Psalm 16
JOHN 20: 19-23

April 16, 2023

I am here on this Sunday, APRIL 16th in the year 2023 to let you know that yes, Dave Delaney is REJOICING again in God’s love!! Are you full of joy? Are you experiencing the peace that goes beyond understanding? Are you excitedly telling the people in your lives that Jesus matters … last Monday morning did you smile with satisfaction and connection remembering your response on Easter when I declared HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> or were the woes of the world so enveloping you that the Gospels were set aside … that God’s always present companionship was dismissed … did you allow the clouds to cover the shining light of Jesus Christ … I SURE HOPE NOT!

Because friends, the STORY DID NOT END on EASTER’s last tick of the clock. Monday’s entrance at the midnight hour did not close out the Resurrection for another year even though … you can now fully indulge in chocolates or whatever your theme for this year’s Lenten sacrifice may have been.

Are you right there with David in today’s Psalm when he declared, Protect me, God, because I take refuge in you. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord. Apart from you, I have nothing good. My heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety because you won’t abandon my life. You teach me the way of life.”

Thanks to many of you who are here today, we had an AWESOME celebration of faith on Easter morning. Some of you joined me along with 3 other pastors and members of other churches at the riverside as the sun rose over the Eastern horizon. And, then we packed and energized this sanctuary with joy-filled worship at 930. Followed by an 11am service with lots and lots … well with 6 people plus those who helped lead worship.

And, one of those present at 11am afterwards told me as I mourned the lack of even a quarter-filled sanctuary by saying “it will never be the same again … all we need now is just one Easter service.”

Friends, no it can never be the way it was yesterday … I cannot choose to have bacon for breakfast if it is already lunch time and I chose sausage. We cannot go back to our yesterday’s but we certainly cannot let our future fall apart because we have accepted a sense of gloom, darkness, and an inability to be difference makers.

I am here to tell you that the concept of needing to have more than one Easter celebration is not dead. The story of St. Paul’s filling our sanctuary regularly did not end with some year in our history … we are the ones who are in control of our destiny. We are the ones who can impact the world here in West Deptford for Jesus Christ.

I wonder … frankly I often wonder … how many people of church agree with this David, Dave Delaney, and with Scripture’s King David from whom Jesus’ lineage can be traced in stating unequivocally that “In God’s presence is total celebration. Beautiful things are always in God’s right hand.”

No, I really don’t expect to see all of you jumping around like your crazy pastor does … or even to break out singing “Joy to the world the Lord has come!” But I absolutely celebrate when you shout that beautiful response to my call that Jesus Christ, HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed >>. Most certainly … here in God’s presence we have proven that a total celebration can happen … we only have to head over to the Delaware or listen to the beautiful music of the Gloucester County Flute Ensemble this afternoon to know that God has brought beautiful things into our lives if only we allow ourselves to live as if God’s story is alive and well … which is true for God but perhaps not for all of the faithful who come to church and then somehow choose to close out God after the Holy Days are over … after Sunday services end.

I have often considered the post-Resurrection moments of the disciples as holding incredible meaning for us as today’s Easter People. The disciples were hiding behind closed and locked doors … what does Jesus say to them … PEACE BE WITH YOU. Jesus showed them that the story did not end with Good Friday … He breathed on them; just like God can breathe on us to help us find that peace. Because once we get it … once we understand … then we will be the ones … no matter our ages … we will be the ones who make sure that this church remains a beacon of faith … that new faces of all ages and of all backgrounds come to call St. Paul’s the place where they will worship and care for God’s other people … PEACE … remembering the story is alive and well, the TRUTH of the CROSS … the TRUTH of the RESURRECTION … the TRUTH of GOD’s LOVE.

If you looked into your bulletins this morning you will have noticed an insert. An insert asking you several questions. How many family members do you have? How many friends do you have? How many people in this world are you directly connected with. I want you to take that home today to seriously consider what the answers are. There is no right nor no wrong answer. Your numbers do not make you better nor worse than anyone else. But your numbers are related to the STORY of JESUS … we were told to go into the world. The book of Acts, as you have heard me share it with you on more than one occasion, has Jesus saying go even onto Swedesboro to make disciples.

