live a simple life, getting rid of the ostentatious possessions. We will give

alms, that is, be aware of the needs of the poor. We will be alert to his arrival, the

signs of his presence, and we will look forward to welcoming him.

     Back to our dinner companion, Chicken Little, she looks to the future

believing the world is doomed, the human adventure will come to nothing. I can’t

live like that. I have already seen too much of God’s unexpected grace. I have

known too much of emergence in my own life, times when the future could not

have been predicted from the past, times when I could have died, but continued

to live. I think of Langdon Gilkey’s famous statement, “There is a part of my

experience that I can call by no other name than God.” And I would add, “That

part of my experience has been hope, and gratitude, and joy.”

     “Do not be afraid, little flock, it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the

kingdom.”


FROM YOUR PASTOR

THE CUSTOMS OF OUR PEOPLE

         According to the customs of our people, on Sunday afternoon, July 21, we buried my father in the cemetery of the little village church in Weems, Virginia, on the banks of the Rappahannock River.

        At the appointed hour, I escorted mother into the sanctuary and seated her on the front row before I turned to address the congregation.

        “Thank you for being here today and sharing what is for us a precious hour. Our family is grateful for the many acts of kindness and caring that you have extended. Please stay for the reception following the service so we may thank you individually. My father was insistent that our attention not be on the details of a life now completed but on the life that is just beginning. Our worship then is offered for the glory of God as celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

        According to the customs of our people, we sang strong hymns: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, “Fairest Lord Jesus.” The texts were from Job, “ For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; … then in my flesh I shall see God,” and Romans 8, “ For what shall separate us from the love of God? … We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” The prayers included thanksgiving for my father’s life, for all those he had touched with his compassion and faith, and gratitude that God who created us provides for us, “beyond the bounds of our vision.”

         The worship celebrated the life to come. The reception celebrated a life spent caring about others. The family included the four children, 12 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren, spouses, cousins, fiancés, and significant others for a total of 41 people. There were friends from other decades and other places that we did not know were coming. For well over an hour, Mother perched on a stool and bravely greeted them one by one.

           The final grave-side prayer summarized the day: “O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. AMEN”

         We laid My father to rest with the saints, martyrs, and confessors who have gone before according to the customs of our people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Dr. Chip


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Welcome to YPPC!
5931 North Murray Dr.
Hanahan, SC  29410
Telephone # (843) 744-2268
Email: YPPC456@gmail.com

Rev. Dr. William F. (Chip) Summers

Worship Service: 11:00am, Sunday, September 22, 2019. 

Sermon:

Scripture:  
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"THANK YOU SO MUCH"

A gift in honor of my father was made by the congregation to the employees fund at the Presbyterian Village. Dad was always concerned about the well-being of the staff and the gift would have pleased him very much. Thank you. Lynne and I are grateful for all of the cards, calls, and concern that you expressed individually. I am particularly grateful for those officers who stepped in and provided  pastoral care for the congregation in my absence. Most of all, thank you for the joy and encouragement of being part of this congregation.                                              Chip Summers


SENIOR BIBLE STUDY – 2019-2020

    Al Eads Bible Study will begin with the first Session on September 17th at 10:30.  The topic will be the 31 Prophecies of the Apocalypse Utilizing  The Book of Signs  Study Guide prepared   by Dr. David Jeremiah as a guide.  The thirty-one undeniable prophesies are found throughout God’s Word from Genesis to Revelation.  Particular emphasis will be given to the study of the Book of Daniel and the Book of Ezekiel  in the Old Testament then the Words of Jesus as found in the Gospels and Acts followed by writings of Paul and concluding in the Spring with a look at Revelation.

    Each Session of the study will include Scriptures, an overview of Dr. Jeremiah’s teaching on the topic, followed by questions to help each of us to delve into the Bible further and a Did You Know point of interest that will entice you to look further.

Tentative Dates for the rest of 2019 – 2020 are Tuesday, October 15th, Wednesday, November 20th, No  meeting in December, Wednesday, January 15th, Tuesday, February 18th, Wednesday, March 18th, Tuesday, April 14th, and, Wednesday, May 13th. 



ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS - Meets at 9:45am each Sunday.   

THE BIBLE IN 90 DAYS

      Have you ever heard a wonderful sermon and thought “I want to read the rest of that chapter or book of the Bible she was talking about”? Or, have you ever been in a conversation and thought “I am sure there is a scripture passage that would apply to this”? Or have you ever just thought that it would be good for me to sit down and read the Bible?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the Christian Education committee has just the opportunity for you.

Beginning on January 1, 2020, we will be reading the Bible in 90 days(or 180 days, for  those who want to take a bit more time) and all are encouraged to make this challenge your New Year’s resolution for 2020.

      A 2004 Gallup survey found that only 37% of teenagers could identify a quote from the “Sermon on the Mount.” A 2007 TIME magazine cover story reported that only half of U.S. adults were able to name one of the Gospels. 

      Neglect of God’s Word is so widespread that a whopping 90% of Christians have never read through the entire Bible! While a majority of Americans claim to be Christian, only 10% have actually read the Bible from cover-to-cover. The life-giving power of Scripture is missing from Christians in general. Too spiritually weak to stand against worldly temptations, they fail to follow biblical norms for holy and happy living. Here are just a few of the benefits of reading the Bible in 90 days:

1.      A deepened relationship with God.       

2.      It’s a Bible reading program, not a study: no doctrinal controversies.

3.      Gain Biblical knowledge and understanding that builds confidence and faith.

4.      It’s 90 days (not a year), which helps participants remember to connect key historical persons, events, and more from Genesis to Revelation.

5.      B90 groups build relationships, which contributes to a higher success rate of completing the readings.

6.      Transformational: it’s God’s Word!

7.       

Please consider joining this journey. There will be weekly opportunities to discuss what we have read, and if you would like to have a copy of the Bible with the starting and stopping points for each day marked, please let Lynn M. or Mary Mena K. know, and one can be purchased for you for less than $20.

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CHILDREN'S SUNDAY SCHOOL – 10:00 - 10:45am. We have two multi-age children’s classes. The younger children meet in the nursery and the older children meet in the former choir room.
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Several of Dr Chip's previous sermons are on the Worship Page of this website.
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Eleven new members have joined YPPC in 2019.