Death Sandwich

Death Sandwich

March 26, 2023*

(5th Sunday of Lent)

By Pastor John Partridge

Ezekiel 37:1-14                      John 11:1-45                          Romans 8:6-11

It has been painfully obvious to those of us in this room that death has been an all too frequent visitor to Christ Church over the last few months.  And, despite our awareness that human life is short and that none of us are immortal, that knowledge and awareness does not lessen our grief in any way.  Life is short and one day, and absent the return of Jesus Christ in our lifetimes, death will come for every one of us.  My brother Dean used to tell a story about the ridiculousness of human life.  

He said, “Think about the events that we look forward to, when we’re young we look forward to being five or six and going to Kindergarten, then to ten because it’s double digits, then thirteen and becoming a teenager, then sixteen so we can drive, then eighteen so we can vote, then twenty-one when we legally become an adult, then maybe twenty-four when we can rent a car…

… and then what?  Sixty-five and retirement!

At every stage of life we look forward to the next big thing, and sometimes we become so focused on the next big thing, that we get tunnel vision and fail to enjoy the gifts and the joy that we have in the present moment.  But, at the same time, particularly as we attend the funerals of our friends, we notice that the time that we have left is escaping us like the sands in an hourglass.

But if death is a common experience for all humanity, how do we feel about that?  If we’re honest, most of us try hard not to “feel about that,” to keep our minds on other things, and to ignore the passage of time.  As much as humanly possibly we try not to think about death.

But, surprise, that’s the subject of today’s conversation.  So, what should we think about death?

And as we think about that, we begin this morning by considering the story of the valley of dry bones contained in Ezekiel 37:1-14.  In that story, which you will find in today’s bulletin, but which I will not read, God calls Ezekiel, while he and the people of Israel are in captivity in Babylon and are grieving the loss of their freedom, their nation, their temple, and their worship.  And God’s call to Ezekiel gives him a vision of an enormous valley full of bones and calls upon Ezekiel to prophecy to the bones.  First he calls to the bones in the name of God and, as he did, the bones came together, tendons and muscles formed over them, and skin covered them.  And then God called Ezekiel to prophecy breath to the dead and to call upon the four winds to breathe into them and give them life.  And the winds came, and breath entered the bodies, they came to life and stood on their feet and became a vast army. 

And God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

Figuratively, the people of Israel were dead.  They had lost their homes, families, freedom, their nation, their temple, their worship and, by their way of thinking, maybe even their God.  They were a people who were as good as dead, but God calls to them, through his prophet, and declares that he will bring them up out of their graves, return them to their lands, and that they will live again.  God declared that exile was not the end, but that their lives would, one day be returned to them.

And that’s a nice story about grief, sadness, depression, exile, and God overcoming a figurative death.  But that’s not the end of the story.  In John 11:1-45, we hear a story about Jesus overcoming the very real death of his friend Lazarus.  That story is a little long but it’s worth reading, and I’m going to skip some of it, but it sounds like this:

11:1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

As an aside, we remember that in the timekeeping system of these ancient people, any part of a day counted as a day.  And so, if Lazarus was buried in the evening, that counts as the first day, and if Jesus stood in front of his tomb at the crack of dawn, that still counts as the fourth day, but even if both of those are true, Lazarus was sealed inside the tomb, without food or water, for something like sixty hours.  There is no way that Lazarus wasn’t really, completely, and entirely… dead.

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

While Ezekiel was wrestling with figurative death, and received God’s promise of restoration, Jesus overcame a very real death when he restored Lazarus’ life, and also on several other occasions, and ultimately when he rose from the dead after his crucifixion.   

But why is that important for us as we mourn the loss of our friends and family, and as we grapple with our own mortality in the twenty-first century.  It’s important, and it matters because of the power that Jesus repeatedly demonstrated over death, and it matters because of the resurrection on Easter morning.  It matters because those things point us toward an understanding of death that Paul articulates for us in Romans 8:6-11 when he explains that…

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Paul sums up all of today’s conversation by reminding us that Jesus Christ has the power over life and death.  God returned life in their home nation to the people who were exiled in Babylon.  Jesus restored the life of Lazarus and several others, suffered on the cross, died, and rose to life again after three days in the grave.  And Paul reminds us that if the Spirit of Jesus Christ lives in you, then death is not the end.  Like Israel, like Lazarus, and like Jesus, death becomes only the middle between one life and the next.  A ‘death sandwich’ if you will.  Death is not the end, it is only a transition while we become something new, different, and eternal.

In the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, Davey Jones famously asks, “Do ye fear death? Do ye fear that dark abyss?”

And the answer of scripture is, no.  We need not fear death. Mostly because we don’t plan to be there very long… if at all.  Our transition may be so fast, perhaps as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:52, “in the twinkling of an eye,” our transition from this life into the next may be so fast that we won’t even notice.

… if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.


Please LIKE and SHARE!

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


*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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  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.™

Blind Opinion

Click here to listen to the Podcast

Click here to watch the livestream of the entire worship service: https://youtube.com/live/8FaRugRy5sQ?feature=share

Click here to watch the sermon: https://youtu.be/LxneUCy9RYE


Blind Opinion

March 19, 2023*

(4th Sunday of Lent)

By Pastor John Partridge

John 9:1-41

There is a way of misinterpreting scripture that may have grown out of the primitive worship of gods and idols that existed long before God revealed himself to Abraham.  For primitive people, if you prayed for rain, and it rained, then it was clear that the gods loved you.  But if there was a drought, then it must be because the gods were angry with you.  Despite testimony to the contrary that we find in the story of Job, that frame of mind shows up with some regularity in the Old Testament, where we find people claiming that they were wealthy because God loved them but that if you were poor, it much be because you sinned or did something wrong.  If we pay attention, we will notice that there are plenty of times in scripture where bad things happen to faithful, and good, even beloved, followers of God. 

This attitude toward the poor, the unfortunate, the victims of accidents, the sick, the infirm, the crippled, those with birth defects, and many others, continues into the time of the New Testament and, if we’re honest, still rears its ugly head in the words we hear from some televangelists and others who are selling some variation of what is now referred to as the prosperity gospel.  Jesus specifically preached against this attitude and understanding on multiple occasions, but one of the clearest of these is found in the story of his healing of the man who was born blind. (John 9:1-41)

9:1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

So common was this method of interpretation, that Jesus’ own disciples assumed that this man’s blindness simply must have been the result of someone’s sin.  For the disciples asking this question, that part of the equation wasn’t even in doubt.  The puzzle for them wasn’t if someone sinned, but who it was who had sinned.  Sin and punishment was assumed to be a part of this man’s infirmity and so the question that the disciples ask Jesus is “who sinned?”  They likely wonder how the blind man might have sinned even before he was born, or if God was somehow punishing the sin of his parents by making him to be born blind, which certainly seems unfair.  But Jesus replies that both options are wrong.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus explains that sin isn’t the only reason that bad things happen.  But it’s also important to note that neither does Jesus say that God intentionally caused the man to be blind.  He doesn’t say that God made the man blind. But he does say that God intends to use the man’s blindness for a higher purpose.  In this particular instance, God has chosen to use this man’s blindness to reveal a little bit of Jesus’ light to the world.

