Sermon: Finding Jesus
Sunday: Epiphany Sunday: Trinity United Methodist Church
Scripture: Matthew 2: 1-12; Matthew 8: 21-22; Matthew 22: 37
Resolutions: “Top Ten for 2011”
10. Attend Church Weekly
The story is remarkable for many reasons. For all of us Christians, it represents the moment the “world” came to recognize the birth of our Savior, a moment of epiphany, a revealing. But who were these visitors and where did they come from? Theologians might suggest that they were men of stature, possible astrologers, who came from an area around Babylon called Parthia; maybe holdovers from the exile who studied ancient manuscripts or even early Jewish texts that we would come to know as the Old Testament. And while we don’t even know how many Magi there were – we have suggested three based upon the number of gifts – they possibly represented different country origins and therefore represented “the world” coming to pay homage to the child.
It is also possible that they may have responded to a vision; whatever, they dedicated themselves to this task and made finding the Christ child a priority. We don’t know how long it took them to find Jesus. It is thought they may have traveled thousands of miles by camel to get to the origin of the “star” that led them.
Would you say that their task was a priority or a resolution?
Before you answer that, Max Lucado in his book, God came Near, introduces us to the realities of the time after finding the child this way, “It’s Christmas night. In a few hours the clean-up will being, lights will come down, trees will be thrown out. Size 36 will be exchanged for size 40, eggnog will be on sale at half-price. Soon life will be normal again. December’s generosity will become January’s payments and the magic will begin to fade.” And I ask, what will keep us on tract to find Jesus.
Oh you say we found him; after all wasn’t that the essence of the story we just read about the Magi finding the Christ child, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.” Yes, they found him, but have you? Are we at the end of our spiritual journey or just still at the beginning?
Something tells me that the objective find the Christ child was more than just a New Year’s resolution; rather it was a priority that shaped their lives.
Wikipedia defines a New Year's resolution as a commitment that an individual makes to a project or the reforming of a habit, often a lifestyle change that is generally interpreted as advantageous. The name comes from the fact that these commitments normally go into effect on New Year's Day.
Recent research shows that while 52% of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set, such as, a pound a week, instead of saying "lose weight"), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.
1. Spend More Time with Family & Friends
Recent polls conducted by General Nutrition Centers, Quicken, and others shows that more than 50% of Americans vow to appreciate loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year. Make plans to meet up with friends for an evening of comaraderie at a favorite Pittsburgh restaurant or take the family to one of these popular Pittsburgh places for family fun. Work shouldn't always come first!
More: Home & Family in Pittsburgh
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2. Fit in Fitness
The evidence is in for fitness. Regular exercise has been associated with more health benefits than anything else known to man. Studies show that it reduces the risk of some cancers, increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, and even improves arthritis. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and makes you look and feel better. Why not make this the time to start getting in shape for one of these popular Pittsburgh Area Charity Walks, Runs or Rides?
More: Getting Fit in Pittsburgh
3. Tame the Bulge
Over 66 percent of adult Americans are considered overweight or obese by recent studies, so it is not surprising to find that weight loss is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. Setting reasonable goals and staying focused are the two most important factors in sticking with a weight loss program, and the key to success for those millions of Americans who made a New Year's commitment to shed extra pounds.
More: Weight Loss Help in Pittsburgh
4. Quit Smoking
If you have resolved to make this the year that you stamp out your smoking habit, over-the-counter availability of nicotine replacement therapy now provides easier access to proven quit-smoking aids. Even if you've tried to quit before and failed, don't let it get you down. On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good. Start enjoying the rest of your smoke-free life! Even Allegheny County is trying to go smoke-free, and it's taken them a few tries as well. Locally, there are a variety of free support services, hotlines and smoking cessation classes to help you kick the smoking habit.
More: Quit Smoking Classes & Support Groups in the Greater Pittsburgh area
5. Enjoy Life More
Given the hectic, stressful lifestyles of millions of Americans, it is no wonder that "enjoying life more" has become a popular resolution in recent years. It's an important step to a happier and healthier you! Consider one of Pittsburgh's holistic healing centers for products designed to bring balance to your body, mind and soul. Or just get out and try something new! Take up a new hobby or try your hand at skiing. Go to a theater performance, or head to the local spa. Pittsburgh offers a wealth of artistic and recreational activities to meet just about anyone's wishes.
More: Things to Do in Pittsburgh
6. Quit Drinking
While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are not equipped to make such a drastic lifestyle change all at once. Many heavy drinkers fail to quit cold turkey but do much better when they taper gradually, or even learn to moderate their drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available. Pittsburgh Alcoholics Anonymous offers meetings throughout the greater Pittsburgh area. There is also a Pittsburgh group for Parents of Teenage Alcohol and Drug Abusers. There are also a number of treatment-based programs, as well as support groups for families of alcoholics.
More: Alcohol Recovery & Support in Pittsburgh
7. Get Out of Debt
Was money a big source of stress in your life last year? Join the millions of Americans who have resolved to spend this year getting a handle on their finances. It's a promise that will repay itself many times over in the year ahead.
