KEEPING FIT; IT’s FAITH not a Resolution

Micah 6: 1-8
MATTHEW 5: 1-12

January 29, 2023 HEALING SUNDAY

I wonder where time goes, don’t you? It’s a reality because we track it on our calendars, many of us still have watches and clocks, and these days we just have to ask ALEXA or SIRI what time it is … and, we’ll be given the time, date, weather and some information that is purely useless to us but interesting in the moment.

And, here we are with almost 1/12th of the year 2023 already in the history books and we wonder how time can move so rapidly. How all of our great plans for the new year have been added to the resolution trash bin of past decades … I was going to rejoin the Riverwinds gym again … and all of you can see how well that is going. Mmm

Yesterday, I saw the largest bottle in the world. As folks from South Jersey each of us should be very proud to know that the largest bottle in the world … it’s Guinness Book of World Records certified … not only resides in New Jersey but on September 26, 1992 it was created at the Wheaton Village in Millville. This world phenomenon is a New Jersey creation and treasure …. Standing SEVEN FEET EIGHT INCHES TALL in its clear glass splendor and it can hold 188 gallons. Now, it’s encased in a glass display making sure that no one touches or heaven forbid tries to fill it … it’s for display purposes only. Take a nice look at it … get a selfie with it … and then continue walking.

For 30 ½ years … the museum’s lights have turned on and people have walked by …. What a nice big bottle. That Guinness certificate sure is interesting … WORLD RECORD … that should generate a few WOW’s now and again.

By the way, how’s your faith walk today? Are you walking with Jesus each and every day? Is Jesus part of your journey?

Are you like me and do you notice all those beautiful old churches whose windows are boarded up in our cities, towns and villages … sure are beautiful buildings; wonder when time took away their people? Wonder if their people’s faith was merely an occasional resolution that they’d bring more folks in; invite young families; and sing a few more hymns while just maybe on occasion paying attention to the words they heard. Maybe they always enjoyed the stained glass windows but were not really interested in sharing the view nor the message and then time just moved on.

We heard from Micah again this morning friends; one of the most directly challenging chapters of the entire Bible. God clearly frustrated with the folks God refers to as God’s people … in fact, the prophet tells us that God had a lawsuit against God’s people. Micah tells those people, who I am sure were very comfortable in how they are living their faith lives, “Hear what the Lord is saying. MY PEOPLE … what did I ever do to you? How have I wearied you?” And, then there is the profound exclamation “ANSWER ME! Answer me.”

Yes, God wants a relationship with humanity but in that moment of messaging through the prophet Micah I am sure that God did not expect a direct answer because after all there was a great breakfast happening in just an hour … some new movies on Netflix to binge … and even some sporting event on TV later in the day to focus in on … and just about every possible time consuming activity that one could dream up that did not have anything to do with God. And so, God is wondering in those historical moments with the Prophet Micah; and I am pretty darn sure that God is wondering now … “MY PEOPLE … how have I wearied you?”

God even reminds those folks that God provided all the information that they needed in order to “recognize the righteous acts of the Lord!”

Now, here in the fast paced 21st century maybe you have seen or heard some reminders of the righteous acts of the Lord that have you more focused each day on your faith or on that higher power we call God. We had Christmas Day … well, actually most folks had Christmas Eve because we really don’t focus in on God not even Jesus on Christmas Day itself do we? Epiphany Sunday … ok, so you don’t know what that is. Easter is coming we will have two services with bonus people and then they will treasure Jesus all day long after they hunt for eggs and eat their chocolate … Maundy Thursday, Good Friday … Ash Wednesday … I hear some good Springtime movies are coming soon.

And, you know what … time keeps on moving … those resolutions are given more time to disappear from our activity list but if you want to stay fit in the way that matters it is important to understand what God expects … KEEPING FIT it’s our faith that we can’t allow time or others to push aside so that our faith becomes as meaningless as our New Year’s resolutions. It’s our faith in God … that restores us and preserves us and ultimately gives us the peace of knowing and understanding where our eternity will be but … isn’t it past the time when we restore our faith and live as God expects. The world needs people of faith to step up … God requires that every person of faith step up even outside our comfort zones.

Friends, I am pretty weary this morning the passing days of 2023 are truly impacting me in a negative manner … I lost a dear dear friend, who was also named David, last Sunday; hours after our joy-filled ‘SAY CHEESE’ worship service; his services were on Friday … I was with Barbara Jones’ family as she transitioned from this life to a life with God and Christ on Tuesday; her service is this coming Saturday at 11am here at the church. The dark cloud of death stared deep into my very soul this week but I wonder … I am challenged … I am frankly concerned as to the number of individuals who have placed any commitment to their faith life onto the same level with which they declare those annually scheduled New Year’s resolutions that get dismissed or deeply diminished with each passing week. I have not been to the gym … I dislike the gym but I need the exercise. However, I “rejoice in the Lord God always … oh, boy do I say REJOICE!!” I absolutely need the Lord my God … I desperately need Jesus … and each day I hope that the Holy Spirit is my guide for living because I have seen death up close … far too many times friends and all too often it arrives unexpectedly as it did with my friend David.

