Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Rejoice! It’s the Season of Lent: Spring Training for Christians
Read Joel 2:1-11

    “Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays), begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Saturday, the evening before Easter.
During Lent, we enter into a season of preparation, self-reflection, and repentance when we seek to literally “turn around” and realign our lives and focus toward God. It is a time to give up things as well as take on new life-giving practices, helping us rid ourselves of distractions and our own selfish desires. By doing so, we seek to live and love as more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.” (Book of Worship). 
   So based on the above definition it may sound strange to be called to “rejoice.” Especially considering all that’s going on in the world around us. Lent is a somber season emphasizing the death and suffering of our Lord. In the above Scripture reading, Joel calls for the people to repent. Considering the whole book of Joel, it is apparent that this prophet is not chiding or criticizing, nor is he condemning or even judging the people. Rather, the prophet's concern is to comfort the distress in the hearts of the people as they face the desolation of their land. A plague of locusts has devastated the land.
    Now our concern isn’t a plague of locust but we face a similar desolation (a state of complete emptiness or destruction; anguished misery or loneliness) as we see evil rear its ugly head over and over again. To combat this issue we run to the Capital, we run to our politicians, we turn on the news and we listen to the experts argue over what the appropriate responses should be. On and on we go…
    Evil is God’s enemy and God has a plan—Hear me, God is love and has a plan to destroy evil, (Read the parable of the Wheat and the Tares Matt. 13). I feel it’s important to bear witness to the ultimate victory of God, but also to what God is doing now in the midst of history, in pain and suffering to engage evil. For we have hope that in our distress God hears, God heals and God cares. David Hart affirms, “God hears the cries of the suffering. Yes, God comes with healing in God’s wings. God comes in fact, as a warrior. The suffering and pain…is the enemy of God. From our perspective in the middle of history, we do not know everything about where this evil came from, but we know that it is God’s mortal enemy, and God comes to do combat, comes in the power of the cross, comes in the power of love.”[1] God’s power is at work in the world, even in what doesn’t look like power to us. God comes in God’s way, made known to us in Christ, a warrior in loving weakness. God comes as love to destroy the work and power of evil. I offer this as a word of healing, for God’s love enters every area of our life—past, present, and future, to bring healing.
   The call is to “repent.” During these all too familiar seasons of life, how often do you hear and head the call to “repent?” Repent: to turn - to return to God. Like a drillmaster's shout, "About face!" Repentance is a command given to turn and return to God. It’s a call to turn our entire life toward God. However, within the command itself, there is a reminder that the one, who gives the command, is a God who has never turned away from us. Therefore, repentance is not a "put-down,” it’s an "uplift." We’re to repent not primarily because we have done something bad or wrong; but, because our God has done something very good and will do something even better in the future.
    Now is the time to turn to God. Let us return with prayer and fasting not just to regret our faults or to rehearse our failures but to renew our faith that God is at work creating a blessed future out of the mess that we have made of God’s world and of our lives.
Now is not the time to practice shallow fasting - giving up things we can easily do without. Now is a time to stand with those who are hurting, and with the prophet, Joel in the wastelands, left by the locusts, and to see ripe grain filling the fields. Now is a time to stand before the cross and to see it as the coronation throne of Christ our king.
Now is the time to turn to the Holy Scriptures to study and commune with God in prayer. Now is the time to lift up the cross—high enough to begin to see the rays of Easter morning.