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

It’s worth stopping again here to point out that some of the man’s neighbors didn’t even consider the possibility of blindness being cured.  Even though they saw this guy every single day, they assumed that if the man in front of them wasn’t blind, then it simply had to be someone else.

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

The man insistently tells his neighbors “No, REALLY, it MEEEE!

10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So, I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said.

And here we gain some additional insight into the minds of the blind man’s neighbors, and maybe into the entire culture of that time.  As soon as they determine that their neighbor is no longer blind, their first reaction isn’t to throw a party, or to congratulate him, or to celebrate with him, their first response is to drag him into court.  To be fair, maybe this is because whenever a leper was cured of leprosy (which could have been any one of a dozen or more different skin diseases such as psoriasis), the cured person had to be brought into the temple, inspected by a priest, and “legally” or “officially” declared to be clean.  In that case, what we see here is that his neighbors bring the man into the courts of the temple so that he can be declared to be cleansed from the “sin” that had presented itself as blindness and therefore welcomed back into worship.

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

It is obvious that the man is no longer blind.  And so, now the argument shifts from his blindness to Jesus.  They don’t like Jesus and they don’t want to admit that Jesus could have been the agent who performed the healing of the blind man.  But the only way to deny that Jesus healed the blind man, is to discredit him and insist that because Jesus is a sinner, that the blind man was somehow healed some other way.  And, as we will see, this turns into an almost laughably funny circular argument.

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So, they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

The blind man’s parents are dragged in front of these powerful leaders and even before they are summoned, they already know that these powerful men do not like Jesus and have threatened to excommunicate anyone who claims that Jesus is the Messiah.  And so, being good and faithful Jews, but also parents who love their son, they do the best that they can to stay out of whatever trouble he is in, and not get caught between Jesus and these angry and powerful leaders.  They want to support their son, but they don’t want to get thrown out of the temple or their local synagogue.  And so, their answers don’t go any farther than they must.  They tell the truth but refuse to speculate beyond their own knowledge.  They swear that their son was, indeed, born blind but they have no firsthand knowledge of how he was healed, or who healed him and they refuse to speculate or comment further.

Their son, on the other hand, has spent his entire life outside the temple.  His blindness, much like leprosy, though not communicable, was seen as uncleanness, or more specifically un-wholeness, and thus prohibited him entering into a holy space.  Not only does he want to support the man that healed him, he literally has nothing to lose because they are threatening to take away something that he has never had.  And so…

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth, “They said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

And right there we see that these church leaders believe the same misinterpretation of scripture that the disciples had.  They dismiss the (formerly) blind man and dismiss the value of his opinion and the value of his eyewitness testimony, because they believe that his blindness must have been caused by either his parents’ sinfulness or his own, and this continued blindness must, therefore, have been an outward sign of his sin and of God’s displeasure.  But…

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

The Pharisees that were listening to Jesus teach were not stupid men.  They had dedicated their lives to studying scripture, and a strict obedience to keeping the oral and written law and they were surprised and offended that Jesus would call them blind.  But Jesus says that their blindness came because of their insistence that only their interpretation of scripture could be correct.

The truth was that bad things happen to good people.  The truth is that being poor doesn’t mean that God hates you, or is angry with you, or that God is punishing you for being sinful.  The truth is that being rich, or living in a rich nation, doesn’t mean that God loves you any more than poor people or people who live in other nations, or that your wealth is a sign of your righteousness.  The truth is that good people can be rich or poor, American, Asian, European, or African.  The truth is that sometimes bad things happen.  But when we have faith, God can use those bad things to accomplish good.

The other truth is that what God wants isn’t always obvious.  And, even when we spend our lives trying to get it right, we need to have the humility to recognize that sometimes we can get it wrong. 


Please LIKE and SHARE!

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


*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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  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.™

Enemies No Longer

Click here to watch the video: https://youtu.be/wl1n0l9PKiw

Click here to watch the entire worship service: https://youtu.be/wdqWMNn7q8Q


Enemies No Longer

March 12, 2023*

(3rd Sunday of Lent)

By Pastor John Partridge

Exodus 17:1-7                        John 4:5-42                Romans 5:1-11

World War 1 began in June of 1914, but the United States didn’t issue a declaration of war until the spring of 1917.  Regardless of the argument that the results would have been the same without our participation, the first war to end all wars ended on November 11, 1918.  Similarly, World War 2 began in 1939, the United States issued declarations of war on Germany and on Japan in December of 1941, just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  And so, the second war to end all wars finally ended in 1945.  Peace was even more elusive this time as the United States and many of its allies, once again fought in the Korean conflict from 1950 to 1953. 

I suppose that this shouldn’t surprise us.  If we look at almost any time in history, we can almost be certain to find that warfare is common.  Over the last two semesters we have been diving deep into the history of Israel in the Old and New Testaments and, much like ours, a common thread running throughout Israel’s history is that of conquest, warfare, and shifting allegiances.  For me, the thing that stands out in our recent history is how quickly we resolved and reconciled our differences with our enemies.  Despite fighting two wars within the span a half a century, Germany is now one of our closest allies.  And much the same can be said about our relationship with Japan.  Korea is a little different but while North Korea remains an internationally isolated state, South Korea, which was once practically unknown, is now a close ally and, though we still have our political differences, China has become our biggest trading partner.

What does that have to do with us, our church, and the season of Lent?  Quite a lot.  But before we get to that part, let’s begin with the story of Exodus and the moment when the people were far enough away from Egypt to feel safe from its armies, forget their suffering, and start complaining about Moses and their current problems.  We read this in Exodus 17:1-7.

17:1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So, Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah(which means testing) and Meribah  (which means quarreling) 9because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

As the people of Israel follow Moses away from Egypt and toward the promised land, they pass through that dangerous time when they find themselves far enough away from slavery to feel safe, but not close enough to the Promised Land to feel the comfort of their new home.  They were far enough from their problems that they no longer needed to rely upon God and instead began to fight amongst one another, complain, and grumble against Moses because he wasn’t meeting their needs fast enough.  They were suspended between fear and comfort, and between slavery and freedom, and they asked themselves if God was with them, saying “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Is the Lord among us or not?

It is a question that we can easily find ourselves asking as individuals, or as a church, whenever we find ourselves far enough from our problems and our fears to feel comfortable, but not yet arrived at the destination for which we had hoped.

Hold on to that tension as we move on to the story of when Jesus met the Samaritan woman and brought an entire village to faith in God in John 4:5-42.

