Psalm 116 selections
LUKE 24: 13-35

April 23, 2023

EARTH DAY … the truth about the date on the calendar is that the world community, more than 30 years ago, realized that we as humans throughout the world needed to live … needed to breathe … needed to have clean water and ultimately the world community agreed that we have a responsibility to be caretakers of the planet earth. So the world community set aside April 22nd as EARTH DAY. A day to remember our challenge.

The ultimate truth friends is that Scripture is where this responsibility begins … right in the beginning of God’s Word for the people of God … humanity, well at least the portion of humanity that believes God is God, is assigned by God with the responsibility to keep the waters clean … to care for the air we breathe … and to be the caretakers of all of the life on the planet … we have not done a very good job of it, have we? We still have individuals who value profit over clean water … stock holder dividends over fresh air … and who don’t really care if another species of animals dies off as long as these humans get what they want and are still around … although I bet these folks want their water to be clean and their air to be breathable … and they want the same for their future generations that also include my grandson, Dax. There are even some people who say they are people of faith who shout against cleaning the air … who support any effort to block clean water safeguards … and proudly pose before a beautiful giraffe they slaughtered on the African plain just for the photo-op.

We are still in the season of the year when we, I hope, we can still sense Easter. Where we as people of faith have not put our full focus on planting gardens, baseball box scores, and the planning of summer weekend getaways and vacations. I am still hopeful and I do pray … boy do I pray … that those of you who are gathered with me today in person and online still spend many of your awake moments … ok, at least some of your awake moments in God’s Word … that together, we are doing the best we can to do as God calls us … because God calls us to live as God’s faithful people not just as matching elements in one of the many groups of humans who cherish the human experience while denying the divine expectations of God … I pray that we are living as if Easter is a life-call and Christmas not merely a chance to put down people who don’t put specific words in the order we demand and an opportunity to open glittery boxes under a tree.

Jesus Christ … you do remember Him because HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> … Jesus Christ; I sure hope that Jesus is a source of your joy; REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS … that kind of joy … jump in the air joy; ok, perhaps let’s skip the jump in the air this week, but Jesus the Son of God should produce in all of us an intense smile, like Daxxy’s, that you smile every single time His name is mentioned because He, JESUS CHRIST, is your personal driving force … He is the source of your peace and I pray that it is through Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit you, like me, have discovered God’s love and salvation, which is actually a part of your daily life … that you are alive and well, I pray, … because of God’s love for you and the love you return for God. Not just in these moments on Sunday’s but on your Thursday afternoons too and then for the eternity that one day will come our way.

Jesus walking along the Emmaus road with Cleopas and the other disciple turned to them and expressed outrage … “YOU FOOLISH PEOPLE!!! Your dull minds … keep you from believing.” And, these men were His disciples! I wonder what Jesus would say to us when we explained why we didn’t choose to live each and every day as Jesus taught us to live … would He question our minds? Would He go further in His comments to us than He did to those two? Cleopas’ wife, after all, had been there at the crucifixion … saw Jesus pain on the cross.

We … you and I … are amongst those who have explored life in the 21st century and discovered that a church-connection still matters in our lives. That just like fresh air … clean water … we desperately need an environment that allows us to have peace … to thrive .. to find a joy that the world can’t provide through its stuff. Our lives are better and we can find a special peace and joy only through Jesus Christ and God and yes, by connecting with a loving church family, which can pray for us and care for us in our needs and our struggles unlike the world’s community.

This Lenten season I have been challenging myself to reconsider my personal Emmaus Road walk and what Jesus might say to me if I did not recognize Him when He began to walk with me and talk with me along life’s narrow ways. Would I turn to this stranger and say HE LIVES … CHRIST JESUS LIVES TODAY … or am I busily walking with my head down attempting to just fit in with the world’s community. I have been considering whether I have been bold enough in my faith … have I replied to the prophet’s instructions, which are the essence of the daily journey of the folks who work for Jericho Road even to those providing medical care in Sierra Leone where today my friend, Phebian, has been worshiping God preparing to care for strangers coming to a health clinic … she knows that we, the people of this church, are going to get her the solar batteries the clinics need but this week have you told your friends to help with the TEN DOLLAR CHALLENGE? Basically admitting that this challenge comes because you go to church … that you are part of a church … that being part of a church means that you believe in God … you accept Jesus for the reality that He is more than a name in history … that you, like me, strive to sense the Holy Spirit on your daily journey. Has it been extremely difficult for you to post on your social media the memes we have shared … have you chosen not even to share the posts of St. Paul’s … well because you need to live in the world just not in the Light of Christ on your social media? So you hid it again.