May God richly bless you as you observe a Holy Lent,
Pastor Brian Sanderson

[1] Long, Thomas, G. ‘What Shall We Say: Evil, Suffering, and The Crisis of Faith’ (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2011) P. 147.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I was reading 1 Corinthians chapter 3 recently to prepare a brief message for my Church's food ministry on Thursday when vv.s 9-16 sparked a special memory.        
I come from a hard-working family. My dad and grandfather built houses together until my grandfather became the county building inspector. Later, my dad emerged as a self-employed painter.  So as you can imagine growing up I had plenty of opportunities to practice building and painting. This practice affirmed my desire to go to college.
Fast forward years later to my point. My wife and I purchased our first home, which as many of you are familiar a starter home is just that--one you can afford which means it is probably older and needs a lot of work and this one met all of the above criteria. So with our parent's help, we begin the renovation process. As a paise to God, I should also mention my wife's father is a very gifted self-employed contractor. So with a grand vision and a great deal of help we renovated our first home.  
As is the case when a house begins to show age as well as wear and tear it is time for a remodel job to take place. The process of remodeling transforms the house or building in order to update it, make it more modern and livable, and save the cost of buying or building a new one. Remodeling takes what already exists and reconfigures it into something different, something updated and upgraded with new life.
Our House needed the floors sanded and refinished, painting--both interior and exterior, new closet doors, the entire bathroom remodeled (yes we only had one bathroom to share), new railing for the stairs, new tile floors for the bathroom and the kitchen, new insulation beneath the house, new appliances, new light fixtures, and not to leave out the exterior: new landscaping: new plants, even a new driveway.
This experience taught me to value the process of transformation. I gained a greater appreciation for the renovation experience.
The Question? Do we need remodeling as people? I think so. Good news God is in the remodeling Business
We are all born needing a remodeling job. All of us are born sinful and full of fleshly desires. As we grow, our sinful nature exerts its influence on our lives. It begins to train us to serve its lust for all sorts of things. It strives to encourage behaviors that are inappropriate, rude and selfish. No matter how good we think we are, deep within the core of our being is the sinful flesh with which we were born. 
The Answer, Yes, of course, assuming one doesn't want to learn this truth the hard way.
During the renovation process, I repeatedly thought of God's work in my life. For example, as I began to paint the exterior I first had to pressure wash the house, then replace rotten wood, SCRAPE and SCRAPE away the old paint before I could apply the pretty new color my wife and I had picked out.
In the same way, God takes special care to build us into the people we are intended to be. First, it begins with Christ as our firm foundation V.11 and then our cooperation to maintain a habitable dwelling place for God's Spirit, v.16. 
May we embrace God's remodeling project in our lives, allow God to take what already exists and reconfigure us into something different, something updated and upgraded with new life. And as a result, we have something beautiful to live in both inside and out and for the world to see.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Today millions of people will be looking up (and i hope they are wearing the appropriate glasses) to view the solar eclipse. I must confess that I too am excited and want to see the eclipse and as I was walking to the mailbox I caught myself looking up. Thankfully it's overcast here in North East FL. and you cannot see the sun or my eyes would probably still be burning. It was in this moment that I had the thought, Wow, just think if all of us were looking up to the Lord, gazing upwards at God's glory in a posture of adoration. Then as they often do my thoughts run on and I wondered how many people look up when they pray? When was the last time you considered your prayer posture?

Prayer Posture:

In Church we hear, "Let us pray" and we bow our heads to pray, usually with eyes closed.

Standing. Hands up and opened (also called the orans position- one of the oldest), or standing with hands clasped. This form traditionally represents penitential, submissive, intercessory prayer. Also, standing while looking up in prayer shows confidence.

Kneeling. We all probably grew up using this form of bedside prayer. This posture first represented prayers for repentance or supplication.

Prostrate. Laying face down one's belly with eyes closed. This posture demonstrates humility and a sense of desperation.

Sitting. Head bowed, eyes closed. (I've read that this form of prayer wasn't common until after the advent of pews).

The most important thing is to pray. What a gift! The ability to communicate with our heavenly Father.
May God find you in whatever posture of prayer you are drawn to and as always may the grace of God be sufficient for all of your needs.

Pastor Brian

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened, or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." JOSHUA 1:9

So it's been a while since my last post. My family and I have found ourselves in a time of transition. We were led by God's divine grace to serve a new Church--Middleburg UMC in Middleburg, Florida. As you can imagine this a great time for exploring new possibilities, making new friends, building new relationships, serving a new community, starting a new school, preaching to new people...But as you may have experienced times of transition can also be scary, challenging, and stressful.
As I began my time serving M.U.M.C I preached a four week sermon series out of the book of Joshua. Joshua was an obedient, strong, (mostly) faithful leader who knew what it meant to trust in the LORD. When one looks to the life lessons of Joshua it becomes evident that it's best to look at the possibilities and not the problems (or the opportunities and not the obstacles); to step out in faith, recognize the power of being a united people for change is inevitable.
From the very beginning of our life with God, God has graciously offered relationship and desired for us to be a community who lives by faith, are known by love--(blessed to bless others), and offer voices of hope. We find God to be faithful, loving, and merciful in dealing with us and these same traits are to be naturally embodied by God's people. As I look back over my journey thus far I have found God to faithful, loving, and GOOD.
Would you trust God today? Life happens. Change is inevitable. Whatever you may going through know that God in Christ loves you. God has been and will continue to be faithful, gracious, and loving. Know this truth with your mind but also live it out with your life, by your actions demonstrate for the world who our God is. Follow where God leads

