Woodlawn CC

Woodlawn CC

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sermon June 21, 2015 - Woodlawn Christian Church

This week I'm just going to post up the sermon as I have several things that I need to attend to, so here it is... enjoy.

Sermon from June 21, 2015 - Woodlawn Christian Church.

Today, I'm preaching the scripture provided by the Lectionary.  In case you're not aware of what the Lectionary is, it's basically a three-year program of prescribed scriptures to be preached over, along with the suggested supporting scriptures.  Thus far here at Woodlawn Christian I have some of the time used the scriptures suggested and sometimes I've deviated and used something else that I felt was more along the lines of what I felt called to preach over.

Today is of course Father's Day, and the assigned Lectionary passage has to do with a boat and a large body of water. So, I'm thinking maybe it's a subtle hint that everyone should take their father boating today. Anyone here taking their Dad out boating today? Which sounds like a wonderful idea until you realize that the scripture also has to do with a very severe storm. I don't know about you but being out on a boat in bad weather doesn't sound like much fun to me at all. So, I guess we'll just have to look for a different meaning in these passages.

In all seriousness now, let's go before our Lord in prayer. Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, Abba, Lord we come before you today and we ask for your blessings of Love, Grace and Forgiveness upon this place and these people. Father, open our minds to embrace your words of love. Abba, guide our hearts to realize your grace in this fallen world. Lord, let our lives and actions be reflections of your forgiveness to your lost and wandering people. Bless us this day with your presence in our lives. In the name of Jesus who is the Christ we pray. AMEN

Today the Scripture that we are going to be contemplating comes from the Gospel of Mark in the Fourth Chapter. As I have mentioned before, Mark is believed by most scholars to be the oldest of the four Gospels that we find in the Bible. There are however some scholars who suspect that at least some portions of the non-canonical 'Gospel of Peter' is actually older than the Gospel of Mark. It's a very interesting theory and one that I do personally think is worth considering. In the early Church, the Gospel of Peter actually appears to have been more popular (there are more ancient manuscript fragments of Peter than Mark) than the Gospel of Mark, though not as popular it seems as the other three canonical gospels.

But, enough history let's now look at our scripture for today.

Mark 4:35-41 NRSV

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Immediately prior to this piece of scripture in Mark we interestingly enough find the parable of the Sower which we discussed last week from the Gospel of Matthew, the parable of the lamp under a basket, the story about scattering grain and it sprouting with us not knowing how it happens, and also the parable of the mustard seed which we again mentioned last week as found in the Gospel of Matthew.

Following this passage, which is the first of the miracles, we come to a series of 'miracles' that Jesus performs.

From the “New Interpreter's Bible” - Concerning Mark 4:35 – 6:6a “Miracles Around the Sea of Galilee” - Mark follows the parables with a series of miracle stories on and around the Sea of Galilee. These stories emphasize the extraordinary character of Jesus' powers as he subdues the raging sea, casts out a legion of demons, heals a woman who has been ill for twelve years, and raises a young girl who has just died. The miracles in this section show that Jesus has power over nature, demons, and death. Yet when Jesus comes to his hometown, the people's lack of faith makes it impossible for him to perform many miracles. Mark frames these dramatic miracles with references to the deficient faith of persons who the reader might presume to be believers: the disciples and people who had known Jesus all his life.

Hold these thoughts for just a bit and we'll come back to that in just a few minutes.

Concerning Jesus calming the storm, the chaos of the waves; Hebrew poetry sometimes described God as the victor over the forces of Chaos. This story of a deity -vs- chaos, was also a theme in ancient Near Eastern mythology in stories such as Baal -vs- Yam or Marduk -vs- Tiamat. So this would have been a familiar storyline to those Hebrews hearing this miracle story from Mark's Gospel. Also the imagery of Jesus asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat, likely reminded and brought forth imagery of the story of Jonah asleep in the boat.

Jonah 1:5-6 Revised Standard Version (RSV) 

Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, “What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.”

Of course, the story of Jesus calming the waves has a decidedly different ending than the story of Jonah. After all, Jonah ends up getting thrown overboard to appease God; and is immediately swallowed up by the fish. Jesus, of course wakes up and commands the wind and the seas to return to calm, and they do so...

