It’s Much More Than a Coin Toss
Psalm 62: 5-12
Mark 1: 14-20

<<Flipping a coin in the air>>. HEADS or TAILS?  Get it right and you can choose to have the ball to start the game or you can be on the receiving end.  It’s the visitors call but … it comes down to making a choice and luck.  Pure luck … a 50-50 shot at being right.

Now, I know that most people who live in South Jersey … most people who worship in this church. … are hoping that every little bit of luck and every ounce of skill benefits the Philadelphia Eagles today as they play the Minnesota Vikings … a chance to get to the BIG GAME.  A chance at the Super Bowl.

So, in our life … the good news.  The truly wonderful reality is that we get much more than a coin toss.  You and I and every other person who understands the big picture … every other person who has entered into the big game … we know and they know that luck is not the requirement … we also know that individual ability … intellect … wealth … connections … family … nation of birth … where we live or who we live with do not impact the final victory.  I could go on and on because the good news this morning is that every single person in the world … ALL people … my friends … ALL PEOPLE … can find refuge, hope, joy, and salvation through God!  Everyone can find that VICTORY IN JESUS!

Jesus, you may remember Jesus … the Son of God … the Prince of Peace … Emmanuel, God is with us … JESUS tells us that God truly values the connection between God and God’s humans.  In fact, God wants everyone to be part of God’s team… God’s kingdom … it is not about luck … it’s not about a 50-50 shot … EVERYONE … And, God’s angels my friends …

Just imagine in your mind for a second your vision of heaven.   We each may have some common associations for that place of Eternal rest and peace but we each may have our own unique perceptions of what heaven is all about.  To some it’s pearly gates with golden streets … to others just an immense place where all is good and all the saints gather … angels all around; Jesus and God on the throne … a place where all troubles are left behind.   HEAVEN …

And, those angels … Jesus tells us and frankly since He had been with those angels long before He was born in that manger … in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus shared with His disciples, the Pharisees, the tax collectors, the legal experts, and others of with bad reputations … “I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.”

Just one person … changing their heart and life for God … and joy breaks out in heaven … JOY TO THE WORLD … one person changing … we know that believing is not a moment but a lifestyle … believing is changing the priorities … believing is boldly rejecting the world’s opinions for God’s directives … believing is truly changing both our heart and our life because no one could linger in the world’s muck and evil if they believe.  And, JOY breaks out in heaven … a party starts … it’s the post-game celebration … the final step to the SUPER BOWL of existence … the SUPER BOWL of reality … the most wonderful thing is … once you get to this Super Bowl everybody is a winner and the ticket to get there is actually free because Jesus the Christ paid the price on the cross … we just have to believe; we have to change; and we have to put our life into God’s hands rather than struggling to figure out who to impress here on earth.

Is it no wonder that we still hear Jesus calling in the same way He called to those in Galilee … “Now IS the time!!!  Here comes God’s kingdom!!  Change your hearts … Change your lives … and trust the GOOD NEWS!”

Now Jesus might not have been shouting … I have always imagined His voice as a resonant voice that pulled people in to hear more.   He didn’t have a megaphone nor a portable microphone system.  His comments were not being broadcast live on social media but He was heard.  Jesus called on people to leave their old lives behind …he called to Simon and Andrew THEY FOLLOWED HIM … James and John … they knew it was the time and like Simon and Andrew they dropped what they were doing to follow the Son of God.

My friends … there is no better year than the year 2018 for a party to be held in heaven.  A celebration to begin with great happiness … NOW IS THE TIME … and we just have to pause to realize that our society; our world; our nation … we desperately need to change our hearts and lives.  All too many people of faith … all too many people who attend churches or call themselves Christian need to open up the Gospels of Jesus Christ, hear the Word and trust in the Good News rather than buying into the ALT FACTS of 2018.  We need to be the light that reflects the love of God through Jesus Christ … we need to be the ones calling “HERE COMES GOD’s Kingdom … change your hearts; change your lives” but to do that we need to understand and believe in the GOOD NEWS that is easily accessible right here in God’s Word!

