JOHN 17: 6-19
May 16, 2021
“Imagine me and you; I do. I think about us day and night … it’s only right.”
If you grew up in the Sixties or the Seventies or have watched The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour reruns or if you are one of those special people who just like those golden oldies from that awesome era of music then you know this song just from the opening guitar chords that lead into Howard Kaylan’s lead vocals. “Me and you; You and me; no matter how they tossed the dice it had to be me and you; so Happy Together.” The ubiquitous bah bah bah’s and Flo and Eddie even ask “How is the weather. HAPPY TOGETHER.”
So, church this morning as we come together to worship God and Jesus Christ … how is the weather along your walk of faith? Whether you are here in person as we slowly reopen to more people who can sit together in our sanctuary or if you are worshiping comfortably at home with coffee in hand somewhere out there in God’s world … how valuable is your faith walk in your life? Not in another person’s journey but in yours? What are the conditions of your faith walk this morning? As we move forward, how will you make your faith stronger in the days to come? … That is …if you want your relationship with God to get stronger. To get better. If you want God to know you are happy with God and Christ and need them each day. That you need the Holy Spirit.
And, have you come to realize that you really can’t stand alone in your faith walk and that you need others who believe if you are to live as a person of faith. Scripture teaches us that … right from the beginning of God’s Word through its conclusion. Even Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs because He knew that every once in awhile they would need to lean on someone else who believed; Jesus knew the value of being HAPPY TOGETHER in faith. In His prayer that was in today’s Gospel reading Jesus told God, “I’m coming to you and I say these things while I am in the world so that they can share completely in my joy. I gave them Your Word; they don’t belong to this world.” So that they can be HAPPY TOGETHER … shared joy.
So, friends, even in this 21st century filled with skepticism and overflowing time priorities for self and for binging …. Have you paused to consider, as we move out of the Coronavirus blip moments of history, what the essential value of the church is to you? In your life and your family’s life? Can you sing and do you believe the church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ my Lord? Are you focused in on reconnecting and reestablishing a role within the church of Christ so that your faith life grows and your family discovers a place where they can do the work God calls us to do … or are the momentary worldly escapes that vanish more valuable than eternity’s glory to you?
Church is the one essential element of our faith lives where we can live and breathe for God and Christ and for ourselves both as individuals and as a member of a collective of people of faith. Families and individuals connected as a church family together. Church is a place where missions for God and Jesus Christ can be inspired by the Holy Spirit and taken on by the people of the church because missions rarely succeed when done by one person. A church like St. Paul’s can be the safe haven we each need in the stormy weather the world hits us with all too often … as well as being a place of great happiness when all is good in life. A church like St. Paul’s where we understand Jesus’ clarity that all the laws and prophets rest on loving God and loving all others just as Jesus loved provide life lessons that can be lived beyond the walls. A church is where we can find people who we can call friends for life because of their faith and yes, we can find teachers to help us discover more about God even as we reach our senior years.
We come to church for weddings and for funerals … we come to church for baptisms and yes there are also those individuals who believe that they need to show up solely for Christmas Eve and Easter morning services because somehow that fulfills their sense of obligation to God for another year thereby releasing them to head to their casino worship or their activism in the world’s divisive realities.
These past seven days have again reminded me why we need church …
The first two verses of the Psalms, which you heard earlier, are these “The Truly happy person doesn’t follow wicked advise, doesn’t stand on the road of sinners, and DOES NOT SIT with the disrespectful. Instead of doing these things, these truly happy persons love the Lord’s Instruction, and they receive God’s Instruction day and night.” Happy people; truly happy people … people who choose to collaborate in mission, participate in small group studies, and join in the songs of faith and prayers of the church while REFUSING to sit with the disrespectful or intentionally hanging out on the road of sinners … when these God and Christ connected people get together … when TOGETHER they find a place and a time for church it is easy to proclaim and to see that they are HAPPY TOGETHER!
When the doors are open to all … when the welcoming greeting is sincere and full of love … when each of our all too obvious human faults and short comings are ignored for the greater purpose of being together in faith with love then church becomes the place where the priorities of the Holy THRIVE. Psalm 84 reveals even more regarding the church’s role in the life of the faithful; the role of church is being happy together: “How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord of heavenly forces! My very being longs, even yearns, for the Lord’s courtyards. My heart and my body will rejoice OUT LOUD to the living God! Better is a single day in your courtyards than a thousand days anywhere else! Lord of heavenly forces, those who trust in you are truly happy!!”
And, I would add those who trust in the loving God who gave us Jesus Christ … Jesus Christ our Savior HE is RISEN! <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> when we come together for God’s purposes as a family of believers … but also we should never forget that we come together as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness and direction; we are HAPPY TOGETHER and we can do amazingly positive things for the Kingdom of God. As a church we can lead care for the broken, feed the hungry, pray for the struggling, and provide others who are lost in the swamp of hate and despair that the world offers them … church can provide the light so that they discover faith and hope and the promise of salvation that we have through the cross of Jesus and God’s love!