But perhaps we should notice a few things about these two passages. In the story of Jonah, what is the first thing the crew aboard the ship did once they were in peril? They each cried out to their gods, and when they discovered Jonah asleep, what did they request that he do as well? They instructed him to call upon his god as well. Each is crying out for help from their deities.

So in the story concerning the apostles and Christ, what do we see the disciples doing when they feel threatened by the foul weather? They go to Jesus, rather than praying to God... they go to Jesus directly. The apostles often get a bum rap for their failure to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but here we see that rather than calling out to God for intervention, they go to Jesus.

In those times it was common for sailors, (and I'm certain it still is today to be honest) to cry out to their gods for intervention in the face of bad weather. Now, we have to remember that a fair number of these disciples are fishermen. No doubt these men have sailed rough and stormy seas before, the fact that they are so very concerned speaks to how unruly the weather must have been. The scripture mentions that the boats are already being swamped. You'd think Jesus would have been getting a bit wet and that he would have awoken all on his own. So I suspect we can gather from this that Jesus was a very sound sleeper......

The apostles come to Jesus and rather than actually asking for deliverance or protection from the storm they seem to accuse him, well, no actually they do accuse him. They are perplexed and close to being angry that Jesus doesn't seem concerned that they are in such serious peril. “do you not care that we are perishing?” I would suspect that I would see more than a few hands raised, if I asked for a show of hands of how many of us have in the past cried out to God at least in our minds “WHY God”; or even maybe you've said something very near to “do you not care that we are perishing?”. I have a friend that is a minister and he freely admits that he has many times literally cried out to God in tones of accusation and anger. Like I said, I think that even the most devote among us has a time or two questioned God about the storms we face.

I suspect that in the last few days more than just a few Christians have been crying out “WHY GOD”, concerning the shooting in Charleston, SC. Why, why, why.... Nine devote Christians are dead as a result of a senseless and horrifyingly evil act by a single individual.

A few weeks back we talked about “Silver Linings”, and in that sermon I mentioned the shooting that took place in the Amish country school. I still see that incident as being the truest demonstration of Christ-like love and grace that I have ever witnessed. But, this SC shooting comes very close.

Family members were allowed to address that suspect the other day during the arraignment proceedings. I will quote one of these family members:

The families are determined not to respond in kind, said Alana Simmons, who lost her grandfather, the Rev. Daniel Simmons.
“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof — everyone’s plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love, so hate won’t win,” she said. “And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior once said;

Dr. King also said;

And finally he said;

It certainly appears that this young man responsible for the shooting allowed hate to corrode and corrupt his very being. This hate rooted in his heart and an incredibly horrifyingly evil act was the result. Even after the good people of this church opened up their arms and welcomed him into a Bible Study, he repaid their love with destruction. Though he has stated that he almost didn't carry out his plot, because they had all been so nice and kind to him.

As Dr. King pointed out so very poetically so many years ago... hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that.

I am so very proud of, and humbled by these families in South Carolina, who have truly lived up to their professed faith in our Almighty God. Love so abundant, that they have immediately and freely offered Grace and Love to this fallen young man. I do pray that he comes to know Christ at some point in his hopefully long incarceration. I personally don't believe in capital punishment, and I think not only Christ's example but the quotes that I have just offered up by Dr. King do a better job of explaining my rational here than I can.

Killing outside of an attempt to protect yourself or your loved ones from immediate and imminent danger is wrong in my belief system. In no small part, because it prevents God from fully raising a Phoenix from the ashes of destruction that we humans have perpetuated.

It is not my personal theological belief that God ever causes bad things to happen to his children. He loves us and only wants the very best for us. But free will, for all the beauty that it allows in the world also opens the door for that evil that lurks in all of us to creep into our lives. Though God does not cause these evil acts, He can and so often does use them to display His love and ability to heal and care for His people. If we are in prayer and allow God, He can ultimately turn the efforts of sin and evil around to further His Kingdom.

Certainly, these wonderful Christians in Charleston have allowed this to begin. Out of the evil acts of one man, the love of God and the love of His people is demonstrated to the world. Let us all pray that hearts will be moved and lives changed, and saved through this tremendous witness that they are so faithfully displaying to the world. God Bless them.........

