Neighbors Know?

Neighbors Know?

January 22, 2023*

By Pastor John Partridge

Isaiah 9:1-4                Matthew 4:12-23                   1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Patti and I have a friend who was once talking to his next-door neighbor on his phone while searching for a particular kitchen gadget.  His neighbor, looking out her kitchen window, which window was opposite his kitchen window, and only six or eight feet away, told him, on the phone, in which drawer he would find the thing for which he was looking.  Yikes.  Our friend and his wife bought a curtain for their kitchen window the very next day and they moved to a suburban neighborhood with much larger lots as soon as they were financially able to do so.

Obviously, that’s an unusual occurrence, but few of us could argue that our neighbors probably know things about us that few other people know.  They see us come and go, they know our schedules, they know when lights in certain rooms typically are turned on and off, they notice when we aren’t home and when our schedules change from our normal habits.  I am almost certain that many of your neighbors know that you are here this morning and that you typically go to church on Sunday mornings because they’ve seen you leave and return, and probably noticed that you were dressed for the occasion.  But what else have your neighbors noticed?  That’s a loaded question that I want you to think about while we consider our scriptures for this morning.  We begin in Isaiah 9:1-4, where we hear God’s prophet share yet another prophecy about the future messiah.

9:1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future, he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.

In a moment, we will hear many of these same words reflected in the gospel of Matthew, but before we do, notice that God says that the messiah’s arrival will be as if the sun had dawned on a dark and dreary world. Light would come to darkness, joy would come to sadness, enemies would be shattered, oppression would be thrown off, and burdens would be lifted.  And by quoting extensively from that passage in Isaiah, Matthew proclaims that Jesus was that messiah, that the new day Isaiah spoke of had finally dawned, that the light had come, and that the future was already looking brighter.  Matthew 4:12-23 says,

12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
    the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
    Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned.”

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James, son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Matthew begins by quoting enough of the passage that we read from Isaiah, that every Jew who read, or heard his words would immediately recognize it as a messianic prophecy, but in doing so, Matthew connects Isaiah’s description with Jesus, and therefore identifies Jesus as the promised messiah.  But next, Matthew says, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.””

A light had dawned.  Hope was reborn.  The Spirit of God, working from within the body of Jesus Christ, was at work in the world… and people noticed.  When Jesus said, “Follow me,” Simon and Andrew, and James, and John, dropped what they were doing, walked away from their jobs, away from their family businesses and away from their families that depended on them and followed Jesus.  And Jesus travelled across the region of Galilee teaching, healing, and proclaiming the news that the rescue of God’s people had come.

When the Spirit of God came, people noticed. 

And, as odd as it may seem, I think that is at the core of what Paul is trying to say in his first letter to the church in Corinth.  The people in the church weren’t getting along, and Paul’s criticism is that their division is getting in the way of what God was trying to do among them. (1 Corinthians 1:10-18) Paul said:

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul’s point is that we should be united in purpose and not be divided in ways that distract us, and distract our neighbors, from our primary mission of spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  To those of us who have heard, and have accepted him, that message carries the power of God.  This is the power that was seen, and felt without words, by the disciples that Jesus called and by the people who came from all over the region of Galilee to hear Jesus teach, preach, and heal.

But, as we have been discussing for the last several weeks, this is also the same Spirit of God that came upon you on the day of your baptism, that lives within you, and that goes with you everywhere you go.  And, just as people noticed, and felt, the presence of the Spirit of God in Jesus, and in the disciples, they are going to notice that same spirit in each one of us.  Your neighbors may not know where you keep your gravy boat, but they do know things about you.  You can bet that they know whether you go to church on Sunday, they know if church attendance is an occasional or a regular thing, and they know if the way that you live your life reflects the teachings of scripture even if they’ve never opened a Bible.

The problem that Paul was addressing in the church at Corinth was that internal division and arguing was distracting the followers of Jesus Christ from their mission, and at the same time was disguising the Spirit of God from the people around them.  Like us, Paul knew that the people in the church weren’t perfect, but his encouragement then, and now, is for the people of the church, for us, to do better.  Your neighbors, your friends, and the people around you know things, and notice things about you.  They notice when you mow the lawn two days later than usual, they notice when you forget to take the trash to the curb, they notice when you’re caring for your grand-dogs, and they’re going to notice the Spirit of God that lives within you.

The kingdom of heaven has come near… because it lives in each of you.

