ARE YOU READY FOR JESUS?
Psalm 26: 1-8
JOHN 7: 25-31
SEPTEMBER 3, 2023
Are you ready for Jesus?
Seems like a rather simple question this morning here in church. But I think that most people associate that question with Christmas preparations, after Thanksgiving. After all, it is during the Christmas season that we do focus in on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, our Lord and Master, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Rabboni, or as noted in both the Gospel of Matthew and in the writings of the prophet Isaiah, He will be called Emmanuel, which simply means GOD WITH US.
Mmm; God with us. That does take me right to the Twenty Third Psalm, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Do you go there often? When we open up Scripture, especially the teachings of Jesus, we frequently discover God’s desire to be with us. All the time; not just as a holiday treat. To guide our lives. To give us hope, peace, and joy. You know the Holy Spirit … right?
So which descriptive adjective of Jesus is the one or two that strikes home with you? During the course of the year, when do you focus in on Jesus … at Christmas? In the season of Lent when we desperately sacrifice our lust for chocolate for 40 days knowing the bunny will deliver some to feed out hunger on Easter morning? At Eastertide when we remember the meal in the Upper Room that we we celebrate later today or the empty tomb; is it then that you remember Savior, Master, Lord? Or on this Sunday September third in the year 2023 as well as on Labor Day 2023 and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday… well you get the picture and I hope you are ready to shine the Light of Jesus each of those days because are you, yourself, are you ready for Jesus without a moment’s notice. Because you’ve taken on the love of God, God’s grace, which God gives to all of humanity through Jesus Christ only asking that we believe, change our lives, and follow Christ. As I will state during Communion, God’s New Covenant or agreement between the Holy and humankind came through the Table of the Lord and Easter’s truth.
If this morning is the morning when Jesus returns … how has your life been lately? Are you ready for Jesus Christ and do those who know you, work with you, live in your neighborhood, or connect with you online sense that in your life Jesus Christ is your Savior and your Lord? Your Master even … That you continue to be taught through the lessons of Jesus making Him your teacher or as Mary said your “rabboni?”
Do you make or should I say, do you take the time to be directed to “the quiet pools” where you can “catch your breath” in the presence of God … sensing Jesus in those moments and knowing that by restoring your soul through those escape moments that the Holy Spirit will send you in the right direction in life? For God’s sake … for Jesus Christ … all because of your faith, your commitment to your God through your faith, and in knowing how your connection to Jesus has changed you to a reality where no matter the struggles … no matter the pain … goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life. A life where you wake up ready for Jesus. Another day to rejoice in the Lord!
I am not sure if any of you have ever noticed but I am a fan of the Buffalo Bills’ football team. Yes …I know that may be news to most of you but over these last nine months the entire world far beyond the world of Buffalo Bills’ fans has witnessed an incredible story that transformed a talented professional athlete from the University of Pittsburgh into a global spokesperson for love … for loving neighbors … for caring about children.
Damar Hamlin’s story is well known … he survived when he nearly died in front of millions of people. He is back at work, playing professional football, and is healed but when you know his story, see his never-ending smile, and see him form a heart with his hands whenever he is in the public eye… you can’t help but think about how tenuous life is. How we just don’t know. He could have died but the right people were in the right place at that very moment when he specifically needed them and they rescued him. Not all of us will have those people near us when our moments arrive.
Damar has a jacket that he wears with a verse from the prophet Zechariah on it … he has been criticized for that jacket because some self-righteous preachers thought Damar’s image of Jesus didn’t match their treasured blue eyed brunette photo of Jesus ingrained in their brains. Damar responded to them by saying, “My beliefs and my relationship with God is not tied to symbolic images.”
This young man is living out his faith by feeding the hungry and caring for inner city kids who everyday face gang battles on the streets they live on … and that verse from Zechariah is a challenging one for any person of faith because it focuses in on my opening question for today, “Are you ready for Jesus?” Or are you focused merely on images in holiday seasons and beautiful stained-glass windows to enjoy seeing a few times each month?