As believers in the undying Love of Christ, the unfailing grace of God, and the nurturing guidance of the Spirit, we all must realize that hate will never prevail. Ultimately, in our God's world Love will win.... Love always Wins. Let us join with these families in South Carolina, not only in prayer, but in being God's Love and Grace to this world...

Let us pray;

Heavenly Father, we are so often struck dumb by the senseless violence that we see carried out by our fellow human beings. This violence from one human to another is so counter to Your wishes for your Creation. Lord, guide us and direct us in being a force of good for You to counter this evil in the hearts of man.

Let our hearts and minds be capable of the boundless Love and Grace that is your being. This Love, Grace and Forgiveness that you are displaying through these wonderful souls in South Carolina.

Lord, let their witness not fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts, rather let this be a new beginning of consideration of one to another. Let us not see each other as separate human beings, but as another one of Your children, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, nor any other factor that our human frailty seeks to divide us by.

Let us be YOUR Love to this fallen and desperate world.

In Your almighty and all Gracious name we pray.... AMEN

And remember.... "Be a blessing to someone TODAY!"

God Bless You all!

Woodlawn Christian Church, Lake City, Iowa
WmRoy Karlen photo

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sermon from June 14th and the Funeral of Doris DeVries June 15th

I don't have time this week to do much for the blog, so I'll just post up the sermon from last Sunday, along with the Funeral Service that we had on Monday.

God's Blessings to ALL!

Sermon June 14th, 2015 - Woodlawn Christian Church, Pastor Roy Karlen

Let's start right off the bat with a prayer today.  Please turn our hearts and minds to God.

We desire your presence with us O' God.
Still our restless spirits, that with quiet minds and reverent hearts we may hear your voice and worthily worship you.

Prepare our minds and hearts O' God, that through your Word, read and proclaimed, Christ may come to dwell within us, and ever rule over our thoughts and affections as Lord of our lives.

Today, I'm going to preach over a piece of scripture which is among my favorites.  That would be the 'Parable of the Sower', specifically as it is found in the Gospel of Matthew.

The parable of the Sower is found in all three synoptic gospels, in Mark, Luke and of course in Matthew, and it is also found in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. With this many attestations, it is obvious that it was an important parable to the early Christians.  This parable as found in Matthew was the scripture that was used at my Grandfather Fletcher's funeral, which obviously, makes this bit of scripture very special to me.  And for Scott Crandall out there, yes this is the sermon about my Grandfather that I mentioned wanting to do a few Sundays back.  If anyone would like to see a photo of my Grandpa Fletcher there is one in my office, in fact, I have photos of all of my grandparents in my office.

The parable of the Sower was the perfect bit of scripture for Grandpa's funeral for not only was he a farmer, but he also was a diligent sower of God's work and word.

Let's take a look at our chosen scripture verses for today shall we;

Matthew 13:1-9 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
The Parable of the Sower
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

Jesus goes on to explain these verses in verses 18 to 23 of this same Chapter in Matthew.  To paraphrase, the seed is the word, and that seed which does not take is that which is cast upon those who for whatever reason don't fully grasp the love of God, or who are simply too preoccupied with the worries of this world.  The seed takes root in some though and there it returns an abundance.

My Grandfather Fletcher was a lifelong farmer near Reliance, SD.  He was very active in the community.  He was active politically in Lyman County, and a lifelong Republican, who was close friends with the most liberal democrat.  He was a tall, handsome man, very much a charmer. Grandpa was a very kind, gentle and considerate man who was liked by everyone he ever met. He was a wonderful example in this world of silent testimony, for everyone knew he was a good Methodist and everyone that met him knew he was a good man.

He was genuinely God's hands and feet and cared for everyone, in deeds that were both big and small. When he was younger he was a pilot and he often flew folks that were ill to the doctor in larger towns or he would rescue folks stranded by blizzards or washed out roads. If he couldn't land and folks were in need he would drop provisions to them by flying the plane low over them. In his later years, he was famous for recording cassettes with audio books or music for people. He was an artist as well, working with oil paints but much more so with ceramics.  In his home he had a kiln and he made hundreds, perhaps thousands of pieces.  Anyone that came to visit him was given a mug or vase or something that he had made.  But more important than the deeds was the spirit in which he did them, kindness and genuine concern.  