Our mission is to do the best we can not to disguise his Spirit and screw up what God is doing.

And so, the question we need to ask ourselves is this:

Do your neighbors know?

And if not, why not?

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  These messages can also be found online at .  All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

The Light of the World HAS Come

The Light of the World *Has* Come

December 24, 2020

Pastor John Partridge

(Note: This is the text from the meditation shared at our Christmas Eve service. You can find the video of that service here:*

As unusual as this evening has been, we attempted to make it as normal as possible under the restrictions and our desire to keep one another safe during this global pandemic.  I want to thank each and every one of you who took the time to email us and tell us that you were coming so that we could light a candle in our sanctuary for you.  And I want to thank everyone who volunteered to help with our Advent wreath, or read one of our scripture for this evening, music team and our choir who sang extra songs, the volunteers that set up all our luminaries, or to recorded themselves lighting a candle, or for any of the other things that were needed to record, assemble, and edit this Christmas Eve service.  I especially want to thank Bob Wallace for his herculean efforts at video editing.  As much effort as it was to record dozens of short, socially distanced video clips, it was a gigantic task to assemble those short videos into one, understandable whole.

But beyond the thank-yous of the evening, is the importance of the message.  As we have come together in this virtual gathering for Christmas Eve, I hope that you will all remember that the message of the angels was that they had brought “Good News of great joy for all the people.”  The Shepherds watching their flocks were blinded by a great light and heavenly choirs announcing the arrival of the light of the world.

That’s why we came tonight to sing songs of celebration.  And that’s why we lit candles and passed them, as much as possible, from one to another. 

The light of the world has come.

But the light of the world didn’t come into the world so that we could read about it in a book.  That light was the Good News, indeed, good news of great joy.  And that good news was shared by the shepherds in the field, and the wise men who visited, and by everyone who had heard the story.  That good news was shared, from one person to another, until, two thousand years later, someone shared it with you.

The light of the world has come.

And that light isn’t just something that we read about in a book.  That light goes out into the world this evening.  You carry that light. You carry that good news.  The message of Christmas is that just as the light has been passed from one generation to another, and just as it was given to you, you must pass that light forward to the next person, and to the next generation, just as the flame of the candles was passed from one person to another.

The light of the world has come.

We have come here tonight, and we have heard Good News of great joy that is for all the people.

Let us go out from this place and share that good news with the rest of the world.

Merry Christmas.

You can find the video of this worship service here:

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Five Lights for Dark Days

“Five Lights for Dark Days”

February 21, 2016

By John Partridge*


Scripture: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-21                  Philippians 3:17 – 4:1                        Luke 13:31-35


Have you ever gone outside at night and just looked up at the stars?

It is nothing short of amazing,

But as amazing as that sight can be, it is magnified tenfold when you can do the same thing in a place that is far from the city where you can find real darkness.  When I have been places out in the country, even in places where you could see the city far in the distance because of the halo of light that it emitted, the stars in the heavens are a wondrous sight.

But that magnificent view can rapidly become disorienting and a little frightening when you begin to lose what little light that you have.  In the fall of 1981, my Kenmore High School graduating class was among the first to use the brand new high school building that we had watched them build all during the previous school year.  But we had moved into the new building before the contractors were completely finished with it and some of the remaining “bugs” in the system had to do with the fire alarms and the electrical system.  Of course the school administrators had reassured us that our new school was a state-of-the-art building and even included a back-up generator on the top floor that would allow the school to operate normally in the event of a power failure.  But almost every day the fire alarm would go off at least once, and sometimes several times, each day.  And on one of those days, just as we were all filing out of the building during yet another fire alarm, all of the lights went out.

And it was dark.

But then, the back-up generator started and the lights came back on… for a few seconds… until the generator died.  And then it was really, really, dark.

You should also understand that our new, state-of-the-art building didn’t have any windows.  It was more energy efficient they said.  Also, for some reason, possibly because of overconfidence in the backup generator, neither was new building equipped with batter powered emergency lights.  And so, when the lights went out you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  And so, while the fire alarm was still going off, and a thousand students were stuck in the pitch black classrooms, hallways and stairwells.

Those of us who were there swear to this day that it was the smokers that saved us all.  In an era long before everyone carried a lighted smartphone, all of the students and teachers who frequented the smoking area outside, pulled out their lighters and stood on the doorways and landings of the stairwells and guided us all out of the building.

When it’s really dark, just a few lights can make a big difference.

