Sermon – February 15, 2015

Dysfunctional Families of the Old TestamentForgiving the Unforgivable“, by Rev. Mike Holly

Sermon Series: Dysfunctional Families of the Old Testament

Forgiveness is an essential life skill. We cannot make it through life without being able to forgive for if we do not, we will eventually find ourselves alone. The story of Joseph and his brothers demonstrates how life creates opportunities for families to wound one another. Joseph takes a few missteps before finally offering forgiveness to his brothers. And the Bible tells us that their reunion leads to prosperity, at least for a while, for them and their descendants.

In our own families, we will from time to time be wounded by those who love us. Sometimes it is for the actions they took against us or the words that they spew at us. Other times, it is the things that they have not done. And finally, there are those terrible, almost unspeakable, things that family members do that seem almost unforgivable.

How do we go about forgiving the unforgivable? And how do we make sure that forgiveness is constructive — healing all members of the family in the process? The story of reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers will help us ponder these questions.

~Mike Holly

The Word

Genesis 45:1-15

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Sermon – February 8, 2015

Dysfunctional Families of the Old TestamentDysfunctional Indeed“, by Rev. Tom Duley

Sermon Series: Dysfunctional Families of the Old Testament

To say that we human beings can get ourselves twisted into knots of violence and destruction is an understatement. In fact, it would not be overstating the case to say that we are addicted to visiting violence and destruction on one another. A cursory glance of the headlines on any given day will reveal just how deeply addicted we are. Violence and destruction fueled by jealousy and hatred is everywhere it seems.

We would like to think that that sort of thing doesn’t happen in families. We like to think of families as havens of acceptance, love, and support. But when we are honest we know that families are subject to hatred and destruction. There are times when parents favor one child over another; times when siblings grow to hate one another; times when we see other family members as our competition rather than our support. When these conditions exist they sometimes lead to the unthinkable.

We encounter a family given to violence and destruction in the Biblical text for today. Joseph antagonized his brothers so much that they grew to hate him. Theirs was a profound hatred; a hatred so deep that they wanted to kill him. However, in the end they settled for selling him into slavery. They were determined to exact violence and destruction on their own brother. Today we’ll look at why that happened. We’ll also talk about some things that we can do to insure that it doesn’t happen in our families.

~Tom Duley

The Word

Genesis 37:2-11, 20-28

This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Sermon – February 1, 2015

Dysfunctional Families of the Old TestamentTaking Care of Our Elders“, by Rev. Mike Holly

Sermon Series: Dysfunctional Families of the Old Testament

Isaac and Rebekah had some issues in their family. When Isaac was older and his eyesight was failing,  Rebekah and her son Jacob conspired to trick him and claim the blessing and inheritance that rightly belonged to Jacob’s slightly older twin brother Esau. This was not exactly a decision that honored God.

Caring for our elders is an important part of how we conduct our lives. God values each person, and we need to respect and honor the elderly in our families, church, and community in a way that reflects God’s love to them.

The Word

Genesis 27:1-29

When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.”
Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the Lord before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he likes; and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, “Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a man of smooth skin. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.” His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me.” So he went and got them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.

So he went in to his father, and said, “My father”; and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.” But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.
May God give you of the dew of heaven,
and of the fatness of the earth,
and plenty of grain and wine.
Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

Sermon – January 25, 2015

Dysfunctional Families of the Old TestamentGodly Parenting“, by Rev. Mike Holly

Sermon Series: Dysfunctional Families of the Old Testament

Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved Jacob, Genesis tells us. Twin boys born to loving parents who were overjoyed to receive them. And yet as they grew, Genesis tells us that the parents began to love one more than the other. This is a house divided in dysfunction. In Jewish culture at this time, the oldest male is the main heir of all that the family owns. The younger son would receive the smaller portion. With Esau being born first, he would be the main heir of all that Isaac and Rebekah would have. The tension mounted as the boys grew and their actions would be less than honorable because of this one decision.

God seems to see every child born as a gift. Each and every person has sacred worth. To treat one more favorably than the other is to deny the sacred worth of the other child. However, we all know that parenting is not easy. Some children are easier to manage than others. Some children are more challenging than others. But that in no way means that we should modify the love that we have for them. That would be dysfunctional!