Wherever Grandpa went he was sowing seeds, a living example of an all loving and gracious God.

As I said Grandpa literally knew everyone in the County. Please indulge me while I tell one story about my Grandfather. It's not particularly germane to the sermon, I just really happen to like this story.

One of my earliest memories is of going with my Grandfather to a Pancake Feed. Now for some reason, none of my siblings or any of my cousins were with us, nor was Grandmother. It was just Grandpa and myself. I was probably 3 or 4 years old and I remember walking into the hall holding onto Grandpa's hand. Everyone was so excited to see us and everyone came up and said “Hello Roy”, I just held onto Grandpa and said “Hi” and I think I gave a little wave to some of them. But I just kept wondering “how do all of these adults know my name”. I remember Grandpa going back and taking over the job of cooking pancakes on the grill and I stood by him literally holding onto his pant leg. And everyone that came by to get their pancakes again said some form of “Hello Roy, Good to see you Roy, or how have you been Roy”... I just kept saying my little “Hi's” back. Getting more and more confused as to how did these people all know my name.

Now this is the point in the story where I should really point out that I am named after my Grandfather. He was Roy to everyone in the County, but of course he was Grandpa to me.

A little later in the same chapter of Matthew there is a second parable that has to do with agriculture, which is also an apt story to compare to my Grandfather Fletcher's life.

Matthew 13:24-30 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat
24 Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

This parable unlike the story of the Sower which is found in all three synoptic Gospels, is found only in the Gospel of Matthew.  Now the fact that this parable only shows up in Matthew is interesting and potential quite revealing. Matthew's Gospel is written to a very specific and unique audience.  This Gospel is written to a congregation of predominantly Jewish Christians. And the time at which it was most likely written, the Temple has been destroyed, the Jewish leaders have implemented as part of the prayers in the Synagogues a curse on the Christians, so as a result Christianity is no longer merely a sect within Judaism, but on it's way to becoming a religion all of it's own.

The weeds or the tares in this parable are believed to be a type of rye-grass that grows in the middle east commonly called darnel. It is very difficult to discern the difference between darnel and wheat until the crop develops a head. There seems to be a obvious parallel here to the difficulty in discerning the difference between the Jewish Christians and those that are simply Jewish. It is only when we get to the point where the crop develops the head that we can determine the difference. That head of that shock of wheat is of course the cross of Christ.

It's difficult to come to this scripture lesson without going immediately to the cutting and burning at the end. That's when all those impostors get their comeuppance so to say. All that end times dialogue that seems to be so appealing to many. But is that really what we should be taking away from this parable? It certainly seems so at first glance but interestingly enough that's not the message most commentaries feel we need to focus upon.

The field we are told is the world, who among us has not been a weed to this world at sometime or another? I'm sorry to say that a very large “Canadian thistle” is right here front and center.

The late Marcus Borg was a well known Christian Theologian and one of the things he talked about that I really enjoy is the idea of 'lenses'. He told us that we need to consider the lenses through which we look at the world and scripture. Each of us has their own set of lenses which have been ground for us by our individual life experiences, as well as our fields of study and education. But for today let's all don the lenses of looking at this parable through the lesson of the Cross.

The lesson of love and grace and redemption. Lenses of reconciliation, renewal and transformation.

Let's look at this parable as the field not being the world but the field being our individual lives. Within each of our lives we have allowed God to plant good seeds and I am sad to say that each of us has allowed our egos and our own selfish self interests to plant bad seeds within the fields of our lives. We are all a mixture of the wheat and the tares and the fact of the matter is that we all need the grace of God in order to be reconciled onto him. The Apostle Paul himself stated in Romans that we all do that which we do not wish to do, and do not do that which we wish to do.  None of us are truly wheat in this field that is the world. We all fall short of the Glory of God.

