The Good Shepherd

We are blessed here at Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church with having a Lay Speaker who can fill in for our pastor when needed. Pastor Trudy has been under the weather for several days and deemed it best to ask Joann to present the Sunday morning message. Here is that message and we hope that it will bless and inform you as it did for those of us who heard it on Sunday morning.

Simply click on this link to read Joann’s words.  The Good Shepherd

Sermon for World Communion Sunday: 10/5/2014

The Landlord’s Dilemma

Dynamic Preaching


Once there was a man who owned a piece of property.  He felt he could make a fine grape vineyard…..So he planted a vineyard on the property – and then he enclosed it with a wall…. He wanted this to be a full service operation, so within the wall he dug a winepress—a vat where the grapes could be pressed and the juice extracted….. And he built a watchtower – to protect his vineyard… because this was a lawless land and you never knew what vandals might do. ….Then, after making a sizeable investment in his vineyard…. He rented it to some tenants, and he – moved to another part of the country….he was feeling really good about his investment.

When the harvest time approached… this man sent some of his associates to the vineyard – to collect his produce.  Now – it’s always difficult to be an absentee landlord.  Any of you who have rental property – know this.  But you’ve never had a situation like this man faced with these tenants.

When the man’s associates came to collect the produce due him… the tenants seized them….beat them…stoned them…and even killed one of them…..At this point, you would think it would be time to call in the authorities.

Instead, the man who owned the vineyard sent a second group of associates, a larger group this time.  But again…the tenants were not intimidated and they treated these new associates the same way they treated the first group –robbing, beating, even killing some of them…….  I don’t know about you…. But, I would be ready to cut my losses.

But NOT this vineyard owner….evidently he prized the vineyard he so carefully had planted.  And because the vineyard meant so much to him… he turned to more desperate measures….

He sends his son to carry out the mission.  “They’ll respect my son,” he thinks to himself.  Well,… you can guess what came from that… The tenants see the son and they decide to rob him and kill him.  They don’t even ask for ransom…they just put him to death.

This was obviously the ultimate act of defiance… The owner of the vineyard would surely punish such barbarous behavior…He would crush them…send his minions to thoroughly destroy them…..

By now, however, you have figured out that this is not how the story ends. It’s the way it should’ve turned out.  The vineyard owner should have sent an army and thoroughly destroyed these criminals.  But this is a parable of Jesus…  After telling it, he turns to his listeners and asks a simple question, “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

His listeners, caught up in the story by this time, are like some of us, – ready to take up arms.  “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they reply, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Well… Then Jesus drops the bomb: “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’” At first… there was confusion among Jesus’ listeners.  “What’s he talking about?”  This was followed by a stony silence.

Did I mention that Jesus was telling this parable to the chief priests and the Pharisees?  They had come to Jesus asking him, by what authority was he going about his work.  In other words…they were asking him “What are your credentials?  Who licensed you to preach and to teach and to heal?”

By the time he had answered with this parable, …. they suddenly realized – that this story wasn’t about an owner of a vineyard at all.  It was about them… They were the murderous tenants, and he was the son sent by the owner of the vineyard.  HE was the stone that was rejected – who would one day – be the cornerstone.

Matthew ends this passage like this: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.  They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”  This was a chilling story for the chief priests and the Pharisees.  And there are some important elements to this story that we need to explore.

1)  In telling of this parable – Jesus obviously knew the fate that awaited him.  Could you put yourself in his place for a moment?  He is in his early 30’s.  That’s awfully young to die. [Who do we have here today who is in their late 20’s early 30’s – hold up your hand….So young]

Jesus’ life to this point held so much promise.  To many people he was a rock star.  Crowds numbering into the thousands followed him everywhere he went.  He had disciples who fixed onto his every word.  Some of those who followed him had already vowed they would die for him.  If his country was a democracy, he probably could have been elected President, if he had chosen to run.

As far as we know he was happy and healthy and at the top of his game…. But suddenly – his time was running out.  [He had been to the doctor and they found a tumor, an inoperable tumor.  The dr. said there was nothing they could do.]  No, that’s not how the story reads, is it?  But it could have.  There have been young men and young women whose lives have been altogether too short.  Any of those horrific life shortening diseases or accidents – could easily fill this gap.  In our human-ness, it is not easy to realize one’s life is nearly over – shortened by something over which you have no control.

But Jesus did have control…All he had to do was step aside from the work God had called him to do….Step aside – melt into the crowd.  Let someone else save the world.  He could have, you know.  Those were real drops of sweat, like drops of blood that fell from his brow in the garden on the night he was betrayed.  He had a decision to make.  Would he be faithful to God’s call or would he choose to save his own life?  No one would blame him – if he chose to back off.  Go back to Joseph’s carpenter shop.  Or get proper credentials and enjoy the good life as a popular religious leader.  They live well, those advocates of the prosperity gospel.  Those temptations that Satan had shown Jesus at the beginning of his ministry were real temptations.  He had the world at his feet.