Reverend Rey Pineda knew at 16 that God was calling him to ministry.  A God call that was profound and one he shared with the church his family worshiped at.  Today, he preaches … he shares with his congregation the bread and cup of Communion, he provides pastoral care with a loving heart rooted in God’s call.  He is only 29 and at the start of his ministry at one of Atlanta’s largest churches that is home to 6000 people, The Cathedral of Christ the King.  This church, the church he helps pastor, was built on land that was once the National headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan.  A clear example of Light overcoming Darkness.  Pastor Pineda’s story was in the news this week amongst many other stories … you see, at the age of two this 29 year old priest came to the United States with both of his parents.  They were desperate to leave their homeland… his parents’ strength and perseverance taught valuable lessons regarding hard work and faith.  However Pastor Rey Pineda who came to the only nation he has ever called home as a two year old… the nation he has lived in for 27 of his 29 years … that very nation now is planning to send him to a place he has never lived in; police agents will soon be seeking him out to forcibly extradite him back to a place where he has no family nor friends.  All because at the age of 2 he entered this country without the proper documentation and some think he belongs to another place and others detest and maybe even fear his brown skin and ethnic heritage.   So the choice of many … send him away … he’s not welcome in our homes nor our homeland.

You see… Pastor Pineda is a DREAMER … he was given hope when our government just a couple of years ago said the DREAMERS, individuals who arrived in our nation as children, could stay but now in the midst of political debating in Washington … young people just like this pastor … just like this man of faith … who have had no other home but this nation … they are going to be physically evicted from their only home because … aa a child they crossed the border, some with family members and some alone, to a land once viewed as a land of hope and opportunity.  A land of freedom.

The sad truth is that there are church goers even amongst his own church family that when asked about the DREAMERS are all in favor of forcing these young people from the land … rejecting the strangers from our midst … countering the directives of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

And, Jesus said “Change your hearts … Change your lives … and trust the GOOD NEWS!”  It does seem that so many would rather trust their politicians.

It is through that change in heart, change in lives that joy happens … it is when one individual changes their heart and life and trusts in the GOOD NEWS that there is a celebration in heaven.  It’s not about church attendance … it’s not about knowing the words of so many hymns but it’s about changing your heart .. changing your life and trusting the Good News of Jesus over the political rhetoric, the talk radio ranting, and the demanding words of those in the world around us.

Friends, it truly is so much more than a coin toss … it is an active decision that you need to reinforce with regularity. It is a life changing decision not to be left up to chance.  So, while the change in heart is not about church attendance … it’s not about knowing the songs of praise … the truth is … when you change your hearts, change your lives, trust in the Good News and get on God’s team all those things will follow. Are you ready to wrap your arms around people like Rey Pineda and say YOU ARE WELCOME in MY HOME, MY HOMELAND?  Would you form a circle to protect them from those who would send them to places where they never have lived?

Now, I think it is pretty awesome that once upon a time I caused a celebration in heaven.  I am forever thankful that when I breathe my last breath I know where I am headed thanks to God’s love and Jesus sacrifice … life continues in eternal glory … heaven awaits but … Look around this church today … think of all those heavenly parties and celebrations that happened when you changed your heart, changed your life, trusted the GOOD NEWS and believed becoming a true Jesus follower not just someone attaching an undocumented resume credit to the conversation.

As, we get ready to move forward into our day … as most of you here in this church get ready to cheer THE EAGLES to fly on the football field of competition … we need to remember what David shared in today’s Psalm because at the end of the day … we are here,

We are alive … I pray we are alive trusting in the Good News … when we are alive with changed lives in Jesus there is so much joy … so each day remember that you can find rest in God … God is the source of true hope.  Do not be shaken … God my friends is our rock and our salvation.  When you are weary … when you are worn down … when the voices of the world irritate you … find refuge in God; pour out your hearts to God.

What God is looking for is not for God’s people to flip a coin and then see if the God side came up … as they start their days.  It’s not a matter of chance or a testing of the winds … God’s people live changed lives.

God has given us enough truth … enough love … enough information and all the hope anyone can ever desire to make the choice a life changing one.

STRENGTH not only comes from God but belongs to GOD!!!  We don’t own it … we can’t claim it because it is God’s and faithful love comes from God.

This morning as we head out into the sunlight … as we scan the skies to see if there are EAGLES soaring above West Deptford … is your strength in life coming from God?  Do you feel the embrace of God’s faithful love?  And, are you filled with joy in celebrating that Jesus changed the person you once were … and that the news that matters to you is THE GOOD NEWS!

“Now IS the time!!!  Here comes God’s kingdom!!  Change your hearts … Change your lives … and trust the GOOD NEWS!”


Watch a video of today’s worship service.

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