And the same is true in our emotional and spiritual lives.  There are days that seem to be filled with joy and light but we also experience seasons of darkness and despair.  And in those seasons of darkness, every little bit of light can make a difference.

And so this morning we will read three scriptures from different times and from different authors and from them we will discover five basic truths that can be points of light in our seasons of darkness.

We begin in Genesis 15:1-12, 17-21 where we find God making the first covenant with Abraham and his descendants long before Abram and Sarai had even had their first child.

15:1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 

 17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

In this passage we see two things and both point to a single guiding principle that all of us should remember.  First, we see the beginning of God’s covenant, contract, and promise with the people of Israel and second, a more personal promise specifically made to Abram and Sarai.  God promises Abram that even though Abram has already given up on having children of his own with Sarai, that family will one day be as uncountable as the stars in the sky.

For those of us who know the stories, we know that God’s covenant with Abram and his descendants lasted for more than two thousand years before the birth of the Messiah and the beginning of the new covenant.  And we also know that while Abram and Sarai were given a son, that son did not arrive until they were both nearly a hundred years old.  And so, from these two promises we learn one guiding principle: God is faithful.  We know that God always keeps his promises even when it sometimes seems that he is taking far too long or has forgotten.  But God does not forget.  God always keeps his promises.

We find our second light in Philippians 3:17 – 4:1 where Paul says this:

3:17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

Here, Paul reminds the people of the church that we must be careful on whom we choose to model our lives.  We must be careful because… how we live matters. There will always be people who claim to be good but who live as if they are not.  There will always be people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ but live as if they are not. And even though we might be ridiculed and despised because we choose to live as if our heavenly citizenship matters, we should be encouraged because how we live matters to God.

And then in Luke 13:31-35, we discover three more lights in the darkness.

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

In the very first verse we discover a huge source of encouragement that we often miss.  Luke says that several Pharisees came to Jesus to warn him that Herod wanted him dead.  But it is the Pharisees that we often believe were Jesus’ enemies and it is the Pharisees who we accuse, as a group, of being the men who accuse Jesus and who themselves want Jesus dead.  So how is this possible that Pharisees come to Jesus in an attempt to save his life?  Some commentators say that these Pharisees just wanted Jesus to go away and go somewhere else.  But another compellingly simple answer is that all of the Pharisees weren’t bad.  Just as you can never say that all of Congress is corrupt, or that all of our enemies are evil, or that all Christians are good, it is unfair, and wrong, to say that all of the Pharisees were of one mind and that all of them believed the same things.  Some of the Pharisees were good, some of them were not out to get Jesus, and in fact there were some of them who were supportive of what Jesus was doing.  And so we find encouragement in understanding that even when you seem to be completely alone, not everyone is against you, and you may even find allies in unexpected places.

The next encouragement immediately follows the last and is similar.  When Jesus is told that Herod, the most powerful man in that part of the world, wants Jesus dead, what does he do?  Does Jesus go into hiding?  Does he do as the Pharisees suggest and go to a different place, perhaps a place where Herod’s power is not so strong?  Clearly, the answer is no.  Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are free to tell Herod to his face that Jesus intends to continue to do what he has already done and not only today, but also tomorrow, and the next day.  And so our fourth point of light comes from Jesus’ example.  When we are doing what is right, and what God has called us to do, we should continue to do it regardless of our opposition and regardless of the threats that might come against us.

Finally, we read the last part of the passage where we hear Jesus weeping over the future of Jerusalem.  Jesus speaks about the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem that will not happen for another forty years.  Jesus sees the future.  And yet, he says “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  Jesus sees the future and knows that Jerusalem will be destroyed and left desolate, but he also knows that destruction is not the end of the story.  Jesus knows the future and so he must also know that will soon die.  But even so, he presses on because he knows that the destruction of Israel and even his own death is not the end.

Jesus is not discouraged because he knows that in the end, God wins.

While this is clearly not a complete list of all of the good news, we remember that when it’s really dark, just a few lights can make a big difference.  And so, here are the five encouragements we heard today that can bring a little light into our times of discouragement and darkness:

  • Even when it seems as if he has forgotten, God always keeps his promises.
  • Even when everyone around us seems to only care about themselves, how we live matters to God.
  • Even when you feel alone, not everyone is against you.
  • Even when we face opposition, when we are doing what God called us to do, just keep doing it.

And finally 5) Even when all seems lost, remember that this is not the end…

…because in the end, God wins.


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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at   These messages can also be found online at John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.