1 Kings 3: 5-12
MATTHEW 13: 44-52

July 30, 2023 – HEALING SUNDAY

When the music fades all is stripped away and I simply come. Coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about You Jesus.

Before Matt Redman wrote ‘The Heart of Worship,’ which we sang this morning, he says that his church in England was struggling to find a true connection with God and Christ. His pastor challenged the congregation by asking, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?” And then the members of that church began to actively reflect on their faith … they started to journey together, they opened up to study their Bibles together, and Redman says, the members of that church began to rediscover the value of Jesus Christ not only on their Sunday’s but for their lives. And, the church grew because the church’s members shared the story of the church and their new personal connection to Jesus with their community. They came to believe that in life’s short journey that God matters and that they should make sure their life’s actions were all about Jesus.

Redman actually wrote the song in his bedroom for himself … questioning what he had been doing with his life, and what he needed to do. He then sang it in church, and today, it is one of the most popular songs of worship in the English-speaking world. Do you ever question your relationship with Jesus? Know that it should be better? Could be better? Think about doing something to make that change? I know I do.

Perhaps you had forgotten about the Bible story of Solomon’s dream that we shared this morning. God coming to offer Solomon anything that he wanted. Solomon did not ask for long life nor wealth nor for victory over his enemies … he asked for a wise and understanding mind with the ability to discern good over evil. “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had made this request.”

I wonder what we each would wish for … I know I have had conversations with many people as to what they would do if they won the billion dollar or even its lesser cousin the one hundred-million-dollar lottery and its usually focused on stuff; material things.

Think about your relationship with the Holy… how you connect with God… what you need from God… what would you ask for? Would you ask for assurance that you would be in heaven one day with everyone you love? Would you ask for a long life with good health? Would you ask God to guarantee that you would never struggle financially… you could have new cars, a beautiful home, and tickets to the shows?

When the music fades and all is stripped away…” where is your relationship with God taking you. Do you know what Jesus taught humanity to do with our lives while we are able to? Do you know what God’s expectations are and are you willing to make those expectations part of your life?

Or is your Jesus just a plastic Jesus like this guy? There are far too many church attending individuals as well as the vast majority of non-church attending people who claim to be Christians who hold Jesus up only as a figurine. They like telling others that they are Christians and that in the Christmas season everyone should say Merry Christmas. I know growing up we had this copy of Warner Sallman’s painting of Jesus holding the lamb on our kitchen wall, which is where I keep it today but even though I looked at that image almost every single day growing up … it did not make Jesus real to me. That copy of a painting may have kept Jesus in my mind but it was just a print on a piece of wood. Like all of you … I have always needed the real and living Jesus Christ!

On Thursday night there was an energy level here in this Sanctuary that brought joy to every single person witnessing it. The energy of the children … children whose family members invested the children’s time in our Vacation Bible School. Children who learned about Moses but more importantly about God and Christ … they sang songs of faith that shook the rafters … thanks to the amazing teachers and leaders and volunteers who gave up their time this week for the children … the children offered a powerful echoing statement, quoting the verse we all need to remember from Hebrews, “JESUS CHRIST is the SAME YESTERDAY, and TODAY, and FOREVER!”

The kids at Vacation Bible School did not hesitate to shout it out loud; they learned the truth! Don’t you wonder why we hesitate? Why we sing softly? Why we don’t praise the Lord God with loud clashing cymbals?

Friends, we know from John’s Gospel the truth about Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Jesus, church, should never be put up on a shelf or relegated to just a painting to view or a beautifully crafted stain glass to admire … “Jesus, God’s light … the spotlight … the living and engaged Jesus is the true light that shines on all people.” The Gospels always proclaim that all of humanity is included in God’s plan … God’s love for ALL … And, ALL … not just those approved by Pharisaical religious leaders with agendas focused on their own power and those who nod their heads in agreement because a human told them their rules … “ALL of those who welcome Jesus … ALL who welcome Him and believe in the name of Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord and Master … ALL of them have been authorized to become God’s children … born from God.” That’s Scripture … that’s what we need to remember and focus on.


There is a challenge … a somber truth that we need to consider because we all know people who treat Jesus as a plastic symbol … we all know people who when told what Jesus taught loudly reject those expectations because it goes against their politics or their self-indulging lifestyles.

Our Gospel lesson today offers three parables of Jesus. Two are very short reflections of a connection to God’s heavenly promise for humanity and the third one perhaps is the warning to all of us reflecting on the first two verses.

And, those first two verses are a reminder of God’s expectation that once we discover that Jesus is not plasticized but alive and real we will joyfully come to believe. Once we discover that God is not George Burns in disguise but the Creator of the universe, we should want to do what God expects us to do. God has already given us enough wisdom and ability to discern God’s truths in an easy manner … we only have to believe and then live as if what we claim to believe is true. We need to treasure the essence of our faith … we need to ensure that our actions are reflective of faith because as James clearly states the obvious truth that faith without actions is dead.

When the music fades all is stripped away and I simply come. Coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about You Jesus.

So, Jesus said … “the Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field which someone else found. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field.”

This short lesson is reflective of Jesus teaching from Matthew 19 when the rich man asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus said, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have your treasure in heaven. And, come follow me.”

Most agree that what Jesus is asking … what God is expecting … is that when we discover God and Jesus that the joy and peace that goes beyond understanding will lead us to change our priorities of life. To figuratively buy into God’s plan and sell the plans we were aligned with before. As the song says, we need to “come back to the heart of worship,” which is all about Jesus not about any human leader nor collective group of humans that appeal to us but to get right with God by making what at times can be difficult decisions as to our priorities.

The third parable is similar to Matthew 25 where Jesus reminds those gathered before Him, most of whom considered themselves Jesus followers, that only the righteous individuals who not only said they believed but showcased their faith by feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, giving drink to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked as well as caring for the sick and the prisoners would see the Kingdom of Heaven. The others who said they believed never fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the strangers, visited the prisoners, nor cared for the sick and their fate was not what they had planned for even though they knowingly rejected God’s teaching through Jesus.

So, Jesus teaches that the angels will put the good in one place and the evil elsewhere. The plastic Jesus on a shelf would be no help to those who had chosen to reject the teachings of the living Christ, the Son of God.

So, today as we continue to celebrate VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL … what is at the heart of your worship on Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, Thursday’s, Friday’s, Saturday’s, and of course on Sunday’s? As July 2023 vanishes from the calendar and August arrives is it ALL ABOUT JESUS?

Men, are you interested in a Men’s Bible Study? Church, are you thinking about families you can invite to church once the summer months are over and Sunday School has started again? People of faith … are you ready to show God’s love to all of our neighbors and what is your offering for God?

I am thankful that those children this week learned that “JESUS CHRIST … is the SAME YESTERDAY, and TODAY, and FOREVER!” Are you happy knowing that too … for you and for them?

We serve a living Savior … He’s in the world today and He’s not plastic but alive and calling ALL of humanity to believe. AMEN

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