Tag Archives: sermon

Working for God

Have you ever gotten a project off to what you had assessed was a good start only to discover a major problem and that addressing that problem would require scrapping nearly everything you had done and starting over?

This is the essence of the story of Noah and the flood. A few chapters earlier God finished creating the earth and “saw that everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Yet a few generations later “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” At this point God was deeply hurt and decided to scrap and rework creation. Some of creation God decided to reuse in version 2.0: namely Noah, his family, and a sufficient quantity of all living things to repopulate the cleansed earth.

Noah's Ark from Pixabay.com
Here are a few points of interest often overlooked in the Sunday School version.

  • The Almighty God asked Noah to help him preserve a portion of creation. Why would God need a helper? Perhaps you have called on a friend or co-worker to preserve part of a project you needed to restart.
  • At the height of the destruction God remembered Noah. The process of cleaning up a problematic project can be so spiritually relieving one might purge more than initially intended. This and God’s response to Noah’s worship on reaching dry land show the power of prayer.
  • God’s covenant with Noah extended to every living creature, even to the earth itself.
  • The human heart, the cause of God’s grief that lead to the flood, was not changed, instead God was changed. “The LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.'”

I will have more to say about Genesis 6:9-22 & 8:13-19 and working for God at 8:15 AM and 10:00 AM on Sunday February 18th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

A Tip for Parents

One of the images we use for baptism is coming through the flood. 1 Peter 3:19-21 teaches that our baptism is like the flood that Noah went through. While Noah’s flood made humanity and all living creatures right before God, our baptism makes us right before God, cleaning our mistakes from our conscience with God.

Help your child appreciate God’s grace of baptism as washing away all that we have done that would disappoint God.


“Bless this food, O Lord,
and us to thy service,
and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others.”

My mother regularly offered this prayer before we ate when I was growing up. The food was always a blessing. At the time I thought little about the next two phrases.

Now I am “ever mindful of the needs of others.” Those who come to visit me at the church do not come to share joyful news, but a perplexing need in their life. Those whom I visit in their homes or hospital or care facility have even more dire needs. Add to those reminders of the needs of others comes every hour of every day through news and social media reports from every corner all around the globe.

At times I have wondered if my call to service is really a blessing. Pastor’s do not really get time off. If someone is sick or dying, I get called no matter how many hours I have put in that week. I have provided pastoral care by phone while on vacation from the Painted Desert and answered administrative questions from the Grand Canyon. Worse is the call to service in the larger Church, working with congregations in the midst of conflict resulting in the termination of pastors or closing a church.

Butterfly emergingElijah had tried to warn his student Elisha about the difficulty of being God’s blessing. Yet Elisha had persisted in his request for a double portion of what he might inherit from Elijah. This “double portion” was not a request for twice the charisma of Elijah, but for two shares of what Elisha would bequeath to his heirs. In ancient Israel each son would normally receive a share of the inheritance with the eldest son receiving a double portion, so that eldest son might retain a plot large enough to continue the family business.

I will have more to say about 2 Kings 2:1-14 and personal transformation to service at 8:15 AM and 10:00 AM on Sunday February 11th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

A Tip for Parents

Mark 9:2-9, our Gospel lesson for this Sunday, tells of Jesus’ transformation.

I remember Superman who spent his days as a mild mannered reporter, Clark Kent. Then would step into a phone booth and change into Superman, showing his true self. This story tells of Jesus briefly showing his true self to his disciples, before warning them not to tell anyone.

Help your child think of God as being always near us, ready to help, even when we do not recognize him.

Designed to Fly

February 4th, 2018 is Boy Scout Sunday. Cub Scout Pack 188 will help us observe this anniversary by serving as ushers and liturgists (readers).

Do you hear the wind blowing? Listen … It is the breath given to Adam, the breath that hovered over the face of the waters at the creation of the world.