When we look at this parable through the Cross, we see that it's not simply a story about final judgment but really a story forbidding us to judge others. If we begin judging people, we shall surely make mistakes and destroy fellow believers in the process. If there's to be any judging done, it's to be done by God and not by us. Rather if we consider ourselves the wheat we are to live among the weeds. And what the parable doesn't tell us but what we know from the message of the Cross is that those weeds aren't really weeds. They are all capable of being transformed into wheat through the grace of God. A grace that we humans cannot fully understand nor comprehend, a grace that we simply must leave to the almighty hand of God.

Far, far, far too many Christians go about judging others, especially fellow Christians. We label others as heretics and nonbelievers just because they hold a theological point counter to our own. These people are defamed and often driven from the folds. Rarely do we look upon those who are different as unique children of God. This is not what this parable instructs us to do, we are not to judge but we are to silently witness through our lives and our actions.

Let's consider this parable of the wheat and darnel, also through the lenses of the two parables that directly follow it in Matthew. The Parables of the mustard seed and the yeast. In the parable of the mustard seed we have the smallest growing to extraordinary size, and in the yeast we have a tiny thing spreading throughout the whole to 'change' the whole. Quite honestly we lose much of Matthew's message when we cut out the parable of the yeast. For here we get a glimpse of the transformational event of the Cross. The yeast is the cross and the dough is the world. The world is transformed by the smallest amount. So too can the tares be transformed.

Another interesting observation is that the parable of the Sower is also about being nonjudgmental. For how many of us with farming or even gardening backgrounds hasn't read this parable and thought “why in the world is he scattering valuable grain into rocks and stones?” why is he wasting seed on such thin and poor soil where he surely knows it will wither and die? Well, the answer is that it isn't up to us to judge the soil in which we plant the seed of God's word. Not a one of us can correctly identify were the seed of the word will yield it's greatest harvest. As I preached just the other week, the history of the Church is littered with the most unlikely becoming the most fruitful, and we need look no further than the Apostle Paul to see this truth. In fact we need look no further than Christ himself who came from the peasant class, the marginalized and the disregarded. We are not to judge or discriminate where and to whom we spread the seed of God. We may well see the one time strident unbeliever become a minister and advocate for God.

We are to live side by side with the tares, with our roots intertwined in fact. To live our lives, like my Grandfather lived his life, joyfully and quietly being God's agents in this world. And had he only lived long enough he would have seen some of these acts come to fruition and he would have had the privilege of seeing of all things, the 'Canadian Thistle' which was named after him, pick up the Good Book and preach.

I would like to think that he's watching not only me preach today but also my cousin who is a Minister in a UCC Church over in South Dakota. I know he would have been thrilled to know that two of his grandchildren are now preachers. For you see Grandfather sowed well and he did not judge.

Let us close this sermon with a prayer;

Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to be ever mindful to not be judgmental of others. But let us be ever mindful of living our lives as a reflection of your love for each and everyone. Please forgive us for our failings and guide us daily to a better understanding of you and the path that you wish for us to walk in your creation.
We pray this in Your Holy Name.


Funeral & Interment Services for Doris DeVries - June 15

Called to Worship:
“I am the resurrection and the life,” says the Lord.
“Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,
And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
(John 11:25 – 26)

Beloved, we have come together within the strengthening fellowship
of friends and family:
to praise God for the life of Doris Lillian 'Kral' DeVries;
to share our grief with God and with one another;
to reaffirm our faith in God’s unfailing goodness;
to hear again God’s promise of resurrection;
and to commend Doris to God’s everlasting care.

Opening Prayer:

Let us begin with a word of prayer:
Gracious God, your love endures forever. Your faithfulness is unfailing and all your promises are true. The movement of your Spirit is evident even in our darkest moments. Attend to us now in our grief as we trust you will. Speak words of comfort to our hearts. Open us up to receive your hope. Fill us with the joy and peace that come from above. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Hymn: What A Friend We Have In Jesus No. 585 All

The Gospel Reading: 14th Chapter of the Gospel of John

Hear these words from Jesus:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If it were not so,
Would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
So that where I am, there you may be also.
And you know the way to the place where I am going.
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
But you will see me;
Because I live, you also will live.
I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
Whom the Father will send in my name,
Will teach you everything,
And remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
(John 14:1 – 4, 18 – 19, 25 – 27)


Today we gather to remember and celebrate the life of Doris DeVries.

