GUIDANCE for the JOURNEY
Romans 5: 1-11
JOHN 4: 5-24
March 12, 2023
GOOD MORNING … So, I am happy to see that so many of you remembered that we are in the season of DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME … that once again ALL OF US HERE remembered to SPRING FORWARD or did your day start with slow movements after losing that precious hour of sleep? Perhaps some of you planned for this day by going to bed an hour earlier than normal or else you knew a sermon was coming amidst your morning plans so that a nap could on your morning schedule for today.
Just in case your alarm bell didn’t go off … <<RING THE COW BELL>> the cowbell is back … JOY to the WORLD … well, the Lord is in this place, AMEN? And, we are here to worship!
As we move forward into our lives’ journeys time does become a key element … precious time that commodity that so many of us now keep track of thanks to technology which informs us what the exact minute is that we are traveling through … right now according to my watch it is <<READ THE TIME on my WATCH>> although at this precise moment my good friend Jenny Schroeder would be contradicting me because she would say ‘No, Dave it is <<5 hours ahead>> because right now she is in Switzerland. Of course my friend Richard would insist that it is <<7 hours ahead>> and he’d be right, he’s in Uganda. And, then my friend Kevin is perhaps just waking up on his Northern California farm because the sun has just risen … it’s around 7am but then again he and David have a farm to tend to so perhaps they were already busy taking care of things.
Time is elusive … time marches to its own rhythm and we, my friends, are the prisoners to time because of all the elements of life not a single one of us … not a single person in power … not even the religious elite who beg for money to enrich themselves and those they support can control time. As they say “TIME MARCHES ON.”
I noticed the other day that this evening there will be a tribute show in Wilmington reflecting on the musical history of Simon and Garfunkel. Since I was already focused on today’s message … ‘Guidance for the Journey’ and considering, again, our walk with Jesus Christ in this Lenten season; I was not surprised that the inner rock n roll singer started singing these poetic lyrics of Paul Simon, “Time, time, time see what’s become of me. While I looked around for my possibilities … I was so hard to please. Don’t look around …”. Simon continues in his song, “Hear the Salvation Army band, down by the riverside, there’s bound to be a better ride than what you’ve got planned … carry your cup in your hand.”
The song is about how quickly time passes … and that Salvation Army band well always somewhere in our inner minds …. Somewhere in our days’ journey … somewhere within each of us as church-connected people God’s Holy Spirit is trying to get us focused. God’s loving gift … that Holy Spirit nudges, whispers and at times shoves to get us to live as righteous people. God is trying to pull us in and straighten our path because that reality of time just keeps on ticking as the old Timex commercials used to say.
When Paul wrote to the early Christian churches he was attempting to teach and preach to people like you and me. Paul’s goal was to both grow the church of Jesus Christ and to strengthen the faith of the faithful. No different than the mission of the church today because wrapped up in growing the church and strengthening the faith of believers comes serving those who are hungry and hurting … those who are strangers; lessons from Matthew 25 … and also the clear lesson of God, which is to love all of the other human beings who just like those in Rome, in Corinth, in Philippi, in Galatia, and those other faith-communities every person has been created in God’s Holy Image not just those in the inner circle who felt oh so comfortable with people just like themselves.
In fact, it was Paul who reminded the early church that those old pre-Christ rules were out the window but Paul should also be reminding us that Jesus Christ obliterated those ancient regulations and wiped out the established laws, rules, and commandments teaching people of faith to focus in on the two essentials that matter: loving God and loving ALL of our neighbors. If Jesus didn’t erase those early rules … well, I would be in a lot of trouble for the shrimp in my freezer and the pork I ate last night.
Paul stated, that in the eyes of God … God’s truth is, “you are ALL … God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. ALL … ALL of you who have clothed yourselves with Christ. 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 and IF … if you belong to Christ then you are indeed Abraham’s descendants and heirs according to the promise of God.”
ALL … no distinguishing nor exceptions … no religious rule leaders sorting out those who might not look like us nor dress like us nor sound like us nor live like us … SCRIPTURE, GOD’s WORD … that is if you accept the New Testament message revealed through Jesus Christ who by the way is RISEN!! <<He is Risen Indeed>> then you won’t be wrapped up in the confusion focused on by those attempting to divide the faithful .. those who are manipulating the Old Testament to gain power in the 21st century … because friends I am a follower of Jesus Christ … and today I am full of joy at knowing that I can walk among you and declare that THERE IS NO JEW NOR GREEK … NO SLAVE NOR FREE … NO MALE NOR FEMALE … we are all one in Christ Jesus!”