Each set of human chromosomes contains about 3 billion base pairs.  If encoded digitally this would require about  6 billion bits. Allowing for uppercase and lower case letters plus some punctuation this could be written out in about 1 billion English letters.  For my high school newspaper, we once assumed words would average about 6 letters. Thus the information in each cell of our bodies, just in our DNA, would generate about 175 million words. The books on the shelves beside me vary in size: big ones have more words to a page and more pages, but a typical book as about 300 words per page and 250 pages. Thus to write out all of the information in our chromosomes each cell would need about 2,200 books! The shelves in my office hold about 40 to fifty books so I would need about 50 shelves to hold all of the information needed to create one person. I would need whole room for all  of those shelves. Then we would need to expand that library adding rooms for each and every other species of plants, animals, and other organisms. A huge library that would show the richness of God as the greatest designer.

Isaiah reminds us about the grandeur of God as seen through the creation:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
— Isaiah 40:28

When we remember that God is working in us and through us, having designed us for a particular purpose:

those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
— Isaiah 40:31

I will have more to say about service and Isaiah 40:21-31 at 8:15 AM and 10 AM on Sunday, February 4th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

A Tip for Parents

Rock beats Scissors, Scissors beats paper, Paper beats RockThe Gospels tell of several miracles. This Sunday will read to the children the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31). The purpose of miracle stories is to show that Jesus is more powerful than everything else.

I will explain relative power using the game Rock-Paper-Scissors, with a modification that Jesus could beat all of the other options.

Although we can use rocks, paper, and scissors as tools, we do not get to use Jesus as our tool. That is where this analogy breaks down. We must rely on God’s wisdom regarding answers to prayers.

Kirkin’ o’ tha Tratans

Don your kilt and tam and bring your tartan out of the closet. On Sunday, January 28th, we will celebrate Scottish heritage and especially symbols of various clans or families that have contributed to the life of this congregation.

One of the best stories of the power of families comes through in the book of Ruth. Dramatic plays have been based on these 85 verses.

Ruth's family treeChapter 1 sets the stage for this play. A famine in a town known as the House of Bread has forced a family from the clan known as Fruitfulness to flee to the fields of Moabites. God had warned the faithful to “never promote [the Moabites] welfare or their prosperity as long as you live.” Yet it was to these fields that a man known as God-is-King had taken his family. It was in these fields that their sons Sickness and Wasting married Moabite women. Faithful followers of God would not have been surprised that all three men had died before producing heirs having lived so closely with the Moabites. The widow, Pleasant, urged her widowed daughter-in-laws, Stiff-Neck and Companion, to return to their mothers. Companion resisted saying: “… Where you go I will go; … your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God. Where you die, I will die …” Thus Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth returned to Bethlehem not knowing how they would be received or if the famine in Bethlehem had ended.

Chapter 2, the focus for this Sunday’s sermon, demonstrates the power of family.

Come join us for pageantry and families at 10 AM on Sunday, January 28th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

A Tip for Parents

How we care for our families is a primary way that we demonstrate our faith to children.

People who don’t take care of their relatives, and especially their own families, have given up their faith. They are worse than someone who doesn’t have faith in the Lord.
—1 Timothy 5:8

I learned this from watching my mother care for her mother. When I had grown older I learned that they had a strained relationship from the time of my grandfather’s death. If my father had not invited my grandmother into our home, she might not have lived with us. Yet I never saw any open hostility between my mother and grandmother, only persistent care, even into their old age.

Talk with your children about how you take care of relatives, and especially those in your own household.

Robert Shaw


Stained Glass Window
Let justice roll down like water.

I had a hard time finding music for this Sunday’s worship service that would help us focus on justice and righteousness. I have no problem finding music that sings to the power, majesty, and especially the salvation of our Lord. I readily find music that evokes humility for human failure and desire to turn to God’s path of righteousness. But when I looked for songs that would inspire worshipers to go out into the world and bring good news, not merely with words, but with actions, I fell short.

Amos may have had a similar reaction to worship in his time (~750 BC) when he prophesied about God’s telling ancient Israel:

Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

I will have more to say about justice and Amos 5:14-15, 21-24 at 8:15 AM and 10 AM on Sunday, January 21st at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

A Tip for Parents

Luke 4:18-19 might be considered as Jesus’ mission statement, a brief statement of what he intended to do during his earthly ministry.