This is my high school yearbook … and inside my high school yearbook I keep this photo of my kindergarten class. I find it remarkable at this stage of life … a few years removed from Miss Eastman’s class at Forest Elementary School … I find it remarkable that I am so blessed that the story of friendships did not end at age 5. Hannah Raiken, Dene Teplesky, Robin Eaton, Nancy Naylon, Tom Routley, and Rick Trippi are still my friends today. Paul Luedig served our nation as an ambassador but he passed away 10 years ago still my friend. My very best friend as a 5 year old who remained my friend until he died, Brian O’Neill, led an amazing New Orleans jazz band … he was the most talented musician I have ever known and I have known some … he died on stage shortly after his band appeared on the Today Show showcasing how he helped New Orleans recover after Katrina. There are other stories in this book … stories that did not end with high school graduation.

You have friends … you have others … their stories continue. Consider who you are connected with in this life. Who do you know who knows that right now you are in church because you absolutely agree with the Scripture you heard from the Psalms …

“My heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety because you won’t abandon my life. You teach me the way of life.”

I don’t think any of us would be here today if it wasn’t for some other person’s faith. I seriously doubt that any one of us would be connected with Jesus Christ and God if there wasn’t a human intervention … a human example … a mentor, a leader, some person showing JOY TO THE WORLD because they knew Jesus Christ was alive and well. Might have been a pastor … a Sunday School teacher … your mom or dad … an aunt or uncle … I can name names … Stanley Lewis, Bill Southrey, Dick Schoenthaler, Jack Corbett and Bob and Ethel … my parents.

The flip side of your bulletin insert has only a thumbnail sketch of one of my friends who continues to wow me with her faith walk. Phebian Abdulai was born in Sierra Leone, the daughter of a Kono District midwife. The ravages of civil war, which none of us can truly imagine … drove Phebian out of her home … out of her nation where she wanted to be a nurse like her mom … she ended up at the doorstep of Jericho Road Community Health Center where she crossed paths with another friend of mine … a guy from Lancaster County Pennsylvania named Myron Glick. Myron is a doc whose joy in life first comes from his faith in Jesus Christ but then from delivering babies. He’s an amazing physician but more importantly Dr. Myron Glick is a visionary who is always ready to declare that God can help us get through any storm.

Phebian was studying nursing and came to Dr. Glick … God had nudged her to help rebuild her home nation but there were no quality medical facilities in Sierra Leone’s Kono District. People were dying … more babies died at birth than you want to think about. She told Myron that she felt that God wanted Myron and Jericho Road to build a medical clinic in Sierra Leone. There’s more to the story but in the midst of the EBOLA CRISIS a decade ago … Phebian, Myron, and a team of doctors, nurses, and God-believing people were in Sierra Leone completing the clinic, which has been named after Phebian’s mom, Adama Martha Memorial Community Health Center.

When the doors opened there was an awesome celebration … you see those people who could have said the story was over when the civil war raged over their land didn’t give up … those people of faith who could have run away and said the story was over when the EBOLA virus was killing so many of their friends, neighbors, and family members DID NOT GIVE UP and in fact, people I now call friends were willing to go face-to-face with Ebola to get this clinic up and running … and they give the credit to God … to Jesus Christ … to the Holy Spirit’s direction … “My heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety because you won’t abandon my life. You teach me the way of life.”