Can you put yourself in his skin?  Thirty-three years of age and a choice to make–to seek to experience all the pleasures of this world – or to make his life a sacrifice for others.

Around the world today – there are young men and women who have faced that decision about choosing a life of pleasure or a life of sacrifice, and they have chosen sacrifice.  Some of them are on battlefields, some are on mission fields.  Some are teaching small children in America’s decaying inner cities.  Some are working in hospitals, not because it is the place of their dreams, but because their life has been touched by the example of Jesus.

As Jesus confronted the chief priests and the Pharisees he knew the fate that faced him.  This was a cruel time in history.  Troublemakers were disposed of with little ceremony.  Within a matter of days he would be flogged with a whip and crucified naked on a cross.  Not because he had done anything wrong, but because his own people rejected him – and the kingdom that he taught, even the religious people.  The people who profited from the status quo certainly rejected him.  So shall it ever be.

People who live only for themselves can never comprehend the way of the cross.  They’re like Nicodemus. – Jesus told Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin – that for him to enter the Kingdom Of God, he would have to be born all over again.  That’s true of many of us as well.  The values of the kingdom are that transforming.  We would need to be born all over again to comprehend the way of the cross.  We would need to be entirely new people. (John 3:1-21).

Thirty-three years old and he could see how his life would end.  The world wasn’t ready for him and his Gospel of peace and justice.  It still isn’t.  He is the stone that was rejected; – the son who was murdered.

But why did he do it?  What drove him to lay down his life?  LOVE.  That’s the only reason. “…God so loved the world that he gave his only son….”

Think about the transforming power of love.  Thank God there are people capable of kind, unselfish, unconditional love…There are people all over this world who have been touched by Jesus’ example.  Some of them are young people.  Some are older.  Some are in lands far away. Some are right here in our own neighborhood.  People caring for people.  Some are never in a situation where an act of heroism is called for.  Some show their love in a simple hospital visit; others by working through community organizations to help the least and the lost.

As Jesus told this parable about the vineyard and the wicked tenants to the chief priests and Pharisees, he knew the fate that lay before him.  Why did he lay down his life?  Love….Love for you and me.  But what was his goal? What did he hope to achieve?  His goal was that his life would be the cornerstone for a new way of living.

Why have we not understood that this world was created for love, for compassion, for sharing, for jumping off a railroad platform to save a stranger in distress?  What would it take for us to understand that this is the kind of world that God desires, a world where those who live in abundance – share with those who have so little?  What would God need to do to get that truth through to us? Send His own innocent Son?  Have Him die? Would that do it?

Around a table one night – Christ passed a loaf of unleavened bread.  “This is my body which was broken for you…” [then he passed a cup]  “This is my blood shed for you…”

Was it all in vain?  It was if we who call ourselves His followers live only for ourselves.  But it’s not too late.  This is a day for us to take stock of our lives in the same way Jesus asked the chief priests and Pharisees to take stock of their lives.  The stone which was rejected has become the cornerstone…  Has He become the cornerstone of your life?


Welcome our new pastor!

          This summer we welcomed Pastor Trudy and Bob Codd to our faith community.  Pastor Trudy has been serving the Lord for most of her life, but as a pastor since 1992.  She has served a number of churches, beginning at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in her hometown of Staten Island, NY, and most recently at the South Dover Windall Church and Burbank Church in Duchess, NY.  Pastor Trudy is enthusiastic about her ministry here in Pleasant Valley, and is excited about moving forward with the “call to action” initiative which strives to bring life back into churches during these times of declining membership.

Pastor Trudy and Bob, between them, have 6 children and 10 grandchildren, with one more on the way!  They are settling into their home in the church parsonage on Raymond Drive, along with their cat, and are happily getting acquainted with their neighbors, their church family, and their community as a whole.

We would like to invite everyone to attend a Welcome reception for Pastor Trudy and Bob on Sunday, September 9th beginning at 2:00 PM in Fellowship Hall at the church.  Please come to meet your new neighbors and to spend some time getting to know them better.

Letter from Pastor Carl

I always look forward to Christmas Eve and the days following, because that’s when Christmas really begins, for me. As fast as the commercial Christmas season begins, sometime after Halloween, it ends abruptly following Christmas day. The retail stores start preparing for the next season; the radio and TV stations back off on Christmas like it’s all over, a distant memory. Everyone has had it with parties and sweets and social obligations. That’s why my birthday always seemed so anticlimactic (December 27). “It’s time to get back to reality, whatever we make of that, and put this long, dragged out, season behind us.”