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows, and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Despite generations of hatred between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus breaks the rules to talk to one, and then to an entire town, and even, again in violation of societal and priestly rules, stays with the Samaritans for two days to teach and to preach the Good News.  And, if we take a look at what Jesus said to his own disciples, “…open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  Essentially, Jesus says, “Pay attention! The harvest is right in front of you.”  And then the Samaritans, the enemies of the Jews, hear the Good News, and are welcomed into the kingdom of God.

But God’s relationship with the Samaritans is not the only relationship that Jesus redeemed and reconciled.  In Romans 5:1-11, Paul says…

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

We are immediately reminded of last week’s message “What Faith Isn’t,” and we remember that, like Abraham, whether we are Jews, Samaritans, or Gentiles, it is our faith that brings about our adoption as the children of God.  The way that Paul describes it, Jesus died for us while we were still living in sin, and while we were still the enemies of God.  But, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, our relationship with God has been redeemed and reconciled so that we can be welcomed into God’s family.

We worry, grumble, and complain because, like the Israelites in the desert, we find ourselves far enough from our problems and our fears to feel comfortable, but have not yet arrived at the destination for which we had hoped.  But just as the Samaritans next door were not the enemies of Jesus, the people outside the doors of the church are not our enemies and neither are the Germans, Koreans, Chinese, Iranians, Iraqis, Mexicans, Russians, rich, poor, vaxxed, anti-vaxxers, Republicans, Democrats, or anybody else.

Much like Jesus reminded his disciples in Samaria, we too are reminded that the harvest is right in front of us. 

We must love our twenty-first century Samaritans.  There is no one who is beyond God’s grace.  There is no one who cannot be redeemed, reconciled, and welcomed into God’s family.  And so, no matter who it is toward which we aim our hatred, no matter who our modern day Samaritans may be, Jesus, and the Good News of the gospel is still bigger than our hatred.  Our mission, like the disciples, is to get past our hatred and our biases, and invite our enemies into the family.

To paraphrase Jesus, “Open your eyes! The harvest is right in front of you.”


Please LIKE and SHARE!

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


*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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  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.™

What Faith Isn’t

What Faith Isn’t

March 05, 2023*

(2nd Sunday of Lent)

By Pastor John Partridge

Genesis 12:1-4a                     John 3:1-17                Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Often when we are explaining what things are, and how they work, we pause from our explanations of what they are to spend some time explaining what they aren’t.  This was important when the Covid-19 vaccines began to come out because many people heard the word “vaccine” and their thoughts connected to the polio vaccines that we received as children.  Those vaccines essentially made us “immune” to polio… or so we thought.  But the fact is that those vaccines made us immune because all of us had them, and because each vaccine, and each disease, performs differently in the human body. And so, we had to take the time to explain what vaccines are, and what they are not so that our understanding could align with the reality that the Covid vaccine is a lot more like our annual flu shot than it is to our once or twice in a lifetime polio vaccination.

With that in mind, when I read our lectionary selections for today, it occurred to me that, for as often as we spend time in church explaining what faith is, sometimes it is useful for us to talk about what faith isn’t, and that’s exactly what we find in some of today’s scriptures.  We begin this morning in Genesis 12:1-4a, where we hear God call Abram to leave his home, his family, his people, and his nation, and go to a place that God won’t even name.

12:1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

God calls Abram from his home in the nation of Ur, to leave everything that he knows and just… go.  It’s a bit like the call from American history to just “Go West.”  God does not name a destination but promises to bless Abram and his descendants.  That’s it.  Just a promise.  And with that promise, Abram believes, Abram trusts, and Abram goes.

And as we will shortly see, as gentiles, that story is at the root of our eventual adoption into God’s family.

But first, we move on to John 3:1-17, where we find Jesus meeting with Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and a powerful member of the Sanhedrin.

3:1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[plural, as in “y’all”] must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still, you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

As a Pharisee, we know that Nicodemus was a devout man of faith who dedicated his life to doing what was right in the eyes of God.  But because he was a member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, we also know that he was politically connected, respected, and well-known in the community.  Nicodemus says that he and the other leaders knew that Jesus must have been sent by God, because without God he would be unable to do the things that he had been doing.

Jesus explains to Nicodemus that the reason that he can do the things that he does, is because the he has received the Spirit of God and, more importantly, everyone who believes will receive the Spirit of God and will have eternal life.

And, once again, Jesus’ statement that “everyone” who believes may have eternal life, is of vital  importance to us as gentiles.

When Paul was called by God to minister to the Gentiles across the Roman world, there was debate as to whether this was even possible.  For Jews who had been raised on the teaching that they were loved by God because of the covenant that God had made with Abraham, it was difficult to understand how gentiles could be a part of God’s plan.  And so, Paul spent much of his time explaining how that could happen, and a part of that explanation included a definition of what faith in God is, as well as what faith in God isn’t.  We find one of those explanations in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, in Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 where he connects the dots from today’s scriptures saying…

4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

Paul starts, as we did, with the story of Abraham.  When God called Abram, only one thing connected him to the promise of God.  There was, at that time, no covenant with God and Abraham had not yet done anything worth rewarding.  Remember that we said that with God’s promise, Abram believes, Abram trusts, and Abram goes.  The only thing that Abram had was faith.  But nonetheless, scripture records that God credited Abram with righteousness.  

That tells us something about what faith is not.  Faith is not connected to the works that we do for God or in God’s name.  Abraham was credited with righteousness before he could do anything.  And, if Abram received the promise of God through faith, and not through the Law of Moses, which obviously came much later, then God’s grace is not hereditary and is not inherited, such that it cannot be passed from one generation to another.  Paul argues that there is no such thing as inheriting the faith of your parents or your grandparents and that applied to Jews in the first century just as it does for Christians in the twenty-first century.  We do not, and cannot, claim that we are saved because we were born into a Christian family.

Abram received the promise of God because he had… faith.  He was, to borrow a more modern expression, saved by faith.  Jesus said that everyone who believes may have eternal life.  We are not saved by the things that we do, we are not saved by works.  We are not saved by anything that was done by our ancestors, by our grandparents, or by our parents.  Our salvation and rescue are not hereditary and cannot be inherited or passed down from one generation to another.

We are saved by our faith.  We are saved by faith… alone… by grace… alone.

Just as it was for Abraham, by faith, and because of our faith, we are adopted by God into his family and into his church.

And it is for that reason that Paul can say that by grace we are, even as gentiles, the children of Abraham.

And that is why Jesus said that everyone who believes may have eternal life.

May.  Not will.  May.  May have eternal life.  What about you?  Do you believe?


Please LIKE and SHARE!

