In the Heat of the Day

Psalm 42: 1-6a
Galatians 3: 23-29

June 26, 2022

I am not sure how many of you remember the story of Virgil Tibbs … he came from Philadelphia and ended up in a small town in Mississippi. Two great movie actors, Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier were the stars … with Poitier taking on the role of Tibbs. The movie and subsequent TV series, featuring Archie Bunker’s Carrol O’Conner, was written by John Ball. Seven Oscar nominations and five awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for Steiger. It is truly one of the all time great films and it finds the good ole Southern Boy working with the Black Northeastern police officer dealing with and resolving a wide variety of challenges and crimes and prejudices deep in the South.

In the Heat of the Night … a great movie but friends as summer looms to take over our days and nights. As ‘shoobies’ flood New Jersey’s shore communities …. It is time for us to consider whether we are living in times that can be referenced as THE HEAT OF THE DAY …. A time when prejudices have been revealed … where common courtesies have evaporated … and where those of us who claim Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord need to step up to do all we can to change the storyline … to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

To destroy prejudices and harmful discussions bringing back what we each might reference as the Golden Rule, which has its foundation in Scripture, which teaches us over and over and over again to LOVE ALL of our NEIGHBORS EQUALLY while doing justice. The characters in the novel and movie, Gillespie and Tibbs, worked together to bring about justice facing innumerable challenges … I believe THAT WE, the people of faith, can do the same in our times but it takes action rather than retreat!

Are you asking yourself the question of the psalmist or perhaps are your neighbors who have joined in the dividing lines asking you … “Where’s your God now?”

In the heat of the day … in the times when news stories bring us angst and frustration … during a generation when some have no problem seeing our democracy tumble into a place where some are to be made king and only some are to be rewarded … I need to ask does your whole being thirst for God? Or, have you found your comfort bowing down to a human or by worshiping things of this world with your energy?

The psalmist was facing challenges, like we have to consider during our waking days …. If you listened closely you heard the words, “Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why I ask myself, are you so upset inside?”

Interesting personal questions from today’s Psalm … interesting personal challenges … on this last Sunday of June in the year 2022 … are you willing to actively consider your life, your actions, and your relationship with God. Can you join the psalmist in seeking out God for your day’s journeys? Or, have you actively decided that you are willing to disregard the Holy Spirit’s loving directions, deny the teachings of Jesus, and instead choosing … CHOOSING to join those, like our neighbors around the corner from our beautiful church, who use the worst words in the dictionary to put down other people, created like you and I in the image of God, merely because the homeowners don’t like the politics of the humans they blaspheme?

As Vacation Bible School’s start seems to get incredibly closer by the second … are you ready to step up to make this year’s celebration of Jesus Christ for children the best ever? Do you let families with children, in your circle of life, notice that you when make your way to God’s own house, this beautiful church, you do so with joyous shouts and thanksgiving songs? And, that you then go into the world, renewed in your faith, showing love of God and love of all of your neighbors that Jesus taught? Celebrating the festival … clearly declaring GOD IS ALIVE in me!!!

Remember, Paul wrote, “Jesus Christ made us righteous by our faith …. Now or should I say if … now that faith has come we are no longer under a custodian” created by humans or by the world’s powerful forces.

The beautiful Sally Jordan celebrated God … celebrated this church … told so many others about what St. Paul’s meant to her life. Shared her faith story. When I first arrived and actually to this very day, when I mention that I am the pastor of St. Paul’s so many people then say …. “You must know Sally Jordan … she was my Phys Ed teacher … an awesome woman” … but unless Sally told folks about her connection to God through this church how would so many know that coming to church mattered to her or that she had a connection with St. Paul’s where God and Christ are worshiped with joy … open doors exist for the children … open doors for every one? For ALL?