“The Lord’s Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers, and to say, ‘This is the year the Lord has chosen.’”

Children can help us do more than merely announce good news because they think in physical terms. What would be good news to a prisoner? to a poor person? to someone who cannot see? What might your child consider as good news?

Robert Shaw


two people reconcilingImagine you are an emissary from a distant planet sent to Earth to bring humanity into the League of Galaxies. The League has much to offer Earth, including interstellar travel and trade. However the League is peaceful and only admits planets that can work with others harmoniously. Your assessment of Earth technology shows that humanity may soon develop interstellar travel on its own. You also recognize that humans can barely coexist with one another. You fear that adding interstellar relations would complicate Earth’s international conflicts and endanger interplanetary relationships within the League. Should interplanetary war break out, Earth’s independence would be endangered at best.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! … So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
— 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, 20 (NRSV)

I will have more to say about reconciliation and 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 at 8:15 AM and 10 AM on Sunday, January 14th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

A Tip for Parents

Looking back on my parenting experiences, I wonder now how much time I might have save if I could have taught our children to resolve their own conflicts over sharing toys or which TV program to watch.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

This Sunday I will be looking for two children to play act a conflict over a torn picture and hopefully talk out why it was torn and how it and their relationship might be fixed.

Robert Shaw



This Sunday six people will step forward to be installed as Ruling Elders in the Presbyterian Church and for the Church of Jesus Christ wherever it is found. Three of them will do so for the first time. This is both a great honor and a great responsibility.

  • Woodrow Wilson, after serving as the President of the United States of America, considered his ordination as a Ruling Elder his greatest honor and privilege.
  • Buzz Aldrin, the second person to set foot on the surface of the moon, demonstrated his responsibility as Ruling Elder by making his first act after landing to celebrate the Lord’s Super with Neil Armstrong, another Presbyterian.
  • Our ordination vows make clear that this responsibility is not merely for this congregation, not merely for this Presbytery, nor merely for the Presbyterian Church (USA):

Will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love your neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world?

Petition for Organization by the First Presbyterian Church of Temple Terrace, 1955This congregations exists because men and women have courageously stepped forward to demonstrate that our unity is more important than our individuality. Our church office displays a reminder of the courage and conviction of 44 individuals who took a step of faith and affirmed their unity in Jesus Christ in 1955.

This Sunday I will invite every member to take a similar step of faith and affirm our unity using a similar statement. I have kept the  wording as close to the original as practical since keeping a congregation alive and growing takes similar courage, energy, and faith as starting one.

This Sunday our Commitment for Organization will read:

We the undersigned persons desire to be constituted and organized as a Church, which is now known as Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.* We do covenant and agree to walk together as disciples of Jesus Christ in a Church relation according to the doctrine contained in the Book of Confessions and the form of government contained in the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).** We promise to maintain this Church by our attendance at its services, our support of its work, our gifts, our efforts, and our prayers, and to seek in its fellowship to glorify the name and further the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ.

* In 1958 the congregation was renamed from the First Presbyterian Church of Temple Terrace.
** In 1983 the Presbyterian Church in the United States merged with the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America becoming the PC(USA) with the above names for the Confession of Faith and Book of Church Order.
Other than these changes, the wording above follows the 1955 Petition for Organization.

I will have more to say about unity in Christ and Ephesians 4:1-16 at 8:15 AM and 10 AM on Sunday, January 7th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

A Tip for Parents

This week we will celebrate communion. Help your child understand this meal as joining us together, not only the people in this room, but Christians everywhere, including those in heaven. Help them recall a big family get together possibly involving aunts and uncles they rarely see as well as cousins. Ask them if they know them better having shared a meal together.

Robert Shaw

Time and Time Again

“What is the meaning of life?” many people would ask. Fatalists turn this around and ask: “Since God is in control, what difference do my actions make?” The writer of Ecclesiastes phrases this question: “What gain have the workers for their toil?”