This begins the holy-days, for me. I love this inbetween time during the twelve days. Nothing is going on, no special worship services, or social obligations, and if you don’t pay much attention to the New Year, this can be a quiet time of reflection and rest. I’ll listen to WJNJ while driving along, in the car (88.9 or close to that: the radio station of the Roman Catholic Diocese) They play some wonderful, classic and other Christmas hymns and songs that help all listeners to dwell on the meaning of this season.

For people of the Christian faith, the commercialization of Christmas obscures the meaning of our tradition. Simply put, the birth of Jesus is remembered and embraced as God coming into our realm, our earth, to bring the good news of God’s intention to be reconciled with all the peoples, all the cultures and traditions, including all of creation. In Jesus the Christ, God dwelt among the people of Israel, not with overwhelming or impressive force but with overwhelming and extravagant love. What the world judges as weakness and foolishness is just how God will, in God’s good time, bring all things to completion for:

“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus who became for us the wisdom from God…(1 Corinthians 1:27-30).

Looking ahead, I encourage everyone to set aside January 23, at 6:00 p.m. for an evening of food (pot-luck) fellowship and discovery. The discovery part is called the “Three Colors of Ministry.” This is really an opportunity to discover your own spiritual type that has been given to you from birth. The three colors refer to the Father (green), the Son (red), and the Holy Spirit (blue). Everyone is usually drawn to one color or something in-between: this, you will discover by taking a very brief survey.

The colors are associated with certain biblical characters, e.g., Peter, Paul, Moses, Jonah (that was mine), Mary or Martha. All of them and us have spiritual leanings that will resemble one of or a combination of characters.

Your eyes will be opened, not only to your character but to others as they gather around tables to compare notes on why they have landed where they are. This exercise can be hilarious, at times, but, more importantly, it provides the possibility of receiving a deeply meaningful insight for you in your relationship with the Three-In-One God. This exercise will lead you to recognize that everyone in the Christian faith may be somewhat like you or not at all like you, but somehow, by God’s grace, we all belong together. We belong to the family of God.

In a way, this is a game, games are fun when you play; they are a little fun when you watch. By playing this game with your brothers and sisters, you may grow personally and relationally with others and with God. This evening of discovery and fun will help us prepare to discover our spiritual gifts (EVERYONE HAS ONE OR MORE) that we will be able to apply, with joy, to the ministry of Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church. The Spiritual Gifts discovery will take place at a later date to be announced. In the meanwhile, be at peace with yourself, with your family members, with your neighbors and with God.

Pastor Carl Franson

Message from the Pastor

Last Sunday during prayer concerns, one of our choir members expressed dismay over the hateful discourse that is taking place in our nation concerning health care reform. I’ve seen citizens on TV screaming at each other and thought, “they are totally unable to listen while they are screaming.” Have they ever thought that they share the same concern, that is, affordable insurance and access to treatment for all? Why are they unable to reason peaceably? Resentment and distrust seem to carry the day rather than seeking a solution to an ever expanding crisis.

The reading from James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, provides insight into this human condition: “show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom…for where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will be disorder and wickedness of every kind” (James 3:13 & 16). Name calling and slander lead only to violence.

Many of those who are cursing one another are doing so while believing they are at the same time Christian and followers of Jesus Christ. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17). We need to uphold this standard as we participate in the debate.

Jesus teaches us to love one another and to protect the weak, poor, and those who have no political power. Freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but that speach must be accompanied with respect for the opinions of others and empty of slander and hatred.

By the way, I am having a wonderful time getting to know my brothers and sisters of this congregation. Together we can grow in the love of Christ to serve our neighbor while serving God.

Pastor Carl

Letter from Pastor Carl

Dear Friends,

I’m sure you have heard,“everyone is a minister” and then wondered what that really means. The pastor is also a minister, and all believers and disciples are called to be ministers on behalf of Christ, the one who calls us: “Come to Him a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

Pretty soon, September 13, Sunday School will begin. Many of you have signed a “Safe Sanctuaries” application, which indicates that you have some understanding of the importance of protecting our children and teachers from any misconduct or misunderstanding concerning the relationship that exists between teacher and student. What is appropriate and what is not is not always easy to discern. So we have guidelines that spell that out. To avoid any situation that may jeopardize a loving and beneficial relationship between student and teacher, Pleasant Valley UMC has a policy that every teacher and student needs a witness.

This is where you may come in to be a minister and a witness. You will get to know some children and, by your presence, you will be participating in the building of that “spiritual house” that Peter wrote about. All of us, from one to ninety-two, are like those living stones, built together to be the church, here, in Pleasant Valley. To give up your time of worship to make this church a “Safe Sanctuary” is, indeed, a “Spiritual sacrifice.”

Please see Mindy Henry at 783-7737 if you are feeling called to minister in this way. If we have many volunteers, the time commitment will be reduced and many people will have the opportunity of participating in the ministry of “Safe Sanctuaries” while being built into the household of God.

Pastor Carl