First Corinthians 9:24-27
Mark 1: 40-45

February 11, 2018

Do you remember?

If you were to write your own personal history what would the first chapter be about?  Would you reflect on the place you were born?  The times when your parents celebrated their baby’s first cries as you took in a breath of air?  What was the world like?  What was your home like?  Who lived with you and what did they do?

Perhaps that first chapter would begin with today sharing with your readers the perspective of life and how life has had an impact on you.  Who are you, who helped make you the person that you are today, and then enlightening your readers as to the story they were about to discover featuring the building blocks of your life.

And, my friends … in that autobiography that you were writing … if you were putting it together not as one of those Pastor Dave homework assignments from Bible study but instead as a mere reflection of your life … would that autobiography include Christmas memories that had more to do with worship services and the great songs of the Christmas season than they did about presents under the tree and first visits with Santa … I still can remember going to 998 Broadway to Sattlers Department Store in downtown Buffalo where he was …. Well, that store is long gone and the Santa’s Mark and I were photographed with went on to other vocations and life experiences beyond their tenures wearing a red suit and fake beard.

As we move close to the start of the Holy Season of Lent … just how has God touched your life?   What precious memories of God’s love are worthy of sharing?   In the race of life … when was it that you knew you were going to win the prize of eternal life?  What happened?  Who gave you the information that you needed to realize God’s love … would you share that?  You know it’s right to share it … you know it’s right to pass your story on … but have you?  Are you?  How have you discovered God’s coaching ever since?

We shared PSALM 30 this morning in our Psalter.  “I exalt you Lord because you pulled me up.”   “You who are faithful to the Lord sing praises to his holy name!”   “Because it pleased you, Lord you made me a strong mountain.”

Ok, I will admit that most mornings I don’t feel like a strong mountain but I do feel that I have grown into a mountain of a man but I am going to be working on that …. However, each of us here in church … each of you watching us on FACEBOOK or on our webpage … each of us drawn to worship the Creator of all things … God Almighty … ABBA, the Father of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior … each of us friends has been pulled up … each of us wouldn’t be here if we weren’t somehow faithful … so you are in the stadium Paul wrote about … if you have deep inside you the knowledge that you have won the crown that never dies than you know its right … to share your story to spread the word … to be the essential element in someone else’s autobiography.

When we pay attention in life there are moments when we cannot deny that God is the one nudging us in a certain direction.  Now, we don’t always choose to follow the Almighty’s signals but I believe that mighty Holy Spirit is always talking to us … always sending us whispering in our ear … of course here in the 21st century we might say God … just send us a TEXT but then again if we received a TEXT from an unknown number would we really read it and then follow it … instead God works with our hearts … our minds … our faith … “Lord, my God, I cried out to you for help, and You healed me.  Lord you brought me up from the grave … brought me back to life. Lord be my helper.”

Our words this morning but the words of David from the Psalms.  If you would have asked me back in 1990 if I ever thought that an old song first heard on the waters of St. Helena Island in South Carolina would be God’s way of working a change in my life I would have laughed.  But, the words Charles Pickard Ware heard as former slaves sang about their hope in Jesus Christ … as they rowed in their boats that his cousin William Francis Allen heard in 1863 and also wrote down after being taken across Station Creek in a row boat … those words and song became a Holy Spirit moment in our lives.

The slaves referred to an angel named Michael … often called an Archangel but Michael had a gospel boat that took people home.  Now, the home they were going to is the same place the winners of Paul’s race get to …it might seem like an unknown place at time but when you get to the shore line you’ll hear the trump blow HALLELUJAH … HALLELUJAH!  A trumpet sounding jubilee for you and for me!!

The song talks about the Jordan where Jesus was baptized … how that river chills the body but not the soul … I will have to tell you my Jordan River experience one day … the song Michael Row the Boat ashore implores Michael to get those in the boat to the other side where you can experience Glory … where your faith takes you no matter how this life has treated you; regardless of the hardships and heartbreaks that living as a human being has delivered … we know the lessons of Job … we know what happened to Stephen and then to Peter and Paul … no guarantees of life’s ease and comfort  … not when you are a person of faith … we don’t get enriched here on earth and in fact we are to give our riches away but my friends … when you know the secret … when you know Jesus Christ … then the other side is there waiting and you know its right.