This question comes after eight verses made popular by the rock group The Byrds. These verses contain fourteen pairs of beginnings and endings.

a time to be born and a time to die;

a time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to keep silent and a time to speak;

a time for war and a time for peace.

These fourteen pairing represent, not good versus bad, but beginnings and endings, the whole range of human experience. They proclaim that God as created an opportune time or a season for all things both extremes and all that lies in between even if mere mortals cannot understand how all of life fits together.

As the year of our Lord Two-Thousand and Seventeen draws to a close it is appropriate for us to consider beginnings and endings and all that lies in between, to consider how we ate, drank, and took pleasure in the toil that God laid out for us.

I will have more to say about Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 at 8:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. on the first Sunday in Christmas, December 31st, 2017, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

For young disciples

John described a vision of a new heaven and a new earth in Revelation 21:1-6 to explain new life in Christ.

Parents might show their child a calendar that they used for the whole year marking it with events and reminders and review it with their children. Were there any days you received bad news? Any days with great news? How does this compare with having a new clean calendar, to fill in with new events and new possibilities?

Who Is He?

Lighted angels at Rockefeller Plaza
Do these angels herald Christ or herald Rockefeller Center?

We live in a world full of stars:

  • sports stars
  • entertainment stars
  • political stars
  • glitzy stars of sparkle season

No wonder people want to portray the star of Bethlehem like a search light from above lighting a straw filled manger from which the arms of a baby reach. We want to give God dazzle greater than we might give our cultural heroes: Top billing on a dazzling marquee, fireworks lighting up the sky, a star embedded on the walk of fame, social media buzzing about the latest word, and more.

The writer of the book of Hebrews had a similar agenda, except the heroes of his age were prophets and angels and he lifted the Son up in ways that his culture could only imagine. Not merely as the best of all of the prophets nor even the most holy of all the angels but to a whole new and complete revelation of the God.

For to which of the angels did God ever say:
“You are my Son; today I have begotten you”?
—Hebrews 1:5

The challenge for us in this sparkle season is to not be dazzled by the spectacular lights, but to be totally and thoroughly lit up from within by the “reflection of God’s glory,” the Son! So that the Word of God might shine from within us not merely in this season but every day of our lives.

This worship service will include the lighting of the fourth Advent candle and a beautiful duet by Olivia Shaw and Cameron Troyer.

I will have more to say about Hebrews 1:1-12 at 10 a.m. on the fourth Sunday in Advent, December 24th, 2017, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church. Christmas will still be thirteen hours away when this worship service ends.

Our message for young disciples on this fourth Sunday in Advent will focus on God telling Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus as told in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel in verses 26-33. Recently a child of this congregation was astounded that we would expect a baby to be our savior. Parents might help their child have this amazement of God’s power by pointing out the kind of support that babies need.

Later on this Christmas Eve we will offer two additional services:
5:30 p.m. No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant.
8:00 p.m. Lessons and Carols with Communion and candle lighting.

Expect Joy

“Occasional sun breaks,” was my favorite weather forecast from when we lived in Seattle. The Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges frequently trapped clouds and rain over Puget Sound and the city, thus the usual forecast would be “overcast.” A much better forecast would be “partly sunny,” meaning overcast much of the day with long periods of sunshine. “Occasional sun breaks” fell between those two.

Isaiah’s 60th chapter was written to a people who had experienced “darkness covering the earth and thick darkness the people.” But from under that darkness Isaiah points to the sun breaking forth.

While the secular culture is caught up in celebrating Christmas even before it arrives, we have a period of Advent, a time to ponder the meaning of Jesus coming in the world and to consider our readiness to greet him. It is a time to point to the light that will come, even though we are in the midst of darkness, even thick darkness. While everything around us glistens and glitters, our food pantry draws many people who have no where else to turn to ensure that their family has something to eat this night.

I will have more to say about Isaiah 60:1-11 at 8:15 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, December 17th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Our Chancel Choir will sing “Are You Going to Bethlehem Town” at our 10:00 service.

Robert Shaw, Pastor