Sunday, March 24, 2019

Come Empty-Handed

Before Church

Sunday, March 24, 2019 

Isaiah 55:1-3
Come, everyone who thirsts,
      come to the waters;
      and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
       without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
       and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good,
       and delight yourselves in rich food. 
Incline your ear, and come to Me,
       hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
       my steadfast, sure love for David.

Invitations.  We love to get invitations, don’t we?  When I was a little girl even birthday parties merited written, mailed, invitations, and we loved to go because there were always games, and cake, and ice cream.  My favorite was chocolate.  But we always had to bring a present, you never went empty-handed.

This invitation from God says: come empty-handed.  Come into God’s party, come thirsty, and we will be satisfied with waters, with milk and with wine.  We don’t need any money, because God has paid it all.  Have you ever been short of cash?  Found yourself at the cashier with not enough to pay? Had a check bounce?  A credit card denied?  Gone to a restaurant and not been able to afford what you’ve already eaten?  It’s an awful experience, a terrible feeling.  But this never happens in the Kingdom of God, because Christ paid it all!  We find ourselves in the position to pay for whatever we need, and buy whatever we want.  Thanks to Christ, we are preferred customers at God’s market!.

We can labor for worldly bread that never satisfies.  Bread is notoriously short-lived, going stale in a day and spoiling quickly thereafter. God invites us to His feast.  Jesus, the Bread of Heaven, comes to satisfy us not through our mouths but through our ears: “Listen diligently to Me, . . . incline your ear, . . . hear that your soul may live. . .” Kingdom feasting is on the Word of God.  Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life”.  Where better to feast but at church? 

Gathering this morning, let’s focus on the rich food, the delight of God’s truth.  This is what feeds our souls, this is what gives them everlasting life.  God promises an everlasting covenant of love, the steadfast love that lasts into eternity.  Come, everyone.  Come empty-handed.  We are going to be filled, satisfied for ever.  See you at church!

Before Church is a weekly blogette put out by the Rev. Elizabeth Stone. Connect with Pastor Beth at

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Big Reveal

Before Church

Sunday, March 10, 2019 The Big Reveal

Deuteronomy 29:29
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Plumbing excitement. Bathroom refit commercials talk about the “big reveal” at the end of the day when homeowners get to see their new tub.  If we get this excited about plumbing, we should be over the moon about the Bible.  Why?  Because it is the biggest reveal in history.  The Israelites had the privilege of having the law given to them; in fire and smoke on Mount Sinai the Torah was given, a living legacy for the Hebrews to this day.  But it was just a prelude, the foundation of an even bigger reveal.

The uptick in fish commercials tells us we are in Lent, and even those of us who are not Roman Catholic can cross the street and enjoy a good fish fry on a Friday night.  Today is also the start of daylight savings time (did you make it up on time today? make it to church on time?).  The reminders in the news and on social media tell us we are about to lose an hour of our lives with the distant promise of getting it back come autumn.  But what about the Big Reveal of the Gospel? Jesus told His disciples that while on earth, He held nothing back.  While on earth, He taught everything the Father told Him, revealed everything.  That brings us up from the status of servant, to the status of friend, friend of God:

 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his mater is doing, but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:14,15

Every time we look into the Bible, the heart of God is revealed; more evidence of His eternal love for us, His determination to save us, His faithfulness to His promises, and His willingness to go to the utmost lengths to bring us home to Heaven.  It is not a distant promise, but up close and personal, because Christ came to earth in the flesh to reveal it, and to accomplish it.  Salvation revealed, salvation sealed. 

Hopefully you will head out to church on time this morning.  But arrive expectantly, expecting God’s revelation, seeing more, learning more, experiencing more, and being transformed by the Bible truth, the things that belong to us and our children forever.

Before Church is a weekly blogette put out by the Rev. Elizabeth Stone. Connect with Pastor Beth at

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Strife-free Zone

Before Church

Sunday, March 3, 2019 Strife-free Zone

Matthew 5:14,15
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Faith is not a private matter, a personal thing we do on our own.  It is not just “Me and Jesus” but Jesus, and us, and a whole mess of other people.  We are saved into the community of faith; when we walk out of our prayer closets, we walk first into church.  And what do we find there?  People like us; flawed by sin and needy for grace.  So it is not surprising that Jesus calls us to make peace with our brothers and sisters before we worship.  Whatever we want to offer on God’s altar this week – our love, our praise, our thanksgiving – we celebrate our reconciliation to God by being reconciled to each other, coming to His sanctuary with open, forgiving hearts.

Proverbs 17 tells us:
The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out. (vs. 14)
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (vs.9)

What is the hallmark of our church family? Strife? Quarrels? Or love and forgiveness?  Is love visible?  Does it show?

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. . .” Hebrews 12:14,15

The world is full of quarrels and strife.  When people walk into church, it must be a strife-free zone, that place where believers know love and forgiveness of Christ, and pour the same out on our sisters and brothers, so that any seekers who have wandered into our worship are struck and awed by divine love shared among a people of grace, amazing grace.