We have also gathered to worship and embrace our all loving and gracious God, who through his Son Jesus has shown the world that we are all loved and desired.

Doris's obituary is printed on the brochure that you all have and so I will not repeat much of that which is printed for you already. Doris was baptized here at Woodlawn as a young adult in 1949 and remained a member of Woodlawn Christian Church for the rest of her life. She was very active and involved in the church for as long as her health allowed. She and her late husband John were married in the church's Parsonage next door and they raised their children here within these four walls of Woodlawn Christian Church.

When I met with the family the other day the word that they used to describe her the most fully was caring. She genuinely cared about people. Doris was very devoted to visiting 'shut ins' in the Lake City area and felt a special calling to do so. After her husband John suffered a stroke she spent over 20 years caring for him while he was wheelchair bound. Her family marveled at her ability as such a small lady to be able to physically deal with her husband’s much larger size. She told them that she placed it all in God's hands and that He guided her along and gave her the abilities and strength needed.

In our conversation I heard a great deal, so much that there's no way for me to adequately share it all with you here today. Many of you know these stories already, and if you don't please talk to Doris's children and grandchildren as they have so many wonderful and enjoyable memories to share. I heard about a woman that I am sad that I never got a chance to get to know as she sounded like a wonderful and interesting person.

I heard about a woman who loved her family, a woman that loved to bake, who always had homemade bread, monster cookies, blonde bars or brownies among others. She was an Iowa farmer’s wife who took coffee out to her husband while he worked in the fields. A lady who loved flowers, cats (especially her favorite cat named John Boy), who loved working outdoors, and who adored decorating her home for the various holidays (especially for Christmas). A woman who loved to do crafts with her identical twin sister Dorothy. A lady who she and her identical twin just happened to marry brothers. Doris married John Devries, and Dorothy married Herman Devries. I heard about a lady who loved, loved, loved to dance and who often went dancing with her husband along with her sister and her husband. She especially like to go to Polka dances. Even after she was placed into the memory unit out at Shady Oaks, she continued to love to dance and did so regularly with the nurses, staff or family members. Her family shared that they find comfort in knowing that she is once again dancing with her husband John in heaven along with her sister and brother in law and so many other friends and relatives. I'm quite certain that our Good Lord enjoys hearing and watching a good polka as much as any of us.

But the thing I heard coming through this conversation the most loud and clear was a woman who loved her Lord. Right up to the end she would have moments of clarity and she would talk about Jesus, God and how she loved Him. This perhaps above all else stayed with her to the end.

It was shared that she would have wanted this service to be a worship service, with the appropriate focus upon our Heavenly Father.

We lift up to God our praises to him for the life that he provides to us all, and for the promise of life ever after reconciled with Him forever. It is for this reason that we as Christians, people with faith in our Lord for eternal life that we can face the loss of a loved one and do so in fact with joy. Joy secured in the knowledge that our loved one is not dead but rather transformed into a spiritual being and that when our time comes we will be reunited and our joy will be complete.

Praise God!

But I will point out to you all that perhaps the very best way that we can worship our Lord is by a life well lived, and focused on our God. A life lived very much as the life that Doris lived to be honest. A life of caring and serving, of nurturing and loving. The best way to worship God is to show your love for Him, and the best way to show your love for God is to love His children and His creation. From what I learned from the family the other day, I am assured that Doris did just that.

As I said our God assures us of life everlasting and a promise of the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15: 35-44

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

Our parting from Doris is only a temporary event, someday each of us will be reunited with her and our God. United in glory, when the joy shall never end.

Let us please pray....

Closing Prayer:

Almighty God, you love everything and everyone you have ever made. Thank you for giving Doris to us. Thank you for receiving her into your loving arms. In your mercy you turn the darkness of death into the dawn of new life, and the sorrow of parting into the joy of heaven; through our Savior Jesus Christ, who died, rose again, and lives for evermore. Amen.

The interment will be at the Cottonwood Cemetery, just east of town. After-wards there will be a luncheon back here at Woodlawn Christian in the fellowship hall.


