It is all about Jesus!

Psalm 130       
I cry out to you from the depths, Lord—
my Lord, listen to my voice! Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy!
If you kept track of sins, Lord— my Lord, who would stand a chance?
But forgiveness is with you— that’s why you are honored.

I hope, Lord, my whole being hopes, and I wait for God’s promise.
My whole being waits for my Lord—more than the night watch waits for morning; yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!

Israel, wait for the Lord! Because faithful love is with the Lord; because great redemption is with our God!
He is the one who will redeem Israel from all its sin.

Romans 8: 35-38

35 What will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, we are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter. 37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. 38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things, or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.

  1. For several years, I have been pondering about my last day with you. Sometimes I would become reflective and pensive—other times I would become concerned about the future – sometimes I would feel that I could adjust to an easier schedule. But – the calendar has an inevitable march forward – doesn’t it?
    1. The days continue to check off – and now I am at the end of my fourteen-year ministry with you at Pleasant Grove UMC.
    1. These past years you have invited me into the most important aspects of your lives. It has been a deep and personal privilege to be trusted to help with the spiritual and compassionate aspects of your personal and family lives.
    1. I thank you!
  2. As many of you know next week will be beginning a new ministry for me. I will be the Visiting Pastor at Reisterstown UMC.
  3. It is hard to believe that 14 years have passed. In fact, I am now in the 28th year of an original 15-year plan for ministry. Beginning July 1st, my ministry will not be bounded by time regulations– but by health or other unforeseen circumstances.
  4. Pause
  5. In the mid-1990s Ann and I began to share with our friends at Westminster UMC that we were considering moving from a lucrative engineering career at Westinghouse into the United Methodist Church pastoral ministry at Christ House in Washington DC.
    1. Some of our friends thought we were crazy. Others thought we had drifted into some form of cult worship – our parents were confused – yet hopeful – our children–supportive.
  6. We said that we had read the Gospels of Jesus Christ and believed it.
    1. Furthermore, upon close reading, reflection, and prayer both of us felt deeply moved to modify our lives and to be more proactive in following Jesus.
    1. Later, we began to realize that the Holy Spirit had infected us with such a deep passion for disenfranchised people, that we could not ignore it.
    1. This came about by our profound and extended involvement in mission trips such as to Camp Hope, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, Botswana and finally Washington DC. It was through these trips – over ten years — that we began to change. A new vision for our lives was forming. We found the words of Psalm 130 reassuring –“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I hope”
  7. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit have a way of derailing your plans for your life.
    1. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit combine to give you a new life that exceeds all of our humanly expectations – and Ann, in spirit, and I are here today to testify to that.
  8. Prior to this transformational time in the 1990’s, I had been dabbling in seminary classes — just reading and writing – taking those courses in theology that interested me — not having any plan for formal ministry.
    1. Things changed – as they do when the Holy Spirit is involved – and I eventually ended up at Wesley Seminary – now quite serious about entering the ordained ministry.
  9. It was in one of my seminary pastoral counseling classes that a major transformation for me occurred. I could no longer continue to be such a logical – fix-it engineer. Here is what happened:
    1. Tell the story of the counseling role play occurred during a class on pastoral counseling.  – I was the pastor – and the woman was concerned about the issues she had with “coming-out-of the closet” – you know issues concerning her sexual identity.
      1. She wanted to know what to do — and my engineering mindset took over and I tried to offer fix-it solutions—I did miserably in my role play and I barely passed the course.
    1. About a year later — in another course, the Wesley campus was shocked by the suicide of the woman that I had role-played with – and I was devastated – she was not role-playing – she was crying out for help – and, in reality, neither the seminary professor, the members of the class nor I recognized or acknowledged that cry.
    1. It was the pastoral presence of a professor at Wesley Seminary who began to explain the healing effects of the Romans 8 passage that was just read – that passage adds significant hope to all of us in the period of transitions — that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. That day and message at Wesley Seminary has stuck with me since the mid-90’s.
  10. Why is that?
  11. Pause
  12. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8 that we are always being provoked by the forces of life – we are always being confronted by the sudden and tragic deaths of young people, or dear friends of ours or the devastating words from the doctor —traumatic brain injury! Or, Multiple Myeloma! But it’s a fact of life – death occurs!
  13. Many of us face difficulties in life – job loss, foreclosures, spouse infidelity, dissolvent of our marriage, renegade children, missed opportunities, failures in school, poor investments—failing health — all of this and many more will continue to challenge us – challenge our stability – challenge our hope – challenge our sense of fairness – challenge our faith.
  14. Paul writes that even hardship, distress, persecution, famine, war —- will not separate us from Christ.
  15. Then we hear these provoking and challenging words: For I am convinced that “nothing” can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
  16. And Paul means –“Nothing” — not job loss, not foreclosures, not spouse infidelity, not dissolvent of marriages, not renegade children, not missed opportunities, not failures in school, not poverty, not failing health —any or all of this list can knock us flat — but when Paul writes that nothing can separate us  — he means nothing – nothing – zip – zero – nothing – because it is all about Jesus.
  17. I have always had a keen awareness that my faith is built upon Jesus. If we did not have Jesus, then– and for me – God would seem distant – the creator of the universe – the ultimate power – but – to me – God would not be personal – not involved in my daily life – not concerned about me. But that is not the case.
  18. Our faith resides in Jesus.
  19. It is all about Jesus – God came to us as a baby – that is called incarnation – God in human form – personal – sharing the trials and tribulations that all of us experience.
  20. It was Jesus who showed us how to live, love, listen and serve. – Remember the story of Martha and Mary – service – love – and hospitality – all part and parcel of the Christian experience.
  21. It was Jesus who showed us who our neighbor was and how to love our neighbor. Remember the care and compassion that the Samaritan gave to the Jewish traveler beaten by robbers. Jesus taught us a message of compassion.
  22. It was Jesus who showed us how to handle wealth and money and treasures – and he challenged us to be more forth-giving than we are. Jesus always told parables about money and power – remember the widow’s mite – remember the search for treasures in the field?
  23. It was Jesus who showed us how to respond to be patient and to love our friends. Remember that Jesus had such problems with his closest friends – the disciples – it seemed that they were always struggling with what Jesus was saying to them.
  24. It was Jesus who taught us how to pray and to trust prayer. When asked by his disciples about prayer – Jesus gave us the prayer that all repeat in worship – you know – Our Father – prayer and retreating from the daily grinds of ministry into silence shows us how Jesus was connected to God.
  25. It was Jesus who showed us how to be parents of renegade children – remember the dad whose son wanted his inheritance now – implying that the son wished that his father was dead. But dad (and mom) did not give up hope and eventually the son returned. It was Jesus who showed us just how God feels when we finally return to our senses and find our heavenly Father.
  26. It is all about Jesus.
  27. It was Jesus who was accused by the Jewish and Roman authorities for insurrection and finally was executed upon the cross — one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment that humanity devised.
  28. And it was God’s mighty action in the resurrection of Jesus that sealed our faith – it is the hope that all of us have that there is life after death – that this time on earth is but momentary – and that eternal life can be expected — Jesus showed us this.
  29. It is all about Jesus.
  30. This is what happens to us – and it is fearful because of the consequences. When we step out in faith – into the unknown of life — and face the challenges and opportunities in faith – God – through Jesus Christ delivers – mysterious – magical—exciting—challenging – life changing.
  31. It is all about Jesus — Jesus – the Center of my Joy!
  32. Tim   Jesus, you’re the center of my joy Richard Smallwood w/Lyrics – YouTube
  33. Thanks Be to God!


Thanks for the Memories everyone! I will miss you very much!