For further study:
Numbers 13:1-3 and Numbers 13:26-14:9
Joshua 3:1-17; 6:1-20
Joshua 7:1-15; 7:16-26
Joshua 24:1-18; 24:22-33

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Well here it is, it's almost 90 degrees here in Central Florida so Spring must be upon us. Springtime doesn't just mean hot weather, pollen and budding flowers, it is also used to initiate a season in the Church year, Lent. Lent from a Saxon word originally meant "length" and was used to denote springtime. Here in the part of the world from where I write we begin to see the days lengthen and new life appear.
Lent developed in relation to Easter as a fast in preparation for the feast. The early Church held a two-day mourning fast on Friday to commemorate Jesus' death, and on Saturday for His entombment. The Church later extended the fast to six days before Easter. Only water, bread and salt were consumed the first four days, and a complete fast for the final two days. Near the Council of Nicaea in 325 a.d. many Churches were observing a forty-day fast. This particular observance set the intense catechetical discipline for preparing candidates for baptism. This period also allowed for reconciliation and restoration of those who because of sins were separated from the Church.
I have all of this Lent history in mind because I am preparing a message for Ash Wednesday which for us Christians today begins the season of Lent, 40 days of fasting, (beginning with Jesus' forty days in the wilderness), leading up to Easter. Don't worry the sermon will be much better :-). For myself and the disciples of my Church this season is both a private and a corporate experience. We will read devotionally on our own and also meet together weekly at a local park for prayer and discussion. The sermons for each Sunday in Lent will also follow our devotional materials.
I am borrowing a quote from Alexander Schmemann that I feel captures the unique parallels of the season. he writes of Lent, "A journey, a pilgrimage! Yet as we begin it, we make the first step into the 'bright sadness' of Lent, we see far, far away--the destination. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the kingdom."
On Ash Wednesday I, along with my other Pastoral colleagues pronounce, "Repent and believe the Gospel," "Remember that you are dust and to the dust you shall return," and with these words mark foreheads with ashes in the sign of the cross. This year I will share the same message and same words but include an emphasis on God's GRACE. Yes this season makes us mindful of our mortality, and our sinfulness but we must not forget that by his suffering, death, and resurrection Jesus made a way possible for forgiveness and eternal life, beginning Now. We will take a look at the life lessons of king David beginning with Psalm 51.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I was enjoying a skinny vanilla latte while browsing books in a local book store recently when I found a few lines of a poem that resonated with my soul. Maybe you will find inspiration within these lines that connect with you and align with what you are experiencing.

"IF" Rudyard Kipling, 1865 - 1936

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Greetings in Christ!

I want to wish you all a, “Merry Christmas!”

Truly at this Christmas Season, we are filled with reminders. We are reminded of all the “holiday” sales, we are reminded to watch special television programs, we are reminded to read our Advent devotionals, we are reminded to purchase our poinsettias, we are reminded to attend the Christmas eve service (6:00 p.m. by the way), the Christmas day service (10:30 a.m.), we are reminded of the office party, etc. etc.
Then without a notice, a blurb, or announcement we are reminded inwardly of the familiar feelings of joy and sorrow. You don’t need to be reminded that the Christmas season is the happiest and the loneliest time of the year. Christmas, by its very nature awakens us inwardly and reminds us of those sensitive painful places. Nor Scrooge or the Saint can escape it. Maybe this is why we make so many resolutions for the next year? We need to believe that our dreams, both personal and in general will be fulfilled.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness
on them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

The light of Christmas comes and invades our loneliness, our busyness, and our forgetfulness and offers healing and invites us home.

“The wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of His heaven.”

So this is your Christmas reminder, you are greatly blessed because of the love of God, which was showed in such a powerful way by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to come to this earth. If you will allow it, Christ comes to live in you. Therefore, “God is with us!”

Pictures of a trip I hosted to Israel Jan. 2016 of the Shepherd's field in Bethlehem

Christmas Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Brian Sanderson