1 Samuel 16: 1-13
LUKE 6: 37-42

November 13, 2022

I can still sort of remember the phone call … I was at my desk at the Social Security Administration. A voice that would change my mind and my life was on the other end and he said, “Is this the Dave Delaney whom my friend Bill Southrey, from the Rescue Mission, suggested I should call?“

Well, I knew Bill Southrey, in fact he’s the man who brought me back to Jesus Christ after I lost my faith. He’s the man who gave me this Bible, which I now call my “Kitchen Bible” because that’s where I keep it. Bill, at the time, was the executive Vice President of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and it would not have surprised me if Bill knew someone lost in the midst of the Social Security Administration’s bureaucracy. Perhaps this voice belonged to someone in need of disability benefits … or to someone attempting to build a coalition of agencies to help older and poorer Americans … or someone with a simple question about the Social Security system, which in my role as the Administration’s Public Affairs Specialist for New Jersey, I answered with regularity.

So, I answer the caller, “Yes, Bill is my friend … how can I help you.”

The warm welcoming voice on the other end said, “I am Father Steve Sinari and Davy, I’d like to meet you for some ice cream.” First, I do not like to be called Davy EVER … but I do like ice cream. I probably said, “Excuse me … I am busy” but Stevie completed the invitation by saying “I am from Covenant House and I need you to work with me to help our kids with Social Security.”

And, so it started … ice cream with Stevie; Father Stevie. This photo hangs on my office wall … it’s Stevie and me from the first time I slept in a box on the streets of Atlantic City to raise money for Covenant House’s kids but this morning CHURCH I want to talk to you about you. In fact, I want this to be all about you because the God of Creation is all about loving YOU … Jesus Christ came to teach YOU … Jesus Christ died for YOU … He left the tomb EMPTY, ascended into heaven and sits on God’s right hand for YOU and the great gift of God’s Holy Spirit, which is available 24/7 … is for YOU! When we sang of God’s AMAZING GRACE … oh how sweet that sound … it was all about SAVING YOU and in fact you sang “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. Not like others in church or in your neighborhood you sang about you. I once was lost … “ Well that was earlier today …

My concern today amidst the traffic of noise and confusion of the world is whether you have allowed yourself to become lost again. Separated from the one whom you and I should be loving most with our hearts, souls and minds … God. You do remember God, right? I am sure you remember the instructive words of the Torah … here in the beginning of our Bibles in what we call our Old Testament … LOVE GOD and have no other gods those Biblical instructions were for YOU not only for the folks on the other side of church and Jesus teaching that ALL the laws and ALL the commandments and ALL the rules fall upon first loving GOD … that was for YOU too … not solely for someone over on Cooper Street in Woodbury but for YOU.


And, I nee you to consider today … right here … whether you care or appreciate the truth that the God of creation is invested in YOU as much as God is invested and loving any other person here in this church or any individual who is alive and well this morning in Ecuador, England, Ethiopia, or in Estonia. The truth is God loves those folks too … with the same intense love showcased in Jesus telling the story of the prodigal son’s father who longed for his son to come home from the wilderness of life … to be part of the family again. God loves each and every one but you need to consider, remember, and accept the truth that God puts YOU in that same group and God wants YOU home with the family of the faithful.

Jesus once said, “I tell you not to worry about everyday life … whether YOU have enough food and drink or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food and YOUR body more than clothing … look at the birds … your Heavenly Father feeds them, aren’t You far more valuable to God than they are?” I am sure we all know folks whose every day life … every day ambitions … every day goals or dreams of college scholarships have moved them away from God … from Christ … from worship … from church but today you and I need to focus on ourselves.

And, I want to talk about how a special man of God, an Orthodox priest, reminded me at an ice cream stand in Ventnor New Jersey of the words we heard today from Jesus Christ, “DO NOT JUDGE … DO NOT CONDEMN …. GIVE FREELY … TAKE THE LOG OUT OF YOUR EYE so that you can see clearly.”

Church, sometimes we need to sit back … breathe in deeply … and regain our focus on God whether we are in church physically or are able to worship online through Facebook. Sometimes … we need to truly hear God through the words of Jesus Christ.

All too often we mistakingly think that God needs the other one … the woman with the PhD from a Christian seminary … the guy with the eloquent voice whose handsome face could make the cover of GQ magazine but not every man looks like me …

Seriously, how often in your life have you quietly said to yourself … I can’t do that church project as good as Mary or John. How many times has God’s Holy Spirit nudged you towards some type of mission work with the homeless or perhaps even going to Red Bird but you found an excuse that you were not as capable or you needed your valuable time for YOU but not for what God was calling you to do. It’s happened to me so I have to believe it’s happened to most of you at least once or twice because otherwise we’d have at least another 10 mission projects happening at this church called St. Paul’s and our pews would be full of neighbors, friends, and family members and our Sunday School classrooms would not have room to squeeze in another kid and I would never have to be worried as to whether St. Paul’s UNITED METHODIST CHURCH of West Deptford will be alive and well in the 2035 because I’d see so many young families, middle aged families and youth packing this church week after week.

We heard today how God surprised Samuel … how Samuel kept seeing the potential king in Eliab … in Abinadab … in Shammah but it was the youngest, the child, David who was to be anointed … it was David with all of his flaws and his inexperience whom the Lord instructed Samuel by saying, “THAT’s THE ONE …”. The unexpected … the untrained … “so, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forth.”