More: Find a Financial Planner in Pittsburgh
8. Learn Something New
Have you vowed to make this year the year to learn something new? Perhaps you are considering a career change, want to learn a new language, or just how to fix your computer? Whether you take a course or read a book, you'll find education to be one of the easiest, most motivating New Year's resolutions to keep. The Community College of Allegheny County offers a wide variety of "lifelong learning" courses, and local YMCA's offer great recreational training for beginners of all ages. Most local colleges and universities offer distance and adult education programs. Or if the arts are more your thing, places such as the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts offer adult studio classes.
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9. Help Others
A popular, non-selfish New Year's resolution, volunteerism can take many forms. Whether you choose to spend time helping out at your local library, mentoring a child, or building a house, there are many nonprofit volunteer organizations that could really use your help. The Pittsburgh Cares organization makes it easy by connecting volunteers with projects to fit practically any schedule. Or if your time is really in short supply, maybe you can at least find it in you to donate the furniture, clothing and other household items that you no longer need, rather than leaving them out by the curb to fill up our landfills.
More: Volunteer Opportunities in Pittsburgh
10. Get Organized
On just about every New Year resolution top ten list, organization can be a very reasonable goal. Whether you want your home organized enough that you can invite someone over on a whim, or your office organized enough that you can find the stapler when you need it, these tips and resources should get you started on the way to a more organized life. Pittsburgh has quite a few professional organizers who can help you reduce the clutter in your life and find peace in your home. Professional Pittsburgh organizer Patty Kreamer even offers a a six-month But I Might Need it Somday! ecourse.
More: Pittsburgh Home Improvement & Renovations
I would like a couple of volunteers to read one of the Top Ten resolutions they have found in their bulletin.
Not let us look at some, what I would call some religiously oriented priorities:
Which one of these list do you think would sound more like a path to find Jesus – like the path the Magi used to find the child using a star.
Yes, it sounds like to me like the second list.
I don’t know if your success rate would be any better than the statistics for resolutions, but we have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us.
Resolutions, based upon our own experiences seem fleeting and temporary. I underscore that some of you may have some success, but I would suggest that a priority sounds more like a re-ordering of our lives. Re-ordering sounds more like a direction to which you are committed and suggests an alignment of decisions that help us keep our decisions and choices on tract.
I like the way Ben Sigman spoke of this process; he called the overall ordering of goals as like developing our own personal “bucket list.” Did you the movie “Bucket List that came out in 2007?” Starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nickelson. Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.
What a blast. Whether you saw the movie or not, can you imagine what your “bucket List” would be?
Ben Sigman suggest another way of Jesus’ mission of salvation consisted of a bucket list of things he had to do before he died. It goes like this: In the last days of His life, Jesus was betrayed by a friend, dined with the guys, discussed a new covenant, prayed for a change in plans, arrested by religious zealots then mocked and beaten by their friends and finally declared Himself to be the Son of God.
His own bucket list was prophesied in Scripture: Isaiah 53:12 proclaims, “He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
I don’t think Ben Sigman was trivializing Jesus’ ministry but rather modernizing the way we think about what he accomplished based upon the prophesy. If we model what we could accomplish, I think it would take a different shape and meaning – in other words a different set of priorities – if we knew our days are numbered, and aren’t they?
I am suggesting that the New Year begin with creating our own personal spiritual “bucket list.” I am also going suggest the we clone what I think was on the Wise Men’s “bucket list – “finding Jesus.” It may not be kind of journey they were on – including dessert travel on the back of camels, but that it does include finding a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ in whatever form that takes. The Spiritual list of priorities are all sub activities to the main one entitled, “finding Jesus.” Let us commit to and reorder our lives to do whatever it takes to find Jesus in new ways this year.
Speaker: Ben Sigman
Theme: Repairing Relationships
Weekend Music links on iTunes: Today is the Day by Lincoln Brewster; Glory to God Forever by Fee; Love Came Down by Ben Cantelon; From the Inside Out by Hillsong.
Read: Phil 2:1:11
Bible Challenge: Luke 22
Think: In his message Pastor Ben mentioned that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had a bucket list. Today’s Bible Challenge from Luke 22 contains several of the activities on that list. In the last days of His life, Jesus was betrayed by a friend, dined with the guys, discussed a new covenant, prayed for a change in plans, arrested by religious zealots then mocked and beaten by their friends and finally declared Himself to be the Son of God.
A bucket list reveals one’s priorities, interests, dreams and goals. Jesus’ list makes mine look insignificant, selfish, and trivial. The contrast is immense. Yet, amazingly, His list and mine have the same focus…….me. Both lists contain activities aimed to bring me abundant life. Oh what a Savior we have! Isaiah 53:12 proclaims, “He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Again this same message is embodied in the hymn, Jesus Paid It All
And when before the throne I stand in Him complete,
“Jesus died my soul to save,” My lips shall still repeat.
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain---He washed it white as snow.
I believe I am going to add a new item to my list…..Daily perform an act of sacrificial love.
Do: Keeping in mind all that Jesus has done for us, what will you do for Him? Determine today to add or take away from your bucket list that it may reflect your commitment to live for Jesus.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father I am so thankful for the salvation you have freely given me. Fill me with a desire to love you and serve you out of that love. Strengthen me to live beyond the ordinary. Take me out of my comfort zone, use me to bring others into your Kingdom. AMEN