Sending Song: Just as I Am, Without One Plea No. 339 All

Committal Service: Cottonwood Cemetery
On the behalf of Doris’s family and friends, I thank you all for joining here to lie to rest the body of Doris Lillian DeVries. Let us now listen to the Words of our God:

[5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.]
– 2 Corinthians 5:1 – 5

God has called Doris home. We now commit her body to the grave and commend her spirit into the hands of God. We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. God has called Doris home. Let us pray.
God, we thank you for Doris. We know that she now enjoys your presence like never before. Please make your presence known to her family and friends who are afflicted with grief. Give them strength to carry on and carry out your will in the face of their affliction. Be with them always. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer: (SINS)

Prayer for the Family:
God, you do not willingly grieve or afflict your children. Look with compassion on the suffering of this family in their loss. Sustain them in their anguish; and into the darkness of their grief bring the light of your love; through Jesus we pray. Amen

May the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the grace of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Infant Dedications

 This past Sunday we had the great opportunity to dedicate three children; two infants and one young child.  All three are grandchildren of Roxy and Scott Crandall and are also great-grandchildren of Evelyn and Daryl Johnson.   Dedicated were Grant Daryl Jeffrey Crandall, son of Gavin & Tiffany Crandall, Tallon Gregory Daryl Crandall son of Chase & Kim Crandall, as well as Ryan Anne Crandall daughter of Chase & Kim Crandall.  It was a great honor to be able to be a part of a landmark in this families history.  

Roxy is the daughter of Daryl & Evelyn and their family have been members at Woodlawn Christian for many generations.  Evelyn has been the organist here for many, many years, and Evelyn's mother Helen Short was the church organist prior to Evelyn.  Helen played the organ in the old church building which burned down and then played for the dedication of our current building which was built in 1927.  Helen was still the organist in fact when the church celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1965.

Woodlawn Christian Church, Lake City, IA

I need to get ready to head to Laurens, Iowa for the monthly 'Cluster' meeting (a gathering of the DOC ministers in the nearby area), so I need to run.

I'll leave you with the manuscript from the sermon I gave after the dedication of the Crandall children.

God's grace & love to you all,


What a wonderful day we're having here at Woodlawn Christian Church today. We've just dedicated and blessed three beautiful children here today. And these are children with very long family histories in this church, family ties that reach back honestly, to the vast majority of the lifetime of this congregation. It's a wonderful thing to see this continuity and history in any organization. It's a great blessing for certain. We pray that someday one or more of these little ones will come here with their own children to be dedicated to God, and who knows, maybe even their grandchildren will be dedicated in this very sanctuary. Praise God!

As Disciples of Christ, we don't of course practice infant baptisms. It's not that we don't and won't accept an infant baptism, it's just that our history and heritage is that of a believers baptism. This has come to the Disciples through our early connection to the Baptist denomination. We like those in the baptist movement believe in an age of innocence and therefore that an infant does not need to be absolved of sins. Much more meaningful for us, is the believers baptism, a profound statement of ones faith and belief in Christ as our Lord. We therefore look forward to the day when these children that we have dedicated here today will come forward and proclaim their desire to be baptized.

Since we don't do infant baptisms, we have instead this ceremony that we've conducted here today a dedication or blessing of the children. It is however, not something that lays a responsibility on the children, but a ceremony that lays responsibility directly upon the parents and us as members of this congregation. All of us have just pledged to take a responsibility in the development and growth of these children as Christians and as hopefully future members of this or another Christian Church.

Before we go any further, let's go before God in a moment of prayer and reflection;

O God, to whom belong adoration and praise, prepare us, through the active presence of your Spirit, to come before you rightly. Enlighten our understanding, purify our every desire, quicken our wills, and strengthen every right purpose. Direct this hour of worship to the magnifying of your name, and to the enduring good of us your children and servants, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As I just mentioned, we as Disciples don't believe in doing infant baptisms, but rather we do dedications of our children here before a body of believers and before God. This practice of infant dedications takes it's lead from the incident that we read about Jesus and his family in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 2:22-40 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,

according to thy word;
30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
31 which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to thy people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,

“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel,

and for a sign that is spoken against
35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phan′u-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