Phebian is busy supervising nurses and doctors at the Admama Martha Center. In December of last year … just one month … here’s what this amazing woman’s vision partnered with Dr. Glick and Jericho Road accomplished in the back corners of Africa, in Sierra Leone where now there are two clinics serving humanity and God and Christ:

  • 1,746 outpatient clinic visits * 3 pediatric inpatient admissions
  • 26 adult inpatient admissions * 19 babies delivered (12 vaginal, 1 c-sections)
  • 28 surgeries (includes c-section mentioned above) *109 children immunized
  • 18 children fed at malnutrition clinic * 96 patients at mobile clinics and 260 individuals served through community outreach

THAT WAS ONE MONTH where 10 years ago no one was caring for those in need. So friends … here’s where you story, my story, and Phebian’s story intersect. I shared the story of my other friend Chantal in a sermon with you. About her work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After that Sunday I reached out to Myron, Dr. Glick, to ask … how can a little church in West Deptford New Jersey help my friends who courageously but joyfully serve God and Christ in Africa each day.

This friends I see as an opportunity for you and me to shine the light of our faith to our friends, our family members, our neighbors, our co-workers, and even strangers. If Phebian Abdulai could have the courage to go to a stranger Dr. Myron Glick to tell him that God was telling her that there was a need for a health clinic in Sierra Leone that this doctor in Buffalo New York who had no history of providing care to anyone outside of Buffalo New York was supposed to help build … if she had the joy in her faith to knock on his door to say MYRON GLICK this is your moment to show your love of God … and he did and they did and they are still doing.

After I reached out, Dr. Glick called Phebian and she said what they desperately need right now are SOLAR BATTERIES. You see friends … Sierra Leone does not have the luxuries that we have. The vast majority of their people live in abject poverty … children still starve to death. And there is no PSE&G running electric lines to the Adama Martha Center to ensure that emergency surgeries have light … the doctors performing c-sections can see … that medical equipment is running efficiently.

My friend Phebian said that she and the clinic could use 2-3 solar batteries to upgrade their solar system at the clinic and provide more electricity for their ever-growing work there. Their solar electricity system provides the needed power so that they can have lights for the clinic and operating room. Myron told me this is critically important to the work.

One solar storage battery costs $650. They need three but four would be great. The total cost of four solar storage batteries for the clinic in Sierra Leone is $2600. I told Myron it’s a done deal … St. Paul’s had their back.

And, church … including those watching … I know that if we put out a special plate today and next week we could have the money but that’s not what I want you to do. I want you to ask your friends, your family members, your neighbors, your co-workers, and even strangers for TEN DOLLARS each to cover the cost of these batteries. Earlier we decided that amongst those of us here we had more than …. Friends, family members, neighbors … are you willing to declare to them … that because of your faith in the Risen Jesus Christ who calls us to stand up for justice (Can’t think of a better cause of justice than keeping the lights on in a medical clinic in Sierra Leone) and because you agree with David … “My heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety because you won’t abandon my life. You teach me the way of life.” That you have no problem asking them to donate just TEN DOLLARS.

No matter what we raise … all of the money will go to help Phebian in Sierra Leone or Chantal in the DNC if we raise extra moneys to continue to provide medical care in Africa because they know that’s how God is calling them.

Delivering babies, performing surgeries, providing basic medical care that is life saving and sustaining … called by God even though Chantal hears the guns of the rebels attempting to take over the country … Phebian has faced Ebola and beaten it back.

So, on this Sunday after Easter friends … Jesus Christ … HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>>

I sure hope that the Resurrection story did not end last Sunday for you … are you experiencing enough peace in your faith that you can ask your family members, your friends, your neighbors, strangers for a mere TEN DOLLARS to help keep the lights on in Sierra Leone … Jesus told the disciples He was bringing them peace … do you have enough peace in your faith to be able to explain that you are asking for the ten dollars because God is calling … that this will help people of faith … yes, if they want to donate more that’s great! I can share more of Phebian’s story because there is more or Jericho Road’s story as well. Everywhere you walk in the clinics and offices of Jericho Road whether in Buffalo, Sierra Leone, the Congo or Nepal you see these words … “what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.”

Easter was not just about bunnies, chocolate and hidden baskets … the story of Christianity did not end on Easter. Our example for living is Christ … “My heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety because you won’t abandon my life. You teach me the way of life.” AMEN


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