“An Unfair Gospel”

“An Unfair Gospel”
Matthew 20:1-16
Rev. Benjamin Wines
World Communion Sunday

I will extol you, my God and King,
And bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
And praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall laud your works to another,
And shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
And on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
And I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
And shall sing aloud of your righteousness. – from Psalm 145:1-7

We look forward to sharing in Worship with you, starting at 11:00AM.. Our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 145:1-7. Rev. Benjamin Wines brings the sermon, “An Unfair Gospel”, based on Matthew 20:1-16.

Questions for Further Reflection:
How does the title of today’s sermon strike you?
What does it mean for the gospel to be “unfair”?
And why might that be good news?

Uncomfortable Faith

Brothers and sisters,

This coming Sunday, October 1, we will be starting a new sermon series entitled, “Uncomfortable Faith.” The basic premise of this entire series is that there are some teachings of Jesus that can make us feel a little, you know, uncomfortable. There are some teachings that we think, “Did Jesus really say that?” Or, there are things he said, particularly parables, that we may think, “You know, I remember that being in there, but I forgot just how intense that passage was.” Those are the types of passages we will be looking at over the next two months.

Here’s the thing. In the midst of these intense passages, these words of Jesus that may make us feel a little uncomfortable, there are beautiful messages of faith and love and grace. In the midst of these intense passages, I am fully confident that God will walk with us. And I would argue that if we are not willing to challenge ourselves, to examine the sometimes difficult teachings of our faith, to consider that we may not have all the answers, then we are doing ourselves a disservice. Faith is a journey. It is a quest to draw closer to God in all that we do. Sometimes that means wrestling with ideas we hadn’t thought of be-fore. Sometimes it means wrestling with passages that make us uncomfortable. But, again, God walks alongside us and guides us in all of this—if we will humble ourselves and listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Now, for this series we will mostly be looking at passages from the Gospel of Matthew, but we will have two detours. I will be on vacation on October 15th, so a student from Duke Divinity School will be preaching for me. I’ve told him to prepare a standalone sermon, rather than ask him to preach on an uncomfortable passage. And on November 19th, we will hop over to 2 Corinthians and have a more Thanksgiving-themed worship service. But I am looking forward to preaching this series. I’m looking forward to the questions we’ll get to ask and the conversations I hope this series will start.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Ben

Listening to Lazarus

“Listening to Lazarus”
Luke 16:19-31
Dr. Steve Bolton

You who live in the shelter of the Most High
Who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
Will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the deadly pestilence;
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
Or the arrow that flies by day,
Or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
And show them my salvation. – from Psalm 91

We hope you will join us today, as our guest speaker, Dr. Steve Bolton, brings the sermon titled, “Listening to Lazarus”. We will be reading from Luke 16:19-31. Our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16.

Judging Others

“Judging Others”
Romans 14:1-12
Rev. Benjamin Wines

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless his holy name.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
Nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
Nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
So the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul. from Psalm 103

We look forward to sharing in Worship with you, starting at 11:00AM. Today, Rev. Benjamin Wines will bring the sermon, “Judging Others”. We will be reading from Romans 14:1-12 and our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 103:1, 8-13, 22.

Questions for Further Reflection:

In this passage, Paul calls the Roman Christians to set aside differences and build community.

  • How does God help us break down barriers?
  • Why might building community require courage?

Seasons of Life

Y’all, it’s that time of year again. Now, I write that and you might think, “Ah, yes. Football season is upon us!” And that’s true—college and professional football have started their seasons. Or, you might be thinking, “Ah, yes. We’re supposed to start getting cooler temperatures next week, so fall is coming!” And that’s also true—and a little closer to the season I’m thinking of. Truth is, it’s that time of year again—time for pumpkin-everything!

I went to Trader Joe’s last night (Tuesday night) and let me just list off the things I can remember that were pumpkin flavored. You ready? I saw Pumpkin-O’s (pumpkin-flavored Cheerios), pumpkin breakfast bars, pumpkin cornbread mix, pumpkin pancake mix (might have bought that), pumpkin muffin mix, pumpkin chili seasoning, pumpkin creamer, pumpkin yogurt, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin tortilla chips, pumpkin sandwich cookies (definitely bought those), pumpkin Oreos, pumpkin yogurt-covered cookies, and pumpkin oatmeal, among other things. Funny enough, I saw no canned pumpkin!

I bring that up because it seems like the beginning of “pumpkin-everything” season is the unofficial beginning of fall. It marks the time of the year when the days are growing noticeably shorter and there does begin to be a nip in the air—even though here in North Carolina you cannot truly rule out a 90 degree day till about mid-October. But this is a season of the year when we start to celebrate those around us and those in our community. We are preparing for things like the State Fair, where we will see the accomplishments of some of our neighbors in the various contests. We are preparing for Halloween where we reach out to strangers in the community and of-fer a moment of fellowship through trick-or-treating. We are preparing for All Saints Day when we honor those Christians who came before us. We are preparing for Thanksgiving, where we gather with family to remember the things we’re grateful for and, of course, to eat things like pumpkin pie!