Part of our job together as a church is to help each and every child know, love and serve God. We do so by introducing them to the great truth that God knows each and every one of them by name and claims them as his own. They have sacred worth to God. As parents, teachers and members together in the family of God, we should endeavor to show each and every child that they are truly loved.

~Mike Holly

The Word

Genesis 25:19-28

These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the elder shall serve the younger.”

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Sermon – January 18, 2015

Dysfunctional Families of the Old TestamentNo Escape … Only Preparation“, by Rev. Tom Duley

Sermon Series: Dysfunctional Families of the Old Testament

When I was called into ministry I was both happy and cautious. It was an amazing thing to me (and still is) that God would want me to be a minister in his Church. That thought gave me great joy. But my joy was tempered by much caution. I was cautious because I simply did not believe that I was worthy of this calling. But, in moving through the process of discernment my calling was confirmed and I was ordained in the United Methodist Church. One of the things I was most cautious about was being with people when they were facing death. The thought of being with someone who had just lost a loved one or of being with someone who was facing their own death gave me great pause. I knew that eventually this situation would come my way and I was terrified by the prospect. When I was called to my first death bed situation I made a complete mess of it. However, as time has passed I have come to realize that one of the highest privileges a minister has is to be with people as they deal with death. Today we will look at the death of Sarah. Looking at her death will give us the opportunity to think about our own deaths and how we are going about preparing for that time in our life.

~Tom Duley

The Word

Genesis 23:1-6

Sarah lived one hundred twenty-seven years; this was the length of Sarah’s life. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. Abraham rose up from beside his dead, and said to the Hittites, “I am a stranger and an alien residing among you; give me property among you for a burying place, so that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” The Hittites answered Abraham, “Hear us, my lord; you are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places; none of us will withhold from you any burial ground for burying your dead.”

Sermon – January 11, 2015

Dysfunctional Families of the Old TestamentMarriage in Difficult Times“, by Rev. Mike Holly

Sermon Series: Dysfunctional Families of the Old Testament

Abram and Sarai are called by God to leave everything they have known and go to a new land. This journey requires them to trust in God alone as they embark into the unknown. And along the way, they encounter difficulty over and over again, according to the stories in Genesis. We begin in Chapter 12 this Sunday as we first meet them (and before they are given the new names of Abraham and Sarah). This is a shocking story, but it is also a story that shows us that human relationships have always faced great hardships.

The marriage of Abram and Sarai is tested here and again with Hagar and Ishmael as well as in a few other places. While they may not always act in a holy manner, they remain intact as a couple throughout these crises. What is it that creates such a bond between them that holds them together through the difficult times?

Significant human relationships, such as marriage, require commitment, love and faithfulness. Without these three, we may find that our relationships unravel at the first signs of trouble. As we read the story of Abram and Sarai this morning, consider your own relationships. How can you recommit to a loved one? How can you overcome the past and become bonded together through commitment, love and faithfulness?

~Mike Holly

The Word

Genesis 12:10-20

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.” When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.

But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.

Sermon – January 4, 2015

Dysfunctional Families of the Old TestamentShame and Blame“, by Rev. Mike Holly

Sermon Series: Dysfunctional Families of the Old Testament

As a parent of multiple children, one of the most difficult things to ascertain is what really happened. There is a fight or an argument. Someone drew a picture on the wall. Someone broke a family heirloom. Who did it? Fingers point at one another, but no one steps forward to take responsibility.

In Genesis this morning, we read about Adam and Eve disobeying God’s command that they do not eat the fruit. When their crime is discovered, Adam immediately points to Eve. Eve points to the serpent. Human beings have a tendency to avoid consequences by shifting the blame away from themselves — from the very beginning of our existence.

This morning, we invite you forward to start off this New Year by receiving God’s gracious gifts of bread and cup as we celebrate Holy Communion. As you kneel to receive God’s gifts, take this holy opportunity to be honest with God in prayer: accept responsibility for the ways in which you have fallen short of God’s hopes and dreams for your life and dedicate yourself to being faithful to God and neighbor in 2015!

~Mike Holly

The Word

Genesis 3:1-13

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”