Psalm 97: 1&2 & 7-12
JOHN 17: 20-26

May 29, 2022

Once we called the music that the kids danced to “Soul Music” … we even had a “Soul Train” on TV showcasing the superstars of music … back then they talked about the LOVE GENERATION. A time when kids only had to worry about making the scene or making out … giggling with friends … wearing outlandish clothing with long hair blowing in the wind and living life with exaggerated happiness that was called being GROOVY. Our teachers were allowed by all to teach …. And we dreamed of better days … and our churches were full … and we dreamed of better days. We knew they were coming … those better days … or so we thought they were and we went on dreaming of those better days.

But then we turn the page and we are here today … in the year 2022 … even if you slow down … nothing is, not a single thing is … is feeling GROOVY any more … There’s no soul in the train and perhaps none in the music. Long hair has vanished and we demand that our teachers not teach the subject matter they are knowledgeable in but instead they must cower as the loudest voices demand what the voices say should be taught … Our clothing well, it’s not that wild. And, our churches quite frankly are a lot emptier than they were back then and we ache and long for better days. We pray, we pray, that God will magically and mysteriously bring us better days even though the number of volunteers at our churches are shrinking and those who still help and give their time are aging out. Many who call on God just go through their days with their faith labels on … letting the moments pass by without even a momentary thought that just perhaps the answer to prayer is supposed to come from the actions of God’s people, the faithful, more often than not.

Perhaps we do long for those olden days when Don Cornelius would invite us by saying welcome aboard the soul train and we sang ‘[1]love, love me do’ … Back then we didn’t have a key speaker at any national convention instructing attendees to go out and bash the heads of any member of one of our two major legitimate political parties, which I would assume he was including any teenager, woman, man, or senior citizen whose political registration differs from members of the party Ted Nugent represents … I bought a bike helmet this week, which just might help me …

And, back then we never had to put candles on the children’s bench in church <<Play opening of WHERE IS THE LOVE by BLACK EYED PEAS:

[2]What’s Wrong with the world Mama? People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas. I think the whole world’s addicted to the drama. Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma. Overseas, yeah, we tryna stop terrorism but we still got terrorists here livin’ in the USA, the big CIA. The bloods and the Crips and the KKK. But if you only have love for your own race then you only leave space to discriminate. And, to discriminate only generates hate. And, when you hate, then you’re bound to get irate, yea. Madness is what you demonstrate and that’s exactly how anger works and operates. Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight. Take control of your mind and meditate. Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all. People killin’ people dyin’ Children hurtin’ hear them cryin.’ Can you practice what you preach? And, would you turn the other cheek? Father, father, father help us send some guidance from above. Cause people got me, got me questioning. Where is the Love? What is the Love? Where is the Love? It just ain’t the same, old ways have changed … new days are strange is the world insane?”

Nineteen children … the larger candle is for the two teachers, and also for those who were shot and killed at the California church …. Those who died in my hometown and others no longer breathing having been shot down … this church does not have enough room to light a candle for every single human being with dreams killed in America by gunfire this year … much less those shot to death over the past few decades.

Jesus said … YOU MUST LOVE GOD …. YOU MUST LOVE ALL of YOUR NEIGHBORS …. Where is the love? Where is the Love? They will know you are my follower … Christians … <by your love, Jesus said that>… mmmm, where is the Love? Human one the LORD GOD REQUIRES YOU TO: ….DO JUSTICE … LOVE ALL with MERCY … WALK HUMBLY with God … The First Commandment of Jesus and God, one which many Christians seem to want to hide away behind the stone tablets, is LOVE GOD with ALL your everything … So, today DO YOU CARE WHO GOD IS? Do you even love God above your stuff and does your stuff matter or perhaps is there one little item amongst your stuff that matters more to you than sharing the God-directed love for all of your neighbors … more valuable than rescuing children who are hurting or means more to you than lending your support to every possible measure to protect some unknown little ones who might be shot down next with bullets fired from a gun designed for war that spews its ammunition on the playground or in the classroom? If you say Jesus Christ is yours … are you His and do you practice what Jesus preached or do you enjoy listening to voices like Ted’s … I did buy a bicycle helmet this week.

And, right here in God’s Word we read … “[3]We also had the good news preached to us, just as the Israelites did. However the message they heard DID NOT HELP THEM because they WERE NOT UNITED in faith with the ones who listened to it. God said ‘They will never enter into my rest! If only you’d listen to God’s voice right now! He is our God and we are the sheep of his pasture … the sheep in his hands. Come let’s sing to the Lord and raise a joyful shout!”

And, then we hear the news … NINETEEN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN … two teachers … added to the Buffalo Ten and the twenty six little dead bodies at Sandy Hook who we have already forgotten along with those in the Parkland High hallways and those in Colorado at Columbine. Young bodies imploded by bullets … bullets similar to these perhaps … designed to kill … that’s their function after all and people hold them up as if these are their most precious gold or are these their god? And, these mass killings and weekend shootings and the carefully placed shots that leave blood pools where pastors stand and pray … and one hears the voices loving their bullets … saying these don’t kill yet that is what they are designed to do. And, children don’t get shot down with guns designed for hunting and killing in Canada ….. Bullets don’t spray the hallways of elementary schools or high schools in Germany nor in France nor in Uganda where my friend Richard worships with us on occasion nor in Malaysia where we have regular online worship friends … and the Black Eyed Peas asked the question in song a few years ago …

WHERE IS THE LOVE? They also ask ‘Can you practice what you preach?’