Perhaps, we dismiss God and Christ and the Holy Spirit because we are uncomfortable with God’s expectations. It’s so easy isn’t it to say “I believe” or declare “I am a Christian” but then live a life and speak or write words or endorse the actions of those who counter God and Christ. It’s just so hard to love one’s neighbors, isn’t it and even harder to share or live our faith.

The Lord God expects … actually Scripture says REQUIRES, true believers not just those who say they believe but ones who take what’s in their hearts and put their faith into the reflection others see each day … THE LORD GOD first of all Micah tells us that “God has told us what is good and what is required.”

Now, think about your faith … think about your time investment in your faith … consider how much you value your faith, your worship and how often you share it with those around you. Perhaps on the drive home today consider how you are staying fit in your faith … some of you will go to the gym for your bodies; and yes I need to, but how are you living day-to-day with God in the healthy relationship that we each need to have with the Creator … with our Savior … with the Holy Spirit … do folks reflect about you by saying “My friend is on a journey with Jesus each day. My friend is always connected with God.” Are you taking time to study God’s Word? To Pray?

Jesus taught that people of faith are “happy when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you because of Jesus.” Are you in that group or do you avoid the Jesus association so you won’t be insulted? Do you make peace or incite confrontations? Are you, this morning here in this beautiful church or worshiping with online, thirsty for God’s righteousness? Do you have a pure heart? Do you show mercy … well Jesus said that those who show mercy will be happy and perhaps that’s because Micah told us that God expects us to embrace faithful love of all filled with mercy.

We friends, are required to “DO JUSTICE” a requirement that goes beyond merely saying you liked Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. God requires us to “embrace faith love of all filled with mercy!” And, God clearly expects us “to walk humbly with our God” because after all the first commandment is for us to love God and then to love our neighbors … ALL OF THEM … as Jesus loved … as we love ourselves. Those are the requirements put upon us if we are to get fit in our faith.

Those are the requirements that cause us as Jesus would say to be “full of joy and be glad because we have a great reward in heaven.”

How hard was it for you to condemn those five police officers who kicked and beat and bludgeoned Tyre Nichols to death after he was stopped for a traffic violation in Memphis a few short yards from his house. FIVE OFFICERS … they kept going even as Tyre cried out for his mother. Were you quick to condemn them or did you seek a way to condemn Tyre because after all a black driver must have been doing something deserving a beating death. Would you have condemned the officers if they were white? …. Would the City Of Memphis have fired and immediately charged the officers with murder if they were white? Those are questions people focused on justice in this land are wondering … knowing that getting stopped for a mere traffic violation can be different depending on the color of your skin no matter how good a life you have led.

We opened worship today with words from a Maya Angelou poem, “Just like moons and like suns with the certainty of tides, just like hopes springing high, still I’ll rise.” And, therein lies our challenge … how do you we rise? How do we use our time here as God has called us to live … or does that make us uncomfortable?

We each need to consider our faith truths. Are we like that clear bottle on display with a certificate to its right side saying it’s a WORLD RECORD holder yet it is vacant and just for display never to be filled with no one desiring to fill it and itself … well a bottle no matter how tall it is nor how many gallons it can hold has no soul.

I no longer make New Year’s resolutions so my commentary about the gym was not couched in a resolution just in a need for my health. Have you heard what God expects of you this morning? Will you read Matthew chapter 5 at home today to hear your Jesus and my Jesus speaking to you from the Mount? Are you ready to make the active choice to demonstrate how you love and love all of your neighbors in your own special way and are you ready to commit here and now not to bow down to humans who endorse division but instead your worship will be for the God who expects each of us to DO JUSTICE, LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS, LOVE GOD and be willing to be criticized when we stand up for those who are hurting and broken and victims of injustice in our world.

Today is a healing Sunday … I pray that we begin to help heal the world by shining the light of Christ wherever we go beginning with the words we choose and closely followed by the actions we take and then let’s really focus on rebuilding the church of Christ by first inviting folks here and then seeing where that takes us once this place is filled.

Jesus did not say be an empty display case declaring you are a Christian … Jesus said, “Be full of joy and be glad because you have a great reward in heaven.!” He said that immediately after saying “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.”

Get fit in your faith … make it real not a resolution. AMEN

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