Stand Up!

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

John 5.1-9

In the movie, Groundhog Day, weatherman Phil Connors is stuck in time – a particular day in time. He’s stuck on Groundhog Day. And he’s stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, you know where the groundhog is pulled out his hole and if he sees his shadow it’s six more weeks of winter (in Logan’s case, it’s six more months of winter). Only for Phil Connors in the movie, it is Groundhog Day over and over and over again. He is stuck in that movie, every time he wakes up it is Groundhog Day and he is seemingly cursed to relive what he views as a tedious day in his life that is profoundly unfulfilled.

There is one sequence in the movie where Phil begins to be resigned to his fate of repeating the same pattern day after day, where he notices an old homeless man. At the beginning of the movie Phil passes this man and as the man holds out his hand asking something from him, he kind of sarcastically searches his pockets and just walks passed with a smirk on his face. But a little later in this sequence, Phil walks up to the man as he staggers down an alley and he says, “Let’s get you to someplace warm.” And he takes the old man to a hospital to strengthen, except that the old-timer passes away.

“Sometimes people die,” the nurse says.

“Not today,” says Phil.

And in subsequent repeats of the day, Phil tries everything he can to keep the old-timer alive. If just for Groundhog Day, just the day he is repeating over and over again, if there’s just some why he can keep him from dying for that day. And so he feeds him, and he cares for him, but no matter what he does, the man dies every time. Come on, Pop, breathe! He implores, but to no avail. There are somethings that you just cannot change.

I think that the old-timer in the story from scripture (with a life expectancy in bible times about 40, 38 years – would you say that’s an old-timer?), I think this old-timer in our bible story could have sympathized with both Phil and the old-timer he tries to help. Year after year this old-timer sits by the pool, close to what he believes will bring him healing, but he just can’t seem to make it.
Now in John’s gospel, the miracles that the author gives us are carefully chosen. They’re not just a hodgepodge of stories thrown together to prove Jesus is this great guy. No, they are called “signs”, these miracle stories. And they point to something as signs do. They point to a truth or a discovery that is intended to nurture a faith. Faith in Jesus.

So this morning we ask, what truth, what discovery does this story hold for us?

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • November COVID Update

    If you are reading this before Sunday November 1st, I hope you take the time on Sunday morning to join us for communion in the parking lot at FPC.  It’s communion in the drive-through style, something the first Christians could never have envisioned.  It is nonetheless a faithful celebration of the meal that Jesus first initiated with his disciples.  Pastor Meg and I will be in the parking lot from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and we’ll have music to go along with the meal and hopefully lift your spirits. Stop by to hear the music, and for a blessing along with the communion meal.

    One of the most exciting things for me in recent weeks was our congregational meeting that we held via the online service Zoom.  It was so heart-warming to see that many of you in attendance.  Counting the couples on various screens, I think there were around 50 of you in attendance.  Thank you for your participation.

    At the meeting we elected new elders and deacons for the Class of 2023.  Please join me in expressing our thanks to elders Lovet Fokunang, Dee Logterman, Scott Hofmann, and Dawn Drost, and deacons Terry Brennand, Darcie Bessinger, and Marcia Baker.  We also elected Sheryl Bessinger to fill a partial term as an elder in the Class of 2021.  I’m thankful that they’ve accepted God’s call upon their lives to serve God by serving the people of our community.  May we lift them up in prayer (along with our other deacons & elders) as they help to care for and lead our congregation in challenging times.

    As you might imagine if you’re watching the news, Session unanimously voted to continue with YouTube worship for the month of November.  We continue to get around one hundred views each week, and I am very thankful for your participation in worship on YouTube.  It’s wonderful to have Pastor Meg back from maternity leave.  She is already busy planning Christian Education events and leading youth ministries.

    We will not host a church Thanksgiving dinner for obvious reasons, but we are spending this month getting ready for some exciting things in Advent.  We will have special music throughout our Advent worship services, there will be Advent activities for families, there is a special online bell choir concert in the works, and we’re hoping for an in-person outdoor Christmas Eve service.  Yes, it will be chilly, but we live in northern Utah and I know you people are hardy!  This service will be 30 minutes long, so you don’t get too cold.  We’ll have wonderful organ and bell music and Christmas hymns to sing, along with gospel readings of the birth of Jesus.  I think it’s going to be a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

    May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you all.

    —Pastor Derek

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