So, the Delaney’s and Michael and the Holy Spirit.  We did not feel that the church services at the church we were attending were doing anything for our girls.  All the music was what you might call “high church” written in the 1700 and 1800’s … totally enjoyed by the pastor and his wife who was a classical music major … but the kids couldn’t sing the praises to God and frankly neither could most of the church family.

So, one day out of frustration … Donna went up to Pastor Joel and implored him.  “Can’t we sing something like Michael Row the Boat Ashore” for the kids sake.  His answers was “they can sing it in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School but not in church.”  Now, she didn’t pick Michael because Michael was our favorite sing along song at home, she didn’t pick Michael because the historic story of slaves paddling on a river and singing praises to God had touched our hearts … it was an example of a simple song of faith.

Our daughters’ faith development was important so we knew it was time to search for a church home.  Donna one week was invited by a friend to visit her church, which just happened to be the closest church to our home.  It was called EMMAUS … the road Jesus walked after he rose from the tomb on that first Easter morning … EMMAUS UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.

Now, that Sunday I was not in church with her … just the girls.  But, when church ended I received a telephone call saying “WE ARE CHANGING CHURCHES … GOD has led us to this United Methodist Church in Smithville.”  When I asked why … she said you won’t believe what we sang this morning … it’s not in any United Methodist hymnal … it’s not in any United Methodist songbook … but they sang it … they sang MICHAEL ROW THE BOAT ASHORE …. HALLELUJAH!

In that odd moment of time … my family, which had been trying to find a church whose theology was ours … a church where our kids mattered … a church God wanted us to be at … there can be no other explanation because its too odd otherwise … the Holy Spirit got into the music planning business and coordinated things with our friend … and we knew it was right.  When God works for you friends … YOU KNOW ITS RIGHT.

So, this morning I want us to sing with enthusiasm … sing because we believe … sing the words those slaves of South Carolina who were free even though a Civil War raged miles away as some attempted to make them slaves once again but what mattered to them was their faith … their hope … their knowledge that they’d be getting to the other side to meet up with Jesus HALLELUJAH!

<<HAND OUT SONG SHEETS>>. You will notice on your lyric sheets a couple of questions to think about later today … about you and about God.  About your story and others.  There are literally hundreds of lines of lyrics to this song but we will sing just there five.

Today, my friends is the Sunday after the SUPER BOWL … the glow of FLY EAGLES FLY … E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES is still touching the heart of Eagles’ fans everywhere but that is truly temporary since next year the Buffalo Bills will win the Super Bowl.

However, God’s love … Jesus sacrifice … God’s salvation … it is forever … “God changed our mourning into dancing … so that our whole beings might sing praises and never stop.”  You know it’s right … LORD MY GOD, I will give thanks to you forever!!!”

Now, go help coach someone else to win their race!  AMEN

Michael Row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!
Michael Row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!

Sister help to trim the sails, Hallalujah!
Sister help to trim the sails, Hallelujah!

The Jordan River is deep and wide, Hallelujah!
And, I’ve got a home on the other side, Hallelujah!

The trumpets sound the jubilee, Hallelujah!
The trumpets sound for you and me, Hallelujah!

Michael row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!
Michael’s boat’s a Gospel boat, Hallelujah!

Michael Row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!
Michael Row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!

As we enter the season of Lent take time to once again consider your faith journey.

Where were you when you first knew Jesus as your Savior?

Who helped you form your faith and to whom you will be forever grateful?

What Bible verse or book do you go to when you need to connect with God again?

Who outside your family knows that you “have a boat to the other side?”

Please remember that we will be having ASH WEDNESDAY services at noon this Wednesday here at our church and at 7pm at Westville United Methodist Church.  On Palm Sunday following our services we will be having our Annual Palm Sunday Pancake Breakfast (What a great opportunity to invite friends to come to church with you!), on Holy Week Thursday (Mandy Thursday) we will be having a service of the Upper Room at 7pm, on Good Friday we will be having a Tennebrae Service at 7pm.  EASTER begins with a Sunrise service at the Red Bank Battlefield Park followed by two services at St. Paul’s (9am and 10:30am).  “Lord, my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalm 30:12)

Watch a video of today’s worship service:

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