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


*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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  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.™

Half-Truths and Lies

Half-Truths and Lies

February 26, 2023*

(1st Sunday of Lent)

By Pastor John Partridge

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7                      Matthew 4:1-11                     Romans 5:12-19

In Star Wars – Return of the Jedi, Luke encounters his mentor, Obi Wan Kenobi, and asks him why he lied and told him that Darth Vader had killed his father.  Obi Wan answers by saying “So, what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.” When Luke presses the issue, Obi Wan continues by saying, “Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”  We all find that history is often told by the victors, and that the same events, when recounted by participants and authors from opposite sides, are often described very differently.

But what makes matters worse, is that in an effort to make themselves look good, many writers and public speakers not only tell stories from differing points of view, they resort to telling those stories and filling them with half-truths, lies, and outright fabrications.  As sad as this situation may be, it isn’t new.  We see that very thing in the story of creation and the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 when the serpent twists the truth to his own purposes.  In that story we hear this:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

The story is sadly familiar to us, and we have seen the process repeated every day in our news media.  God made a simple statement explaining the rules of living in the garden, “you are free to eat… but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  But when the serpent quotes God’s instructions, he twists the words to say that God had forbidden them from eating the fruit of all the trees.  Eve argues, but having heard the serpent’s exaggeration, she also exaggerates, misunderstands, or misinterprets God’s instructions and claims that they cannot even touch the tree or God will strike them dead.  The serpent then escalates to outright lies and more half-truths, saying that surely, they would not die, but that by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would become like God.

Having believed the lie, sadly, after eating the fruit, Adam and Eve discovered that they were not like God.  Their eyes were opened, they gained understanding, but they had lost their innocence, their home, and their relationship with God.  And that was Satan’s intent all along.  His goal was, and is, to destroy the relationship between God and his people and true to form, we see him attempting to do exactly the same thing, using exactly the same methods, in the story of Jesus’ wilderness temptation in Matthew 4:1-11 where it says…

4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be temptedby the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Knowing that Jesus is too smart to believe his lies, but willing to try anyway, Satan begins by twisting the truth, and attempting to play on Jesus’ pride.  He challenges Jesus to prove who he is by saying “If you are the Son of God…” then prove it.  If you are who you say that you are, if you are who you believe yourself to be, then do this thing to prove it.  But Jesus doesn’t have anything to prove, and has the humility to realize that pride is a trap.  Instead of walking into that trap, Jesus replies that the scriptures that describe the Messiah and the Son of God, also say that he is obedient.  The Son of God doesn’t need to live on bread but genuinely needs to live on the word of God.  The Son of God may be protected by the angels of heaven, but he is wise enough to know that it would be sinful to test God by deliberately putting himself in danger.

Once again, Satan appeals to pride and to impatience, by offering Jesus the kingdoms of the world that are, by God’s grace, at his disposal.  But Jesus knows that all these will be his eventually, and in any case, regardless of Satan’s temporary control of the principalities of earth, God is the true king who creates, controls, and rules over the universe and everything in it, including Satan and his minions.  Jesus knew that the words of Satan were half-truths and lies, and so his enemy leaves him in hopes that he might try again at another time.

Time after time, the enemy of God has demonstrated a regular pattern of behavior that he uses to deceive the followers of God in an attempt to destroy their relationship with God and with one another.  The enemy of God is the original master of spin, who twists the truth, speaks half-truths, slander, and distributes lies and total fabrications wherever they might be believed.  The good news is that the enemy of God isn’t the only one with a pattern of behavior, and that’s exactly what Paul describes in his letter to the church in Rome that we find in Romans 5:12-19, where he says:

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Paul begins this conversation about sin with Adam and reminds us that it was with Adam and Eve that sin entered the world and into humanity.  But he also points out that before they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their actions were not sinful because of their innocence.  Because they didn’t know the difference between good and evil, they were not guilty of sin.  But afterward, after they ate the fruit, they knew… and that knowledge was passed down from generation to generation into all of humanity.  Adam and Eve became the pattern for all of humanity.

And that is why Paul says that, ordinarily, human beings could not have been convicted of breaking the laws of God prior to God giving the law to Moses.  You simply cannot be convicted of breaking a law that hasn’t been passed, but we still can be found guilty of our conscience because, in our hearts, we know the difference between good and evil.  It is for this reason that all of humanity, from the time of Adam and Eve, is guilty of sin, and this is why, as Paul puts it, death reigned.

But… God sent a gift.  Through his grace, God sent his son to break the pattern that had been set by Adam and Eve.  Because of the gift and the sacrifice of one man, Jesus, a pathway to forgiveness and righteousness was opened to all of humanity.  The lies and half-truths of the enemy no longer need to entangle us, destroy our relationship with God, and drag us down into death.  God’s grace is now freely available at all times, to everyone, everywhere.

We must, of course, continue to be aware, and be wary.  The enemy of God still roams throughout the earth searching for those whom he may destroy.  He is still the grandmaster of spin.  He still speaks finely crafted half-truths, lies, and fabrications that are designed to appeal to our egos, our vanity, our impatience, our pride, and all our other shortcomings and vulnerabilities.  We will still drift off course.  We will still fall into his traps.  We will still make mistakes.  We will still fall short of God’s commands, teachings, and expectations.  But we are no longer doomed to repeat those mistakes and allow them to become the pattern of our lives. 

Grace awaits.

At any moment, in any place, we may go to God and ask for forgiveness and know that because of the obedience of Jesus, and his act of righteousness on the cross, our forgiveness is guaranteed.

The pattern of sin and death has been broken.

This is the Good News that we are called to share with the world.


Did you enjoy this?

Please LIKE and SHARE!

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


*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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  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.™

Half-Baked Sin

Half-Baked Sin

February 22, 2023*

(Ash Wednesday)

By Pastor John Partridge

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17                    Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21                        2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10

Old Testament Reading

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 

2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion;sound the alarm on my holy hill.

Let all who live in the land tremble,for the day of the Lord is coming.
It is close at hand—
    a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come.

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,“return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heartand not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
 and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,declare a holy fast,call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
 consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders,
    gather the children, those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
    a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
    ‘Where is their God?’”

New Testament Reading

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

6:1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Half-Baked Sin

February 22, 2023*

(Ash Wednesday)

By Pastor John Partridge

Ash Wednesday is a day to remember and to repent of our sin.  It is a day to remember because we so often drift from God’s path slowly, like a ship sailing across the sea with a compass that’s just a fraction of a degree out of calibration.  It isn’t much, it’s barely noticeable but, over time, slowly but surely, we drift off course.  Other times we convince ourselves that little sins don’t count, or a certain kind of sin isn’t really sin.  We’re good at ignoring our own faults and believing that what we have done is okay. 

But that isn’t God’s message at all.  In Joel we heard God’s proclamation to blow the trumpets to announce a day of judgement but before that happens, God calls his people to return to him with all their hearts.  God’s advice is not to rend their garments in a common cultural sign of outward mourning and repentance, but instead to rend their hearts, to be personally, and emotionally broken so that real forgiveness, and real healing, can happen.