Ultimately, the beginning of “pumpkin-everything” season also reminds me of the fact that we are preparing for the celebration of Advent and Christmas. As I sipped pumpkin spiced coffee from my pumpkin-emblazoned coffee mug this morning, I got a reminder from my phone that the choir will start practicing their Advent music this Saturday (9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the choir room if you’d like to join them). And all of this, together, made me think of the various seasons we all go through in our lives and the myriad experiences that come with those seasons. Sometimes, we’re in a season of celebration and rejoicing, where it seems like everywhere we turn our friends, our family, even ourselves are experiencing joy. Sometimes, it’s a season of loss and mourning, where each day is a struggle and getting out of bed is an accomplishment. Sometimes it’s a season of uncertainty, where decisions are not easy to make and a way forward is not clear. The good news of the gospel, though, is that God is with us in all those seasons. Joy, sorrow, uncertainty—God is there. Fall, football, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas—God is there. Even in “pumpkin-everything” season—God is there. Don’t believe me? Google “pumpkin spice communion wafers images” and have a laugh!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Ben

The Greatest Commandment

“The Greatest Commandment”
Romans 13:8-14
Rev. Benjamin Wines

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
And I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
And observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Turn my heart to you decrees,
And not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
Give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
Which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
For your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts;
In your righteousness give me life. from Psalm 119:33-40

We look forward to sharing in Worship with you, starting at 11:00AM. Today, Rev. Benjamin Wines will bring the sermon, “The Greatest Commandment”. We will be reading from Romans 13:8-14, and our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 119:33-40.

Love and Blessings

Love and Blessings
Rev. Benjamin Wines

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity,
And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
And I walk in faithfulness to you.
I wash my hands in innocence,
And go around your altar, O Lord,
Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,
And telling all your wondrous deeds.
O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell,
And the place where your glory abides. Psalm 26:1-3, 6-8

We look forward to sharing in Worship with you, starting at 11:00AM. Pastor Benjamin Wines will bring the sermon, “Love and Blessings”, based on Romans 12:9-21. Our Call to Worship comes from Psalm 26.

Questions for Further Reflection:

Paul gives direct orders to the Roman Christians on how to treat each other.

  • Which one speaks to you, specifically?
  • What can you do in your daily life to show others you genuinely love them?

Prayers of the People

Brothers and sisters,

This week I want us to just take some time to pray for all of the various things that are happening or have happened within the last few weeks. It seems like the news cycles have been particularly difficult and so I would ask you to take some time and pray for folks all over the country. Use my suggestions below as starters if you’d like to, but then take some time to speak to God and ask for God’s grace in all of this.

For the people of Hawaii. The search and rescue process continues on the island of Maui after the wildfires. The process of identifying bodies drags on, particularly because so many of the bodies crumble when touched in any way. Pray for the people who have lost loved ones. Pray for the people who have not heard yet whether their loved one is among the dead. Pray for the rescuers as they continue to do this work that is hard physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Pray for the people of Hawaii as a collective as they process the trauma, the grief, the tragedy of all of this.

For the people of Jacksonville, Florida. They are reeling from the rampage of someone who espoused truly hateful, bigoted views about our brothers and sisters in the black community. Pray for the family of the shooter as they grieve the loss of their loved one and must deal with who he turned out to be. Pray for the families of the victims as they now have to deal with the grief and the trauma of losing someone they loved so suddenly and so violently. Pray for the people of Jacksonville, as they process their grief.

For the UNC community. They are also reeling from a senseless shooting and the death of a young, bright scholar. The university is doing their best to care for the students, but pray for everyone there at Carolina right now. Pray for the students who were in Caudill Laboratories as it happened. Pray for all those students who had to lock down and wonder for hours what was happening. Pray for the elementary, middle, and high school kids who also had to lockdown during the manhunt. Pray for the family of Zijie Yan, the professor who was killed, as they grieve his loss. And pray for the family of Tailei Qi, the shooter, as they grieve and grapple with what he has done.

Finally, pray for the people of Keaton Beach, Florida and the surrounding area. Hurricane Idalia has made landfall there and as I write this article, 1 person has been declared dead and 286,000 people are without power. Pray for everyone in the path of the storm. There will be property damage, loss of life, and so many other things they’ll have to deal with over the next days, weeks, months. Pray that they would receive the help they need. Pray for everyone who has lost or will lose a loved one. Pray for all those who have lost or will lose their homes. Pray for that community, that they can come together and help one another in the wake of this storm.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Ben

What Did Jesus Say?!

What Did Jesus Say?! ” Rev. Benjamin Wines

Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord;
Praise the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord
From this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
The name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations,
And his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high,
Who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust,
And lifts the needy from the ash heap,
To make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
Making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord! Psalm 113

We look forward to Worshiping with you! Sunday Service starts at 11:00. We will be reading from Luke 16:1-15. Rev. Benjamin Wines will bring the sermon, “What Did Jesus Say?!”

Questions for Further Reflection:
This parable is not an easy one to understand.
What questions does it raise in your mind?
How should we, as Christians, wrestle with difficult teachings from Jesus?

The Splendor of God’s House

The Splendor of God’s House
Rev. Benjamin Wines

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Make a joyful noise before the Lord.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
The world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
Let the hills sing together for joy
At the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98:1, 4-9

We hope you will join us in Worship at 11:00AM. We will be reading from Haggai 1:15b-2:9. Rev. Benjamin Wines will share the sermon, “The Splendor of God’s House”.