Friends … God does not not want us to die in our statement of faith but we are called to live. Live because faith without life’s verification; yes James is very clear about this … if we claim to have faith … if we raised our hands once upon a time or answered an altar call but have hidden away our connection to God … well then the truth of our faith is the same as the truth in any of the amazing stories of humans in this collection of Shakespeare … fiction.

We hear in James, “My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”

Today’s Psalm reminds us of the call to live in our faith … are you with the psalmist in declaring, “I will call on the Lord as long as I live! I will keep the promises I made to the Lord! I love the Lord!!” Is that you … friends, we are called to LIVE … LIVE as if we love the Lord … live as if Jesus is our Lord … our teacher … our Savior!

The other day, my day was turned around when I was called to Cooper … those of us who serve as chaplains to area police officers were needed because Bobby might not make it through the day. Bobby Shisler, the Deptford Police Officer, shot down on a sunny afternoon … Bobby Shisler badge number 5273 … so other chaplains and I walked amongst the police officers putting our hands on shoulders … offering hugs and quiet words. Many of his Deptford colleagues joined us in a conference room where Bobby’s dad offered an update through tears … “Bobby’s a fighter …” and then the room was totally hushed … they turned to me .. ‘pastor, do you have a few words.’ I whispered to Bobby’s dad reaching up to put an arm around his shoulders to pray in the quietness of the hospital. I saw tears in the eyes of officers who never show weakness because they were aware of the narrow line between life and death. Bobby’s dad and I talked some more whispering in each other’s ear in the midst of our hug. Strangers … a dad whose son will probably not make it … but a dad still holding hope out.

In the hallway, a Baptist pastor and fellow chaplain whom I really don’t know … talked with me. He said, “Such sadness … we so need God’s peace in this world.” And, then he asked me … “I wonder how many of those young officers have ever stepped foot in a church … have ever opened God’s Word … even sense God in their lives except through a desperate prayer like you just prayed.” And, we talked sadly about churches closing … about people who say they believe aligning with the world more than with Christ … two strangers in a hospital hallway both wearing POLICE CHAPLAIN across our backs … realizing the truth that churches are dying … churches are on life support just like Bobby … but both reminding each other that God is alive … that Jesus Christ is RISEN <<HE is RISEN INDEED>> and that he and I … we never even really noted each other’s name … that pastors needed to make sure we show God’s love … that we remind people of their need to align with God and Christ.

And, I drove home through the late afternoon commuter traffic pretty much worn down except friends … except … I still have the peace of God’s love. I still even amidst the darkness and sadness and tears and memories of holding the man Bobby has called dad in my arms … I knew that my SAVIOR LIVES!!

And, almost every time I look at my phone I Google Bobby’s name … just wondering … thinking of his dad … I asked in the whispers, “do you have a person of faith you can turn to …”his answer gave me some hope … “I do.”

And, that brings me back to us … to you … to me … what if you were walking on your road of life … your EMMAUS road and a stranger came up to you and asked you about things related to God to Jesus Christ … what if the stranger was hungry or poor … do you know that strangers in our world may be angels in disguise, it’s here in the Word of God but what words do you use for strangers in the land?

What would you say … would you use your personal social media to allow the world to know you are church-connected and a person of faith or is that going too far in living a life where you love the God who loves you so much that God sent Jesus for us?

Jesus said to go into the entire world … declaring and showing and living as if you are a person of faith … friends WE ARE CALLED TO LIVE!!! Not for only ourselves or those closest to us but for ALL GOD’s people …

EARTH DAY … FAITH DAY … EACH DAY … a challenge exists … Cleopas and the other disciples’ eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus but today and tomorrow are you recognizing Him and then celebrating with joy the love God has provided to you but most importantly are you sharing God’s truth so that others can live too because we are not only called to live in our faith ourselves but to go into the world … making it EARTH DAY for ALL PEOPLE by declaring that God matters … Jesus Christ has brought the lessons for living life for ALL people … and that the Holy Spirit is ready to guide us through this journey until we breathe out and enter into eternity God-connected declaring that like the psalmist you love the Lord and that in the end you have lived a life lifting up the cup of salvation keeping the promises you made to the Lord rather than still trying to fit into the world even as the world passes away. AMEN

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