You CAN Do It
Ephesians 4: 21-26 & 32
JOHN 6: 35 & 43-51
THEY’RE BACK … No, I am not quoting from the movie Poltergeist 2 when Heather O’Rourke’s character Carol Anne caught audiences attention with a phrase that raised the hair on the back of those viewing that science fiction movie from 1986.
No, the they who are back are the members of our RED BIRD MISSION TEAM! Mary Anne and Sue are back along with their Connectional partners from Central United Methodist Church. Michael is still traveling in the South visiting family but WELCOME HOME friends … WELCOME HOME. We are thankful for how you represented our church family in America’s poorest county and look forward to hearing the stories of the people you met and the work that you did.
You have shown us that we each can take on God’s challenges. Each of you in church today who volunteers your time …. Every person who steps up not knowing what lies ahead but with a willingness to be more … to do more for God … to deal with whatever lies ahead understands that God is with us each step of the journey. God has provided us with the gifts, the tools, and the heart to embrace God’s mission.
And, as I look out on this congregation … as I consider those who are watching us live on FACEBOOK or on our website from somewhere across the globe I am looking at people with enormous potential to raise a hand … to stand up … to say yes I WILL because the truth is YOU CAN DO IT for GOD because God’s on the journey; God has provided you with all that you need. WE and that’s you and me and those others who have discovered God’s love through Jesus Christ … WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST!
I have often heard individuals speak out with the message that they can’t; they are unable to; and perhaps silently thinking that they don’t want to. But throughout Holy Scripture we have seen men, women, and children who like us are quick to say no.
Jeremiah was approached by God … directly by God and his quick response had two excuses: “I don’t know how to speak in front of other people” and “I am just a boy; far too young for you to choose me.”
If you think about it … Jeremiah really came up with two great truths to get out of doing God’s work. God wanted him to be a spokesperson well Jeremiah honestly was one of a great majority of the human race who are uncomfortable speaking in front of strangers. And, really … how in the world could a boy … a mere child “be set apart and appointed by the Holy to be a prophet to the nations.” God, you found the wrong person … and I am sure that Jeremiah was thinking he had figured a way to sit back with his X-Box and play video games … that God could just go find some other person to take on the work God was in need of. A prophet thought Jeremiah … not me; let me SnapChat with friends … someone else will be there to do God’s work.
But the thunderous commanding voice of God … you see, in Jeremiah’s case I believe God had to use that LOUD GOD VOICE because Jeremiah probably had his ear buds in and was drifting to thoughts of other things …. God quickly declared to Jeremiah, “DO NOT SAY that you are only a child.” But, wait … Jeremiah was a child but that excuse didn’t hold up with God. “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. “
Now, for those of you who have had teenagers or been teenagers … just imagine GOD’s MUST COMMAND. Jeremiah must have been pulling those pods out of his ears … but friends then the words of God that hold true for you and me and every person of faith were told to young Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of THEM, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord God.
Do not be afraid of them … THEM …. How many of you have THEM in your life? You know who they are; the human beings whose words or mere presence have such power over you that you decide that doing God’s work isn’t worth the risk of their scorn. You don’t want to hear their criticism … you are facing them out in the real world; when you sense God’s call to you to make new disciples; to invite children to Vacation Bible School; to attend Bible study; or to add a mission trip to your schedule you think about THEM and you think …. Someone else will do that work; someone else will go to the Bible study; someone … someone … you are silently whispering to God maybe … just like Jeremiah … Sovereign Lord; God Almighty I can’t because I don’t have the skills, I am too old, too young, too busy, don’t have enough money, need to see who wins the Bachelor on TV, my family aren’t believers so they will get mad if I do church stuff, I don’t know how to speak about faith, and God … you have many more skilled people who would be better than me. GOD just understand IT WILL NOT BE ME … nope.
But, God’s reply to you … to me … to Jeremiah DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEM. Jesus didn’t require seminary education for His followers … Jesus didn’t say that only fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, His mother, and the others gathered near Bethany on the Mount of Olives were to be the only witnesses of His life, work, and Resurrection. Jesus declared ‘be my witnesses … make disciples of all nations.’