And, friends … we know that David would slip at times … we know that David was not perfect because he was human … but the Lord’s Spirit never left David and as we approach the season of Advent and the celebration of Christmas, which again is about a babe born in Bethlehem not a Walmart in Deptford … God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ came from the family line of Jesse and David. The unexpected one … the last choice of the brothers at least in Samuel and Jesse’s minds was the first choice of God to strengthen the faith of so many others.

David wrote in what we refer to as Psalm 63, “O God, you are MY God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I love. My soul clings to You.”

vid was talking about his personal relationship with the Creator … David was focused in on his personal relationship with God … so, I again need to ask each of you to consider whether YOU … just YOU … whether YOU ever earnestly seek the Lord God in these days of November in the year 2022.

David was the King … David was anointed by God … David did not have to declare that his soul clung to God not as the king, not as a man of power … but friends truthfully David needed to declare God as his God with regularity … David needed to seek and thirst for God … and David needed to remember how amazing the grace of God is because God’s love is better than life. When we lose track of God … when we put God up on an isolated shelf … it’s so easy to slowly but surely stop loving God and merely to say “Yep, I believe in God …” but Scripture points out that even the evil one believes in God’s existence … it’s faith that changes us … faith that rescues us … living your lives as a believer that keeps your faith strong and in the right place allowing YOU.

Not long after having my ice cream with Father Stevie he called me up and asked if I could meet him after work. He told me to get some jeans on and to set aside my suit and tie. Little did I know that evening where I would be going … but when I found Stevie, he told me we were going to be looking for kids in the dark of the Atlantic City night. It was an autumn night not unlike tonight … temperatures getting closer to the freezing point.

Friends, Atlantic City’s glitz and casino’s are a beacon to the desperate … somehow a segment of society thinks that the roulette wheel’s spin or the fall of the crap table’s dice will change their lives. How many of you were sure you would win this week’s billion dollars?

Well, young people coming from abusive family situations from the suburbs and the cities think they can get rescued in Atlantic City. On Friday night I met a young man rescued by Covenant House who has his life together … he was found on Atlantic City’s streets after leaving his home in West Deptford New Jersey where his abusive father beat him regularly … from here in West Deptford.

So, on that night Father Stevie took the Social Security guy with flashlights in hand …. We crawled under the boardwalk but it was in this boarded up store where this amazing Orthodox priest pried back the plywood just enough for two middle aged men to crawl through that I experienced the rescuing of a human because there huddled in a corner was a kid … a young man … he was 19 … in a red flannel shirt and jeans with a cap pulled low … shivering both from the cold and fear because now two men were there with him. Father Stevie calmly said … “Do not be afraid … we can get you to a safe place tonight where you will be warm. It’s called Covenant House.” Stevie gestured for me to sit amidst the dirt and he sat about 15 feet from this young man who was starving, scared but listening because at that moment he had no hope … no food …and slowly but surely he felt comfortable enough that when Father Steve said “My friend and I are going to leave but if you follow us … we will walk together to Covenant House’s home where you can shower, eat, and get some clean clothes. Just follow us … and that 19 year old whose name was Tom crawled out after us. He stayed a safe distance behind us probably wondering will his life be any different and when Steve and I walked through the doors … Tom followed about 5 minutes later realizing he was going to a safe place amidst the threatening world.

I never knew Tom’s complete story but he stayed and got into the programs of Covenant House … got a job and turned his life around because the wrong people might have entered that abandoned house too but instead it was my crazy friend and me.

Every year at the SLEEP OUT … we remember kids who didn’t make it because not every hurting young person who enters Covenant House’s doors stays. Some go back to drug abuse, some get swallowed up by gangs or the sex slave trades, and some take their own lives and I have officiated over too many of those services. Each year at the SLEEP OUT we light candles to remember the kids who did not make it … each year I keep the names that I read on my desk as a reminder that not everyone gets saved … some see the light, sense the safety and even talk about being in Covenant House but they leave for their own reasons … and sadly, the reports of their deaths come back to the staff and volunteers. The two names I read this year were Porche S and Eddie R. I know nothing more about them except they died on the streets …. Young adults not rescued … young adults who turned away from Covenant House’s rescuing arms. Choosing friends, the stuff they like in the world or just confused enough to say no.

And, today friends … today in church … this day not last week nor next week. This day when a chicken barbecue awaits … beautiful flute music … this day is about YOU and GOD. This day is another day when we each know that God’s grace is there … we know God exists … but I need to ask you to consider the answer to this question quite seriously, DO YOU LOVE GOD? DO YOU ACCEPT GOD’s LOVE? And even though any person can comfortably join us on Sunday’s for the friendship, the laughs, the jokes, the good music, and the fellowship hour that follows … DO YOU COME TO WORSHIP GOD and TO SENSE GOD’s SPIRIT? Are you in agreement with David that God’s love is better than life … does your soul cling to God … does your very soul thirst for God?

This is about YOU … I am carrying the names of Porche and Eddie and will be looking at their names every time I sit at my desk … they are DEAD … they could have been rescued but they chose the world and will never see their 21st birthday’s. THIS IS ABOUT YOU and GOD and YOUR CHOICE for LIVING or not. God’s love is there for all … we just have to say yes. AMEN

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