Do those in your life know what God means to you … have you considered what God should mean to you … are you living a life even in the HEAT OF THE DAY in these times that we are going through that showcases your faith not laws nor rule books nor loud voiced-politicians but that your faith means everything to you. YOUR FAITH … that you have a FAITH in JESUS CHRIST that matters more than anything … to YOU? Not a church membership card …. Not a mere identifier for census reports but your every single day’s focus that shows even in the HEAT OF THE DAY focuses in on your thirst for the living God?

The psalmist when he bared his soul … when he paused considering his relationship with God and with his community … the psalmist remembered.

I think that today’s Scriptures offer two essential lessons for us as we move into summer and beyond. I think that those of us who are heading to Kentucky need to reflect on this Psalm so that our focus on life is renewed … every Vacation Bible School volunteer and teacher … every one of you who is right now thinking about who you can invite to CHRISTMAS in JULY at St. Paul’s … you and this pastor who so often struggles with life’s challenges … all of us, for the sake of providing the answer to our weekly prayer, which we find in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus teaching us and His disciples how and what to pray for:

Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.”

And, in God’s Kingdom friends … even God’s Kingdom on earth … even in the Heat of the Day … “there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Of course Paul tosses in the ‘but’ to that declaration … that is IF YOU BELONG TO CHRIST.

We are going to hear Cailyn’s statement of faith in just a minute … do you have a statement of faith that you’d like to share with our church family? With the world? Or has the Heat of the Day melted away your God-convictions so that you can be part of the fast-paced popularity contest that thrives when others are put down … that focuses on mystical political positions held by individuals with power who don’t know you or probably don’t care an iota about you except that they want you to keep them or put them into power for their own gain?

I am going to admit that going on the mission trip to Red Bird provides each team member with an awesome opportunity for faith renewal. We are leaving behind WiFi, cell phone connections, and cable TV talking heads whose nightly goal is to get us to hate our neighbors … by the way, are you investing time in them or do you belong to Jesus Christ?

To work on someone’s home that needs help refocuses who we are …. Yes, I know that some people will attempt to judge those being helped screaming they should help themselves but are those screams biblical? Did God or Jesus tell us to do a litmus test before helping the poor and struggling … of course not. So, our team will go and sweat and do our best to make life better for strangers.

In the mountain valleys … it is so easy to sense God. But, friends … we live in the heat of the day …. We desperately need to wake up in the morning craving for God … we need to thirst for God rather than for our choice of news channels or political social media streams.

So, the good news … the great news … the news that fills me with joy is that the God of Creation sent Jesus Christ for Dave Delaney but also for each of you … for those neighbors who display hate language for all who go past their homes to see … for each and every human being …. God’s redemption is there!

When the world gets you down …. When troubles are all around … when you are depressed … I am here to plead with you to ask you to turn to God. Find a Scripture lesson that truly speaks to you … read it regularly! Perhaps it is the Upper Room, dear sweet Lillian called me the other day saying ‘Pastor Dave …. Be sure I get my Upper Room because I read it faithfully.”

Find the songs of Thanksgiving and listen to them … sing along in the car or in your homes so that the joy of your faith walk energizes your spirit.

Make your way to worship …let others know and invite them so that they don’t question where your God is but instead see God living through you. Invite kids to VBS!!!

Most importantly … GIVE THANKS TO GOD regularly! For your salvation … for the help that comes through the Lord … and then live following the teaching of Jesus first letting our Savior’s words feed and strengthen you.

So, last night at ShopRite as I headed to car I hear a man calling out to me. He said, “I don’t know if you heard that guy back there.” I looked and saw that this. Man’s t-shirt had a message of division on it …so I was wondering what he about to say. He said, “That guy just cursed at you because you didn’t put the cart where he wanted it. He said he can’t move the pallet until he moves the cart.” The man looked at me and said, “We have to get better … we have to start caring for each other and learn patience and understanding … we have to stop being quick to condemn.” And, I smiled and agreed … looked at his shirt … and realized there is still work to be done with me. Like the deer who craves streams of water … my whole being craves for God even in my mistaken moments.” AMEN

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