Later today, I am meeting with two separate couples each of whom will be married in the next few weeks. One of the key elements of life that I try to teach couples in those moments is the value of finding a faith place to call home. A church where God is worshiped, where all are welcome, and where they feel comfortable growing their faith. I try to tell them that a church family can be the essential family they need if they lose a job, if someone gets sick, or if they just need companionship on days of loneliness and that church connects them to the Holy … to God who created the universe … to Jesus Christ … I strive and hope they hear me.
And, these past seven days have reminded me of why we need church.
Last night a man who is addicted to both drugs and alcohol whom I have been COUNSELLING called me. To check up on me not to ask me to help him. This church has prayed for him in the past but he wanted to know how I was … and he added, “how is your church doing?”
And, friends … the first thought that came to mind was the power of the community of faith amongst those who call St Paul’s of West Deptford their church. Last Sunday’s sermon was called “A Good Friend and a Good Neighbor. I shared the story of the African eunuch who was brought to faith in Jesus Christ by Philip. We sang O HAPPY DAYS … when Jesus washed my sins away. JOY JOY JOY JOY DOWN in my HEART.
I told him about our FOOD PANTRY that fed hundreds of people this past Wednesday through the distribution of good food.
And, then I told him about Bob Platt … how Thursday night in his hospital room I was laughing with Bob and I even brought Bob some hot sauce but at Bob’s age hospitalizations are serious matters. I told this man whose daily challenge to not drink or take opiates cause him pain and struggle that Bob’s condition worsened and the decision was made for an invasive surgery … and that yesterday morning at 11am the people of the church of St. Paul’s paused in our daily lives to pray in our own ways … in our own corners … in our own prayer closets … but we prayed as a collective known as a church and self identified as St Paul’s of West Deptford … HAPPY TOGETHER but in those moments we were afraid together and we were faithfully connected together in prayer … and I told him that I had just left Bob’s hospital room and even though Bob was hurting he was joking and the surgery was successful.
And, then I told him about young Logan from the SKI family. A family of great faith and love … a family who have often brought simple gifts to those in need or those who just needed a love boost. I shared how Donna had been in the hospital for a few days for her health realities when Logan’s constant pain in the leg had grown so bad that Wayne took him to the hospital and there they heard one of the worse things you ever want to hear about your child … CANCER … a SARCOMA on his femur … IMMEDIATE TREATMENT … get him to St. Christopher’s in PHILLY NOW. I told this addicted man about my conversation with Wayne that had just concluded both Wayne and I crying even in the midst of our hope. And, I told this gentleman that when worship ends this morning people from this church will be walking to the Ski’s family home a few blocks from here to pray and sing SPIRIT of the LIVING GOD FALL AFRESH ON ME.
And, he said … Pastor, you have a very special church. And, I smiled replying … we have heard God’s call to be a place of worship and love. We are HAPPY TOGETHER even when we have to step up and care for one of our own. We are HAPPY TOGETHER knowing that if we get sick we will be prayed for and cared for.
This week … people of this church fed hundreds of hungry people because of our faith and we did it with joy … we were HAPPY TOGETHER. This week … two of our men went beyond the call to make a challenged man’s life better by removing an eyesore from his life. No one but a person of faith … and they went together … would have undertaken this laborious task but these two members of the church of ST PAULS where loving all of our neighbors matter … they pushed their own bodies to their limit … they used their own vehicles … they made this man’s life better with love.
Next Sunday morning this church is going to PARTY because it is PENTECOST! Are you going to come to church and worship and celebrate God’s love? Are you going to support our ministries by getting a chicken barbecue dinner? If you worship at home are you going to send photo’s ahead of time of you and your family dressed in red to celebrate PENTECOST together … a church family … HAPPY TOGETHER?
Will you step up to help with VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL this summer? Are you supporting this year’s RED BIRD MISSION TRIP? Will you go on a mission trip next year with your family? Are you ready to lead a small group Bible study for church members in your home? Are you willing to join a Bible study? We need new young leaders to join with our mature leaders … is there you? We need mature leaders to show young people how to lead … is that you?
Paul wrote the same message in a little to the early Christians in the church of Philippi and to those in the church of Thessaloniki along the Aegean Sea, he wrote “Rejoice always! Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t brush off the Holy Spirit.”
REJOICE … PRAY …. GIVE THANKS … We have been apart for all too many months. Some people have found other priorities … but God doesn’t vanish … God keeps calling us … God wants us connected in faith … are you ready to be together? Do you remember God’s love … Jesus … HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>
Will you party with us on Pentecost and then grow your faith with us at St. Paul’s. I’d love to have you as part of this incredible church family … HAPPY TOGETHER; I think about you day and night it’s only right! GOD BLESS ALL of YOU! Please join us today in prayer at the SKI’s house!