The reverse is also true.  In our reading from Matthew, Jesus teaches us not to do good as an outward display of our righteousness but instead, just to consistently, quietly, and privately, do good.  Certainly, you can hire a brass band, parade through town to the local food pantry and, in front of the television cameras and the local news media, present them with one of those giant six-foot checks that everyone can read from a block away. 

But Jesus says that doing good in that way is an action that benefits you, and that your motivation for doing it was to boost your reputation rather than obedience to God, or any real sort of goodness or righteousness.  In other words, in God’s eyes, it doesn’t count.  Instead do good… for the sake of doing good.  Do good because it’s the right thing to do.  Do good, because you want to be obedient to God’s commands to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the poor, but to do that, you don’t need everyone to know that you’re doing it.  Your goal is to build up your investments in your heavenly bank accounts, and not your earthly ones.  The ledgers that God keeps are the only ones that matter.

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes these words of instruction (2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10).

20 We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sinfor us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6:1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Paul says that while he and his ministry team were in Corinth, they did everything they could to insure that people saw their work, that they heard the message of Jesus, and saw Jesus in them and didn’t just see a group of people who were trying to draw attention to themselves or enrich themselves.  And when I say that they did everything they could to point to Jesus, that included being beaten, thrown in prison, run out of town by rioters, working from dawn to dusk in their tent shop so they didn’t take a penny of the church’s money, going without sleep, going hungry at times, but despite their hardships they still remained pure, understanding, patient, and kind to the people around them, and that included the people who were beating, imprisoning, and ridiculing them.  We all understand how we can get irritable when we’re hungry and we joke at the description of being “hangry,” but Paul said that they didn’t do that.  They kept their cool and showed kindness even in situations where we could easily forgive them for being grumpy.

We can’t do follow God half-heartedly, halfway, or in half measures.  We can’t convince ourselves that “white lies” aren’t lies, or that shoplifting from the grocery story by “tasting” the grapes or taking a “sample” from the barrel of peanuts is okay.  Our culture likes to say that if it feels good, then it must be okay.  But that isn’t at all what God says.  We can’t deceive ourselves into thinking that gossiping about others isn’t a sin, or that gambling doesn’t hurt people, or selfishness isn’t that bad.  We must instead grapple with scripture and struggle to live lives that are holy and righteous.  We must wrestle with our understanding that what God calls sin, is sin, and that there’s no such thing as an acceptable amount of sin. 

When you’re sailing across the vastness of the ocean, having a compass that’s just a fraction of a degree out of calibration could mean drifting hundreds, or thousands of miles off course and could mean the difference between life and death.  Ash Wednesday, and the season of Lent, is a chance for us to check our calibration.  To check our moral and spiritual compass.  To set aside any false ideas that we had about God overlooking some of our little sins, or convincing ourselves that God didn’t really mean it when he said that thing that we like to do is sinful. 

Let us take the time to tell God that we got it wrong, that we have made mistakes, that we have fallen short, and have drifted off course.  Let us take the time say we’re sorry, to confess our sins, to repent, and to ask for God’s forgiveness.


 Did you enjoy this?

Please LIKE and SHARE!

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.

*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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  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.™

Responsible Investing

Responsible Investing

February 19, 2023*

By Pastor John Partridge

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18                        Matthew 5:38-48                   1 Corinthians 3:10-23

As many of us have put aside a little money for our retirement or just for a rainy day, we may have learned a thing or two along the way.  One thing that I first noticed in the 1980’s, and which has had surges of popularity over the intervening decades, were opportunities that are known as socially responsible investments.  They may have been around for a long time, but he first time I recall hearing about them, they were mutual funds or other vehicles that deliberately avoided any investments in companies that did business with the South African system of apartheid.  Later, we heard about investments that avoided tobacco stocks, or companies that sold alcoholic beverages, and more recently it’s “big oil” or “big pharma,” or whatever it is that seems to be the evil empire of the moment.

Sometimes, socially responsible investment serves an admirable purpose, but at other times, it is not well thought out and actually does damage to the cause that it was trying to promote simply because our world is rarely black or white and because investing in corporations that themselves invest in layers of other corporations can be dauntingly complicated.  But this morning, we will find that our scriptures offer us some sound advice, regardless of how much money we have (or don’t have), not for investing in stocks, or bonds, or mutual funds, but for investing responsibly in our eternity.  We begin in Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 where…

19:1 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.

9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.

11 “‘Do not steal.

“‘Do not lie.

“‘Do not deceive one another.

12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.

13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor.

“‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.

14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind; but fear your God. I am the Lord.

15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great; but judge your neighbor fairly.

16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.

“‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.

17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.

18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people; but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

This isn’t exactly the ten commandments, but there is some overlap.  But the first verse reminds us that because we worship a holy God, we are called to be holy and live holy lives, but our scripture doesn’t just leave us there.  It goes on to tell us how to do that, by being compassionate, and generous, not stealing, not lying, and to avoid the practice of deception in any form (which, I think, would make it tough to be a politician).  Keep your word, do not commit acts of fraud or misrepresentation, pay people what they are worth, when you promised to pay them.  Care for the disabled and be compassionate toward them, do not favor the rich over the poor, but neither should you favor the poor over the rich.  Don’t slander people or gossip about them, don’t do things in your own home that might endanger your neighbors in theirs.  Don’t hate people, but instead care for them, help them, and offer guidance and advice to keep them out of trouble. And finally, instead of wasting your time and energy trying to get even for what others have done to you, forgive them, love them, and move on with your life.

This message is so important, that Jesus summarizes it in Matthew 5:38-48 and says…

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good; and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus says that holding grudges and trying to get even with those who have harmed us and who have offended us, just creates a horrible and evil cycle of violence.  Instead, do what must be done to break the cycle.  If they hit you, let them hit you again, if they steal from you, give them more than they asked for, if they need your help, provide more help than that for which they asked, if they ask to borrow money, or tools, or anything else, loan it to them if you are able.  The goal is to overwhelm evil with good.  Only doing good for the people who do good things for you is the same behavior as everyone else, but as the followers of Jesus, we have a higher calling.  We aren’t called to act like everyone else.  We are called to act like Jesus and to model his love, compassion, generosity, and selflessness to the people around us and to the world.

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul explains that through our words, our actions, and the way that we live our lives, we are investing in our future and in our eternity.  In 1 Corinthians 3:10-23 he says…

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Paul explains that all that he has done is to lay a foundation upon which someone else is building.  This reminds us of what we heard from Paul last week when he said that he planted the seeds, Apollos watered them, but it was God that was making them grow.  We build with care upon the foundation that was laid by Jesus Christ and what we build will be tested with fire because it must be built to last for eternity.  What we are building is not impressive architecture, but changed hearts and lives dedicated to following God.  We cannot boast that we are the followers of this preacher, or that televangelist, or this or that politician.  We cannot boast about human leaders of any kind if we are building an eternal kingdom.