39 And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Mary because she has given birth to a male child, has had to go through a forty day period of ritual cleansing and has come to the temple as a final step in this process; presenting a sacrifice to the temple. Also, since Jesus is their first child he has been brought to the temple to be presented and consecrated to God. This practice was a reminder of the Exodus, specifically passover. A male child could be 'purchased' back from God, or redeemed at a price of five shekels of silver. Here in Luke's Gospel there is no mention of Jesus being redeemed from the Temple. It's possible that Luke is unaware of this feature of this tradition, as he seems to also be unaware in his writing that it isn't Jesus who is in need of purification. Note that he says “their purification”, but only Mary needs to be purified. Or it's possible that he wishes to imply that Jesus never was redeemed from God and therefore has remained devoted and pledged to God all along.

Whether or not it was the authors intent to portray Jesus as remaining pledged to God, we today certainly look back onto this Gospel and see this as being the case. To our way of seeing, Jesus' role wasn't to be redeemed but rather to be the redeemer. This line of thought is certainly rich in symbolic meaning to us as Christians today.

If you were to ask me, I do think the author meant to portray Jesus as remaining consecrated to God. The two incidents which follow with Simeon and Anna would seem to me to solidify this line of thinking. Both of these elderly individuals are described as being devote and righteous, as well as both have the power of prophecy. Simeon has been told that he will see the Messiah prior to his death and he immediately recognizes Jesus, who we must remember is just a few days old at the time of this incident, as the promised one. Now Simeon can die in peace knowing that the future is secure in the love of God. This child is not only the salvation for Israel but also the revelation to the gentile world, all are to be saved through Christ.

Now beyond the story of the presentation in the temple we see other stories about children in the Gospels. All three gospels stress the importance of children in the ministry of Christ.

Let's look now at the Gospel of Matthew;

Matthew 18:1-7 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

True Greatness
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Temptations to Sin

5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

And in the next Chapter of Matthew;

Matthew 19:13-15 - Jesus Blesses Little Children (RSV)

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

And still later in Matthew's gospel;

Matthew 21:15-16Revised Standard Version (RSV)
15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant; 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings

thou hast brought perfect praise’?”

And these same sentiments are echoed in nearly all four of the Gospels. Clearly these are important tenants to the teaching of Christ. Children are central to the ministry of our Lord, they are to be emulated, protected, received and listened to according to the teaching of Christ. It's not only the innocence of the children that endears them to Christ but it's also a continuation of Jesus' ministry to those who are 'outsiders' and who are marginalized. Children didn't occupy a very elevated position in the Jewish society. They were certainly not to be emulated or listened to, Jesus once again has taken a very radical position in his ministry to this wanting and broken world.

The children recognize Jesus for who he is and they in their innocence and unihibited manner cry out to him as the Messiah.  They are another example of the outsiders being the ones who recognize Christ for who he is in this world.

Today, we've dedicated these children to our God. Let us always remember to follow Christ's example and protect them, guide them, welcome them, listen to them and most importantly experience this world and our God's love through their eyes.

In closing, it's only fitting and a great blessing that we have these children come before us to be dedicated at this time. Children who as I said earlier, have such a long family heritage in this congregation, dedicated just as we begin to prepare for our celebration of 150 years as a congregation. It is a wonderful illustration of what this celebration is all about, we look back with pride and fond memories to the past. We take that inspiration and that responsibility into the future. These children and all of the rest of the children that we welcome through these doors are a part of the future for Woodlawn Christian Church. God Bless them each and every one.

Let us close with a prayer;

Dear Father, Abba, we come to you humbly, and freely accept the grace that you provide to us, grace given despite our sins against you in thought, word and deed. Lord, we thank you for your love and forgiveness and we cherish above all else our relationship to you, we also thank you for the relationships that you have blessed us with in our families, our friends, our fellow believers and all our fellow human beings. Truly, all are a part of your grand design and creation. Dear God, let us always be mindful of your directions in this world and let us be your hands and feet in this place. Father, we look forward to the day when through your direction all shall be reconciled to you and to each other.
We pray this in your most Holy and Blessed name, AMEN.

Woodlawn Christian Church, Lake City, IA
WmRoy Karlen photo