Oh wait, there is a caveat, isn’t there? There is something required … the connection with God that comes from true faith in Christ Jesus. Being clothed with Christ as Paul wrote has the requirement to live out our faith. We know from today’s comments of Paul to the church in Rome that “While we were still weak, AT THE RIGHT MOMENT, Christ died for the ungodly folk.” I hate to tell you this morning; I hate to bring you down a notch or ruin your personal ego or image but those ungodly individuals … those sinners … those disconnected … that Jesus died for were people just like us; because not one of us is perfect nor sinless and God’s love and gift of Christ goes to each of us but also to people who don’t look like us … people in Switzerland and Uganda and yes, even to those in California where my friends Kevin and David are this morning. Jesus did not distinguish what kind of people He came for nor died for … because He came and died for ALL! Jesus did not insist on certain requirements nor lifestyles before a human can be considered equally loved by God just reread the story from today’s Gospel … listen to this verse from today’s reading from Romans, “If we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son while we were still enemies, now that we have been reconciled, how much more certain is it that we will be saved by the life of Christ?”
So, on this day when our eyes are foggy because of time’s changing hours … if you are amongst the flock who still want to buy into the human divide then it is clear that you are not interested in being restored and strengthened in your faith because you need to know today that your faith must obliterate your descending into the world where some want to sort out who is worthy and who is not because ALL were weak … ALL need to gain access to our faith through Jesus Christ but then we must stand with Christ, which is to live as if we love God and love ALL of our neighbors equally.
The GUIDANCE for our journey IF … IF we are truly Christians … IF IF we have been made righteous through Christ’s faithfulness then we will try to pay attention to what Jesus taught because He spoke with God’s words for humanity. And, when we start to choose Christ’s teachings then we can have peace with God through Christ and obviously we will not wrap ourselves up with the world’s loudest screaming voices that try to target individuals or groups to exempt the targeted from God as if these bullying voices were whispering into God’s ear don’t let that one in; condemn those over there that are not like us.
Later on in his letter to those early Roman Christians, Paul writes “I encourage you to present yourself as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. DO NOT BE CONFORMED to the patterns of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mindset so that you can figure out what God’s will is … what is good and pleasing and mature.” Paul continues to write about the varying gifts that people have from God but Paul is desperately attempting to teach those people of faith that they need to stop in their paths and reflect on what God wants, which is what Jesus has just taught. We need to focus in on transforming ourselves.
And, there was that woman at the well in the Samaritan city of SYCHAR. Jews and Samaritans were not supposed to have conversations together. Samaritans were thought to be less than Jews and most definitely a Jewish man would never talk with a Samaritan woman. Yet there was Jesus asking her for a drink of water.
If you noticed from the story … the woman … that Samaritan woman was not perfect … in fact, the woman had already had five husbands and was now living with another man. If you noticed Jesus didn’t condemn her … at all … He did not proclaim that she was going to be headed to the bad place where He taught those who don’t feed the hungry, clothe the poor, welcome the strangers are headed … Jesus used this woman to bring others to faith. Jesus offered this woman living water …
There is a beautiful song whose beginning has these lyrics, “Like the woman at the well I was seeking, for things that could not satisfy. And, then I heard my Savior speaking … fill my cup Lord, I lift it up Lord come and quench this thirsting of my soul. “
The truth when we consider the guidance for our faith lives … when we seek to find the righteousness that is reflected through true faith we need to hear our Savior speaking. We need Jesus Christ to fill our souls with God’s truth.
She asked Him, “Where would you get this living water? Jesus replied, “The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life. Worship what we know …. Worship in spirit and the truth. It is necessary to worship in spirit and truth.”
“Seasons change with the scenery. Weaving time in a tapestry. Won’t you stop and remember me?” The woman at the well remembered Jesus and went home to her village … this woman who had had five husbands and was now living with another man … the Gospels tell us that after she found the Living Water of Christ that “Many Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word. That he was Savior of the world. “ How are you remembering Jesus and is He your guidance for the journey? AMEN
 Paul Simon, ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’