And so, there are some questions that we should be regularly asking ourselves.

Are we investing responsibly?

As we live our lives, how do we live them?

As we invest in the lives of others, what are we giving them?

As we build kingdoms, whose kingdom are we building?


Did you enjoy this?

Please LIKE and SHARE!

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


*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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  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.™

Eulogy for Judith A. (Judy) Kingan

Eulogy for Judith A. (Judy) Kingan

February 14, 2023

by Rev. John Partridge

In 1947, was only two years after the end of the hostilities known as World War Two and automobiles, for the first time since the war began, were once again rolling off the assembly line for the average consumer.  At the same time, India and Pakistan proclaimed their independence from Great Britain, the United States launched the rebuilding of Europe with its Marshall Plan, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier for the first time, the transistor was developed at Bell Labs, Jackie Robinson played his first major league baseball game, and “The Miracle on 34th Street” was released to theaters.  And in the midst of these auspicious events, Judy Kingan was born to David and Mildred Hostetler.  She became a “Preacher’s Kid” with all of the expectations and baggage that go with that.

As a freshman in high school in 1962 or 1963, Judy asked Don to go with her to the “Gold Digger’s Dance” and having chosen wisely, they dated throughout the rest of their high school years.  After graduation, Judy went to Goshen College in Indiana to get a four-year degree in home economics, while Don stayed closer to home pursuing an associate degree, and joining ROTC, at The University of Akron and Don tells me that a great deal of mail passed between the two of them. After finishing his two-year degree, Don joined the Air Force, they were married, and then Don shipped out for Thailand during the conflict in Vietnam. 

Upon his return home, Don found a new job in Galion, Ohio, they moved, and eventually had three children.  Somewhere around 1980 they moved to Canton, and Don’s new job at Mercy Hospital, and then to Alliance where they spent the last 30 years together.  For her part, Judy worked at a pet store for a while, as a Mary Kay consultant, taught at the Alliance Christian Center School for 10 years, taught job training courses for adults for three or four years, and then took a job at the hospital in food service and, after several promotions, eventually retired.  It’s also worth noting, in light of her time at the pet store, that Judy really liked dogs, but she loved cats.

Judy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, fought it, and two years later was told that they “got it all.” And they did… for a while.  Until it came back in 2015.  And, when it came back, they said it was aggressive and it progressed rapidly.  But even so, she fought like the warrior that she was for seven years and, according to her family, never once complained.  No matter what Judy was going through, she always thought about everyone else.

And that was Judy’s trademark.  Her family told me that Judy’s love was felt every day in everything that she did.  Friends were always welcome, bread or cookies would be made at the drop of a hat, and the friends of her children often said that if they had a problem, they needed to “talk to Mrs. Kingan.”  She was everyone’s “substitute Mom.”  One of the hardest things that she did was being isolated by the pandemic.  Being immune suppressed while fighting cancer, her doctors told her to stay in, stay home, avoid crowds indoors or outdoors, and even recommended that the grandchildren stay away.  Judy dearly loved playing in the bell choir where she stood, and shared stories, next to Lynn Goldrick.  But she had to quit because of her battle with cancer and even when she was feeling better, and though she might be able to go back for a while, she just didn’t have the strength to stand behind the bell tables long enough.

Anyone who knew her knew that Judy was a crafter.  She loved sewing, calligraphy, scrap-booking, making greeting cards, gardening, animals, flowers, and almost any other craft.  One winter the family was snowed in, school was cancelled, and she and Annie sewed in the basement for an entire week.  They made school clothes, pajamas, stuffed animals, doll clothes, and anything else they could think of.  At one point, Judy entered her doll clothes and some of her homemade bread into for judging at the Stark County Fair and came away with blue ribbons for both.  What’s more, Judy’s grandchildren always looked forward to visiting because they said that grandma always had crafts and “fun stuff” to do together.  Judy also loved making cloth banners, and many of the banners and other decorations that we enjoy each year at Christ Church were the fruit of her labor, passion, and skill.

Judy loved her family and everyone around her, she loved her church, she loved her Jesus, loved cats and crafts of all kinds, and she was a warrior who was not to be trifled with.  She did battle with one of humanity’s greatest enemies and did so for ten years of her life while still doing the things that she loved, loving the people in her life, and living, and loving, as normally as possible and with all the fun and style that she could muster.  We know where Judy has gone.  If she has gotten her way, by now Jesus has a new pair of pajamas to go with the warm cookies that she made, and there are some new banners in the works for the God’s throne room or wherever she’s allowed to put them.

Those of us who have put our faith in Jesus know that when our day comes, Judy will be there to welcome us.  And I am sure that she will and remind you all that she never stopped praying for you, bugging God on your behalf, and you know that she will never stop loving you.  Because she loves you even more than cats.


From Jackson Tittle

(Don and Judy’s son-in-law/Annie’s husband)

To know Judy is to see Christ truly alive in a person.  Judy understood what it is to be Christ to people.  She understood what it is to love.  Those who knew her know of her joy and of her love and compassion for others.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7 ESV)

Judy got Christianity right, she knew how to receive the love of God and then share it with all, unreservedly.  She kept no record and laid down expectations, she simply loved.

Those who know Judy, knew that she lived out the following:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

(Ephesians 4:32 ESV)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

For believers, to live here should be to love but to also have a longing to be home with our savior…Judy is home! We know with all confidence that she received the greeting we believers all long to hear… “Well done, good and faithful servant…Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt 25:23)

“So, we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 NLT)


From Annie Tittle

(Don & Judy’s daughter)

“Mama’s Hands” (written by Annie Tittle)

My Mama’s hands were beautiful,

I’ll always remember them well.

There was always something for them to do, And what a story they’d tell.

Mama’s hands were busy,

But never too busy for me.

No matter what project she had to do,

She could always stop for a cup of tea.

Mama’s hands were nice and strong,

To stitch, or write, or bake.

She could lift a person up to God,

With the thoughtful cards she’d make.

Mama’s hands were teachers,

And taught me things I needed to know.

Like how to be a mother,

To cook, be kind, and sew.

But most of all, I tell you true,

My Mama’s hands were from God.

Every touch, every hug, every card, every word, Told me how much I was loved.

I pray that God will take my hands,

And make them just as well,

A blessing like my Mama’s hands,

And give them a story to tell.


Judith A. Kingan

by Rev. L. Chris Martin

February 14, 2023

Dear Friends:

If someone were to describe you and your attributes in a few words, what would they say? Would they highlight your personality, your distinct features, or maybe your interests or family? Perhaps they would focus on your unique talents or abilities that make you stand out in a crowd. The scriptures are full of snapshots of characters that were important to the spread of the good news of the gospel. Sometimes we get more details than others. In other cases, we listen in on dialogs that give us glimpses into their lives. It is in these studies, as we lean in, look, and listen, that we find truths that can transform the way we live.