Jesus, we heard in today’s Gospel lesson shouted, “Do you really think you know me and where I came from? I didn’t come on my own! I did not come on my own! The One who sent me is truthful, and you don’t know Him!” It was pretty clear that those who wanted to arrest Jesus either didn’t know God or were in denial of God’s teaching. I am sure those who were watching and commented that “this is the man they want to kill” wondered how the lessons of Jesus were so openly rejected by anyone who heard Jesus teach God’s Word and even by the religiously powerful and influential.
That verse from Zechariah on Damar’s jacket reads: “Without end or beginning there is no day and no night.” The entire text from THE MESSAGE translation reads, “Then my God will arrive and all the holy angels with Him. What a Day that will be! No more cold nights-in fact, no more nights! The Day is coming-the timing is God’s-when it will be a continuous day. Every evening will be a fresh morning. What a day that will be! God will be king over all the earth, one God and only one. What a Day that will be!”
The day is coming … whatever your image of Jesus might be … whatever your faith-connection to God might really be … none of us can predict nor guess at the last day even though we have preachers claiming to have figured it out. Their pulpit messages going explicitly against Jesus’ teaching. Jesus said not even the angels in heaven will know so don’t buy into those who say “the end times are here” because there have been false prophets who claimed to follow Jesus beginning in the times of the Roman Empire through the Middle Ages and up until today who all claim they know the date.
What matters is how we live … whether we actually believe in the faith we claim as ours. That our actions and words reflect God’s teaching whether from the prophet Micah in chapter 6 of his prophecy or in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25 or in Luke chapter 10. I will leave it up to you to go back and read Micah 6, Matthew 25 and Luke 10 along with Psalm 23 this week but you and I friends, we will never know when our day will be here and that’s why it is vital, essential, and forever beneficial to get our relationship right with God today … that we align with the psalmist and declare this morning, “I have trusted You Lord without doubting! TEST my thoughts and find out what I am like.” Yikes … are you ready to have God test your thoughts as well as your actions, words, and postings online? The psalmist continues, “I never forget your kindness, and I am always faithful to you. I DO NOT SPEND MY TIME WITH WORTHLESS LIARS or go with evil crowds. I worship at Your altar, gratefully singing about Your wonders.”
And, I go back to last Friday night. A couple in their late 40’s desperate for food, for love, to find someone who cared. Strangers in a strange land because Handan Yucel and Veli lost everything they had in the earthquakes in Turkey so they sensed the call of Miss Liberty in New York’s harbor. They came to the United States. You know the message we once proudly proclaimed to the world, right? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Once upon a time most of us believed that. … it’s Scriptural, from the Torah in the book of Leviticus we read, “When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as you love yourself, because you were immigrants in the Land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God.”
Because of the reputation of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in West Deptford New Jersey they found a way to reach out to us using Google Translate because they only speak Turkish. They were 30 miles away … needed any kind of food immediately and no pantry was available … Labor Day weekend too. It took some time before I realized that their native language was Turkish … the man who donates the soup for Soup Sunday and hosts our Men’s Breakfasts and who many of you know because of his kind smiling face is from Turkey. I needed to get the true story of Handan and Veli so I called Ish … and you heard earlier how he came to their rescue.
If you were called today to rescue a stranger … what would your response be? If you were asked to align with a group of people who opposed the teaching of Jesus but several of your friends were in the group what would you do? If you almost lost your life but are here today, Thank God, would you be showing love for all people because that’s God’s teaching … and Jesus expectation just like Damar Hamlin does?
God is ready to restore our souls … today, whether you are here in church or online about to share in the Holy meal of Communion … how would you answer Jesus’ question, “Do you really know me?”
Every time I look at my left wrist I realize that we just don’t know how long this journey is. No matter the hardships and sadness I can say I rejoice in the Lord always … I hope you can too. Are you ready for Jesus and are you sharing His story through your words and actions each day? AMEN