And, as I have spent some time reading commentary after Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, Alithia Ramirez, Amerie Jo Garza, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, Eliahana Cruz Torres (The softball player), Jackie Cazares, Jailah Nicole Silguero, Jayce Luevanos, Jose Flores, Layla Salazar, Makenna Lee Elrod, Maite Rodriguez so proud of her honor roll honors, Miranda Mathis, Nevaeh Bravo, Rojelio Torres, Tess Marie Mata, Uziyah Garcia, Xavier Lopez, FOURTH GRADE TEACHERS Eva Mireles & Irma Garcia who put her body against the door and took the bullets saving the kids still behind her in the classroom where she taught them … a teacher dying as a hero … well I have read some words from people clearly declaring what is their god because it is clear how they worship it … sad that we can’t work together to become like the rest of the world so children and teachers don’t have to worry … those other nations do not make schools armed camps like some suggest we do … they allow them to be schools that teach making for better days to come. But Jesus loves the little children … God gives rest to those who listen, believe, and follow with their life actions.

We call today a HEALING SUNDAY here at St. Paul’s. It’s comes a few days after it was announced, by our Bishop, that I have been appointed as your pastor for another year and yet if we as a church family walked out these doors towards Crown Point Road we would find a vile display of hate beaming towards those driving by but our message of love from this church is hidden unless we declare it with enthusiasm and joy we are just just down the street unless we go out in love of God to be difference makers, one message is seen by all and it is one that sickens me.

I am going to meet with Township Officials to look into the possibility of erecting a large sign blocking the view of this person’s hate. The sign would say in WEST DEPTFORD WE LOVE ALL of our NEIGHBORS!! Wouldn’t it be great if people from our churches streamed out into the world not shouting that they align with those who want to bash heads in … but rather shouting we want to love and care for all of our neighbors. What a healing message! Wouldn’t it be wonderful and be the fire that gets us moving towards changing the world … if we as people who have identified ourselves as Christians stopped worshiping our things or bowing before or raising the flags to show support of mere people who just want power or wealth. If we showed the world that we absolutely care who God is … and that we love God … and we live for God knowing God loves us and is ready to rescue us! WHAT A DIFFERENT WORLD … maybe others would come back or just discover God’s truth and Jesus message for the first time. LOVE!

Today’s Psalm teaches us “ALL THOSE who worship images those who are proud of idols ARE PUT TO SHAME … ALL!” Sometimes if we are to be healed and rediscover God’s peace … we need to remember that we have to love GOD with everything we have rather than joining the masses who are lemmings heading for a cliff of no return because they have rejected God and Jesus Christ.

We can not be the ones who acquiesce with what’s wrong in the world … we cannot be afraid to say ENOUGH … ENOUGH … ENOUGH … we, the good people, HAVE let all that’s hurtful and wrong have a voice & power by shrinking away from Jesus’ teachings and not caring about nor loving God out there in the world where others might see us.

We need to bring the SOUL back into our lives … we need to demonstrate that we really do care who God is!! We cannot be afraid to call out evil … if we let evil repeat its catch phrases over and over again but say nothing or even worse attempt to quiet 21st century prophets because we just want to keep things hunky dory … well they are not! 19 children and 2 of their teachers were shot down … And, according to new reports, the racist 18 year old apparently plotted with others online before massacring human beings in Buffalo because they were black including friends of my friends!

The psalmist in today’s Scripture makes it clear … “Those of you who love the Lord, HATE EVIL!!!” God guards the lives of God’s faithful ones delivering them from the power of the wicked.”

And I can just imagine Jesus praying out of love for humanity … all of us; all of our neighbors created in God’s image but too many have wandered away or never been shown the love of God. Jesus praying, “I am praying for those who believe in me … I pray that they will be one. I’m in them and You, God, are in me so that they will be perfectly one. THEN THE WORLD WILL KNOW that you sent me and that You, God, have loved them just as you loved me.” LOVE FRIENDS … We then hear the challenge of faith … “I’ve made Your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that Your love for me will be in them and I myself will be in them.”

That’s healing … that’s where faith can take us … we are the ones who need to make God’s love known … that is when we are healed and that is when we fulfill the love call of God who loves us all.

Amerie Jo’s father, Angel Garza, wrote on Facebook shortly after midnight on the day after she had been shot to death. “She’s been found. My little love is now flying high with the angels above. Please don’t take a second for granted. Hug your family. Tell them you love them.” His 10 year old angel ….

Next Sunday is Pentecost are you ready for renewal? Are you ready to allow God to direct you in love? Are you ready to put a bandaid on the wounds from the world and to let the world know you have a little love in your heart? In 1969, Jackie DeShannon along with her brother Randy Myers and Jimmy Holiday wrote and recorded a song that hit number 2 in the charts … I think we all know it so stand with me and sing about our global need to put a little love in your hearts! This church knows who God is and cares … it’s about time we act to bring about better days! AMEN

Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10

Alithia Ramirez, 10

Amerie Jo Garza, 10

Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10

Eliahana Cruz Torres, 10

Eliana “Ellie” Garcia, 9

Jackie Cazares, 10

Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10

Jayce Luevanos, 10

Jose Flores, 10

Layla Salazar, 10

Makenna Lee Elrod, 10

Maite Rodriguez, 10

Miranda Mathis, 11

Nevaeh Bravo

Rojelio Torres, 10

Tess Marie Mata

Uziyah Garcia, 10

Xavier Lopez, 10

Eva Mireles, 44

Irma Garcia taught 23 years

[1] ‘Love Me Do’ Paul McCartney and John Lennon
[2] ‘Where is the Love? Lyrics@Universal Music – Songwriters Justin Timberlake/Allan Aplll Pineda/George Pajon/Jaime Luis Gomez/will, Adams/Priese Prince Lamont Board/Michael J. Fratantuno
[3] Hebrews 4:2, 3 and Psalm 95: 1 & 7

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