Such is the case with a woman named Lydia in the New Testament. Lydia was well known because of her work with precious fabrics, especially the much sought-after rich purple fabric. I introduce you to Lydia in the New Testament because many of the qualities and unique characteristics that she possessed were also acquired by Judy Kingan – at least the qualities and characteristics that I admired the most in Judy.

Growing up Judy was lovingly nurtured in the Christian faith by her parents the Reverend David and Mildred Hostetler, two of the most dedicated and spiritual people I have ever known. Judy learned early on what it means to be and become a committed follower of Jesus Christ. The light of Christ burned brightly in everything Judy did as she shared her faith and the talents bestowed upon her by the eternal God of the ages.

Judy was a very special person to each of us here this morning. Her infectious smile could light up a room. Like Lydia in the early church, Judy always focused on priorities that made life better for those who crossed her path each day. Again, like Lydia, Judy had a depth of creativity that she shared with everyone she met. In the church, Judy loved playing in one of the hand bell choirs, and designed and fashioned worship banners for the Chancel that are among the most creative and stunning banners this Pastor has ever seen. All of Judy’s banners are still in use at Christ United Methodist Church in the appropriate season for each. Judy also invested much time in creating unique greeting cards and in reviving the ancient art of calligraphy.

Far more important than all other attributes, Judy, like Lydia before her, shared the hospitality of her hearth and home with others. Judy profoundly believed that the lives we live in this world determine how others view our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And because of that belief, Judy did everything humanly possible to share her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with everyone she met in life. As a woman of influence and reputation, Judy served as an encouraging example of how our lives can be a testimony to God and his love.

Thank you, Judy, for being such a delightful mirror of God’s unconditional love for each of us.

Indeed, thank you!

L. Chris Martin

Cassaday, Turkle, Christian Funeral Home

February 14, 2023


Obituary for Judy Kingan

Judith A. Kingan, age 75, passed away on February 9, 2023.

She was born on November 1, 1947, in Wooster, to David and Mildred (Warner) Hostetler.

A Photo of Judy Kingan laughingJudith graduated from Goshen College in Indiana with a bachelor’s degree in home economics. She taught K-12 at Alliance Christian Center School for 10 years and then taught adult education in Alliance for several years. Judith was also the breakfast supervisor at Alliance Community Hospital for many years until her retirement in 2014. She was a member of Christ United Methodist Church where she was active in the bell choir and making banners. Judith was also active in the Alliance Calligraphers Club. She enjoyed making greeting cards and sewing.

Those left to cherish her memory are her husband, Donald; her sons, Jason (Kathy) Kingan and Zachary (Shawna) Kingan; her daughter, Annie (Jackson) Tittle; thirteen grandchildren; and two sisters, Sue Hostetler, and Becky Christner.

She was preceded in death by her parents.

A visitation while be held at Cassaday-Turkle-Christian Funeral Home on Monday, February 13th from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

A funeral service will be held at the funeral home on Tuesday, February 14th at 11:00 a.m. The funeral service will be live-streamed and can be viewed at the bottom of her obituary on the funeral home’s website.

Arrangements are entrusted to Cassaday-Turkle-Christian Funeral Home 75 South Union Ave Alliance, Ohio 44601. 

Scouting is No Coincidence

Scouting is No Coincidence

February 12, 2023*

(Scout Sunday)

By Pastor John Partridge

Deuteronomy 30:15-20                     Matthew 5:21-37                   1 Corinthians 3:1-9

How do you navigate your life?

If we’re driving a car, we can use dead reckoning, maps, or Google maps, or GPS, or a dozen other methods of finding our way from one place to another.  If we’re flying, some of those same methods work, as well as a couple others.  At sea, again, GPS works, but it can still be useful to know how to use a compass and sextant to navigate using the stars.  But how do we navigate the lives that we live here on earth?  How do we get good advice, learn the skills that we need, and learn the values that make us good citizens and decent human beings?

Before I get too far down that road, however, I want to say something about how I chose the scriptures that I am using for this morning’s message.  Each week, I generally reference the Revised Common Lectionary which is used by Protestants, Catholics, Episcopalians, and all manner of Christians around the world.  There is no requirement to use the lectionary, but it’s just a handy way of keeping things fresh, working our way through the Bible on a regular basis, and it helps for Sunday school classes to often be talking about the same things that the pastor or priest preaches about. 

The Lectionary lays out a rotating three-year calendar that works its way through scripture and offers a scripture passage from the Old Testament, Psalms, the four gospels, and one from the rest of the New Testament.  Today was no different.  There is not a “Scout Sunday” selection in the lectionary, so today’s scriptures are the same ones being used in every other church that uses it regardless of whether they are celebrating Scout Sunday or not.  I say that because I want you to know that the connection of today’s scriptures to scouting was not deliberate and could likely be made with almost any scripture, on any given week of the year.

So, how do we navigate life?  Obviously, our parents have a lot to do with instilling values and giving us good advice, schoolteachers contribute to that, and so do the people we choose as our friends.  But where else do we learn the skills that guide us?  From my perspective, two places that can happen are here at church, and in scouting. 

We begin our scripture lesson this morning with a reading from Deuteronomy 30:15-20, and as I read, I have asked a few of our scouts to help me point out where our scriptures of the day, cross paths with, and overlap, the values taught by scouting.

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death, and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience…

Obedience.  There’s our first one… say it with me, “A scout is Obedient.”

to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings, and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

That’s the second one, it’s a little less obvious, but right there God declares that he will keep his promises and will be loyal to his people if his people are loyal to him.  And we know that, “A scout is Loyal.”

In Matthew 5:21-37, Jesus offers guidance to help us get through life saying…

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sisterwill be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court.

I break from the scripture reading at this point because this word “Raca” deserves some explanation.  This Greek word appears only once in scripture and it is an idiomatic phrase used in Israel at the time of the New Testament, to express derision.  “Idiomatic,” words are phrases that have meaning in a particular time and place that may not mean what the words would mean if translated directly.  Some examples of modern idioms are words like surfer dude, valley girl, motorhead, and phrases like “under the weather,” “break a leg,” and “on the fence.” We know what “Raca” means, but because idioms don’t translate word for word, we end up with a Greek word in our English language scripture.  In any case, translated loosely, “raca” means stupid.  But, if we translate an ancient idiom into a more modern idiom, we might think of Moe Howard calling this person a “numbskull,” Yosemite Sam calling them and “idjit.,” or phrases like “his elevator doesn’t go to the top,” or “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”  So, with that in mind, let’s return to our scripture…

22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court.

 And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Again, this isn’t entirely specific, but if we understand that Jesus is teaching us not to call people names, I think that crosses paths with the scout law twice.  “A scout is Courteous,” and “A scout is Kind.”