And, Jesus declared those words that should provide you with the reassurance that yes You CAN Do It … Jesus said, “And, surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” God had told that teenage boy Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of THEM, for I am with you and will rescue you.”
Jesus … God … oh and that Holy Spirit too whom Jesus taught, “The Spirit will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”
So, here we are this morning … celebrating a mission team’s work for the Red Bird Mission in Kentucky. All three are anxious to go back next year … will their stories inspire you to join the team? I hope so … because I believe mission can change lives.
Mark Hall wrote the song WE ARE THE BODY for the group Casting Crowns. To me it is sermon in a song of faith; if you take the time to listen to the lyrics rather than just enjoying the melody you should be challenged … “If we are the body of Christ why aren’t his arms reaching? Why aren’t his words teaching? What is His love not showing the way?” And, to me the ‘in your face’ moment of the song is when Mark Hall, a youth leader in his church besides, wrote “Jesus paid to a high a price for us to pick and choose” but we do pick and choose. I have … and I clearly remember some of those moments. Do you remember yours?
As much as I have dreamed about 125 children in our Vacation Bible School program I am not so naïve to think that many of you have brushed aside my requests to ask families to come; neighbors, co-workers, strangers … some of you have become frustrated with Pastor Dave the used car salesman who keeps trying to get 125 kids to St. Paul’s thinking … no way; can’t happen so why bother. But, I can tell you my heart will be heavy for every single child who does not come even though I won’t know them because someone didn’t ask his or her family or friends. What will you say to the empty seats … that a 9 year old who still doesn’t know about Jesus wasn’t worth the trouble of asking her parents if she could come to learn about God for a week … nah, way too much trouble; I am shy and can’t talk with people; and they would probably say no.
My heart hurts knowing that this awesome church family could double our numbers … double our numbers if we each asked people to come to church … people who have become frustrated having experienced church families that aren’t welcoming and loving; people frustrated because they don’t think church works … people who think their time is invested better elsewhere than in worshiping the Creator … all of you represent the very best in what church can be … all of you but we remain hidden away in our corner on Church Street. But in just one year our online Facebook ministry has had people join this church in worship from Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa … perhaps Asia and Australia too … I doubt anyone has spent their time in Antarctica with us but who knows. Read the comments of the woman from Cape May County in today’s bulletin … but think about who you know who could be blessed by being here in this place on Sunday mornings or at THE RIVER on summer evenings.
Friends … God’s mission is our mission. Jesus provides us with what we need, He declared “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry” but Jesus added, “don’t grumble amongst yourselves whoever believes has eternal life. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The world is waiting … the world is needing what we all know about and yes you CAN do it for God. Paul wrote to the people in Ephesus, “SINCE YOU REALLY LISTENED TO HIM and you were taught how the truth is in Jesus CHANGE your former way of life. Renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit and clothe yourself with the new person created in God’s image in justice and true holiness.”
Like many of you, I have often thought and actually spoken out about WHY isn’t the church doing … well fill in the blank. I did that regarding strangers in the land and our Bishop then named me as the leader of the Conference’s incredibly talented Immigration Taskforce whose men and women of faith came to this nation from around the world in addition to those born here. As he said, ‘you can do it Dave; God is with you” I was thinking that is not not the response I was looking for …
So, this morning as you buy some pretzels … this morning pretty close to 176 hours from the start of our Heroes Vacation Bible School … How is God calling YOU … to be a hero for someone? Will you say yes when you sense the Holy Spirit nudging you to serve God in this world? To be on mission for God in a small or large way? To teach adult Sunday School here at St. Paul’s? To take on a role on one of our ministry teams? To sing with the choir? To go to Red Bird in 2019 … the team is already forming. To invite families to VBS?
But, be sure to follow Paul’s directive in all that you do … “Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.” WE … you and I … WE ARE THE BODY of CHRIST and God is calling God’s church; you and I to take on God’s work in this world. To make new disciples for Jesus Christ; to show God’s love and to teach God’s story to our future generations; to care for the poor and seek justice for all. And you know what …. YOU CAN DO IT!