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

I admit that this one takes a little interpretation, but one implication of this verse, particularly to those of us with any experience with the legal system, is that it’s usually a lot cheaper to settle a court case before it goes to court.  And so, our intersection with scouting here is “A scout is Thrifty.”

(I’m skipping a couple verses here in an effort to keep this family friendly.) …

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’

And when Jesus says, “Do not break your oath,” we can hear that echoed in the scout law, “A scout is Trustworthy.

34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

And then in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, we hear Paul encourage the church to get along with one another, and work together, so that they can do the work that God has given us to do.  He says…

3:1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

And if the people of the church are described as co-workers, then that intersects with the Scout Law with, “A scout is Helpful,” and if we are doing the work of God’s kingdom then that connects with “A scout is Reverent.”

And so, in the three scriptures from this week’s lectionary selection, having no deliberate connection with scouting, we’ve easily found eight of the twelve parts of the Scout Law.  And the only ones we missed were “A scout is Friendly, Cheerful, Brave, and Clean,” and I’m pretty sure that I could have included those if I had worked at it a little harder.

My point is that it isn’t a coincidence that the church and scouting get along so well.  I could do something like this every Sunday, and so could you.  The values of scripture that we teach on Sunday mornings align with the values of scouting.  As a church, our relationship with scouting is no accident.  We fit together, and I think it is easy for us to be, in Paul’s words, “co-workers in God’s service.”  I don’t, and I won’t, show up at scouts on Monday night and preach, but the values that that are being taught in scouting are many of the same values that we teach, preach, and reinforce on Sunday morning.

Our time together every Sunday morning helps us to navigate the lives that we live here on earth.  We get good advice, learn the skills that we need, and learn the values that make us good citizens, decent human beings, and work to be better people that are more like Jesus.  But our partners on that journey are teaching many of the same life skills downstairs every Monday evening

I hope that you will join me in supporting this vital youth ministry of Christ Church with your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness.


Did you enjoy this?

Please LIKE and SHARE!

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


*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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  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.™

Faithless Faith

Faithless Faith

February 05, 2023*

By Pastor John Partridge

Isaiah 58:1-9a                        Matthew 5:13-20                   1 Corinthians 2:1-12

I’m not sure when it was, but at some point, things started to get weird.  Maybe it was decaffeinated coffee that started it, or maybe it was wireless phones, but now we have clear Pepsi, sugar-free sugar, driverless cars, pilot-less airplanes, and crab meat without crab.  You can go to a planetarium and look at the stars, or climb into a booth to get a tan, without once going outside, you can buy paper that doesn’t use wood, a drum set that doesn’t have drums, eggs that don’t contain eggs, download an electronic file of music from your favorite artist’s latest album without actually possessing, you know, an album, check your calendar that doesn’t exist on an actual calendar, thanks to Zoom we now have meetings without actually meeting, you can buy gift cards that don’t have a card, and of course we can’t forget meatless meat.

But our modern familiarity with these sorts of paradoxes doesn’t change the fact that sometimes having a substitute for the real thing is very different than having the real thing.  This is exactly the thing for which God condemns Israel in Isaiah 58:1-9a when he says…

58:1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Just like meatless meat, God calls out the people of Israel for going through the motions of following God, without following God.  They fast and they pray, and fully expect God to answer their prayers, but while they’re fasting and praying, they completely ignore the commands and teachings of God and act just like everyone else in the world around them.  They say they follow God but make no attempt at all to act the way that God acts.  They pray that God would bless them, but they fight with one another and abuse their employees.  They follow God without following God. and end up with a faithless faith. 

Instead, God says, that the people of God should act the way that he has taught them to act.  We should fight against injustice, free the oppressed, feed the hungry, offer shelter for the wanderers and the migrants, clothe the naked, care for every member of our families, and just act like the people of God, and then God will have our backs.  Following God requires that we act the way that God acts and do the things that God teaches us to do.

We hear this same message from Jesus in Matthew 5:13-20 when he says…

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Salt that isn’t salty is fine if all you want is gravel, but it’s completely useless if what you want is salt.  Faithless faith, or unfaithful faith, is useless and isn’t faith at all.  Like a lamp on top of a lampstand, God’s people were designed to stand out from the crowd and are intended to be noticed by the world around them.  God has called us to be obedient and do the things that he has taught us to do, and doing those things, by design, will make us stand out from the crowd.  Christians that blend into the crowd of our culture, or who just go through the motions, and have an incognito faith can only do so by not being the kind of people that God has called us to be and ultimately become unchristian Christians, or people with a faithless faith.

Remember that the Pharisees, despite dedicating their lives to rigorously following every letter of the law of Moses, were regularly criticized by Jesus for not having the character of God.  In Luke 11:42, Jesus says,“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue, and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.  They were so scrupulously careful to obey the law that they tithed, not only from their income, but even gave a tenth from the herbs that grew in their garden.  But while they were counting the dill and the mint leaves in their garden, they were overlooking injustice and had developed a worship of God that was mechanical rather than loving.

So, if even the Pharisees, who devoted their lives to their strict obedience to God, got it wrong, what should we do so that we can do a better job of having the right kind of relationship with the Jesus that we claim to follow?  There is a lot of advice about that, from many different writers of the New Testament, but for today let’s look at the example of Paul that we find in his first letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 where he spells out a bunch of things that we don’t need to do:

2:1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Paul begins by listing some things that are not necessary to do the will of God, or for ministry to the people around us, and those are things like eloquence, human wisdom, strength, courage, or persuasive words.  Paul says that he didn’t have any of those things.  He wasn’t good with words, he was filled with great fear when he attempted to speak to the people of Corinth, and he described himself as weak.  But God used his weakness, his fear, and his other shortcomings to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit so that the faith of the church would not rest on the wisdom or personality of the preachers, but on God’s power.  The wisdom that we have is not human wisdom, but God’s wisdom that has been revealed to us through his Spirit and the strength that we have is not our strength but God’s strength.

The point, however, is that we cannot be the meatless meat of the church.  We cannot have a faithless faith that goes through the motions and follows all the rules but forgets the character of God and fail to act the way that God acts.

To do the will of God, we must not have an empty faith but we must be the people who fight against injustice, free the oppressed, feed the hungry, offer shelter for the wanderers and the migrants, clothe the naked, care for every member of our families, love our neighbors, bring healing to the wounded, have compassion for those that are struggling, and act like the people of God.

Following God requires that we act the way that God acts and do the things that God teaches because having a substitute for the real thing is very different than having the real thing.  Because when we talk about what we have, there is no doubt that our friends and neighbors will notice the difference between sirloin steak and meatless meat.


Did you enjoy this?

Please LIKE and SHARE!

Click here to subscribe to Pastor John’s blog.

Click here if you would like to subscribe to Pastor John’s weekly messages.

Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.


*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 secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  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.™