Isaiah 40: 21-31
MARK 1: 29-39

FEBRUARY 4, 2024

I often wonder how many individuals if given the opportunity to actually find Him … in person … would go looking for Jesus Christ. The chance to have Jesus look up and down at them and to talk directly to them about how they are doing in life. I know you’d probably say of course I would but … would you. You know, take the time.

Would you take time off from weekend casino trips or camping adventures planned for months, step away from viewing championship sporting events with a crowd of friends wearing the colors of the teams involved in the event discarding the pleasure you take screaming at officials who make calls against your team, or even from eating incredible meals planned well in advance with family members to join … just to join with the faithful … for the opportunity to search for, find and actually be with and hear from Jesus Christ? I wonder … since our time is so precious and we all need to have the opportunity to enjoy ourselves and OUR time, which WE own … to come face-to-face with the Son of God. One day we will … one day that we don’t choose … He will face us.

In our Gospel reading this morning we heard that Jesus was wide awake before sunrise, and He had left those He had been hanging out with to go to a deserted place where He could be alone in prayer. Away from His friends and the others not enmeshed in the noise of the world … just by Himself.

Actually, that leads to a curious thought when it comes to discovering God in our lives. For those of you who have come up to me and wonder why you don’t sense God or God’s Holy Spirit in your busy lives my response usually has been focused on WWJD. What would Jesus do?

What did Jesus do to connect with God? He prayed … but more than pray Jesus ran from the world to places where He was not disturbed. Probably He went where the Wi-Fi signal was so weak that messages were not buzzing His Holy cell phone. Did He quickly say a few words before putting His fork into the meal in front of Him? Did He mumble a few words either before laying His head onto a pillow or after resting His head? Did Jesus pray casually with a few common words and in a repetitive cadence? Did He rush to be noticed on the nightly news? No, Jesus went to deserted places where He could be alone in prayer. An interesting example from the One who taught His disciples and therefore all who choose to follow Him … there on the hillside overlooking Galilee’s Sea Jesus taught, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to the Father who is unseen.”

On the morning reported to us today in Mark’s Gospel, Simon and those with him left the place where they had spent the night because when they started to consider breakfast and Jesus was not there. And, they went searching for Jesus. JESUS … WHERE ARE YOU? Look over there Andrew perhaps he’s over that hill. JESUS … WE NEED YOU, COME OUT!! WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR BREAKFAST JESUS? THE COFFEE IS READY! Wait is that Him sitting over by the tree? OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE … WHERE ARE YOU JESUS?

When they found Him … it sounds like they put the onus on Him because “they told Him, “Everyone’s looking for You!” Not surprising because in today’s world many who choose not to have Jesus in their lives … many who choose not to worship God … many who reject the basic teaching of Scripture might claim to be looking for God but really don’t want to accept that it is their responsibility to embrace God and Jesus. They want some sort of voice from the sky or even from a burning bush to shout at them before they are willing to change, reject the world’s voices, and take Jesus in … yes, folks are looking perhaps but do they really want to find Him? Truthfully, everyone needs to be looking for God and Jesus Christ in their lives … including you and me.

Funny friends, because Jesus never goes away from us. God is always a presence for us. God’s Holy Spirit is ready to direct us. The Holy Trinity’s hope as reflected in Scripture is that everyone changes … everyone believes … and that everyone comes home to God.

Wouldn’t that be awesome if everyone was looking for Jesus this morning? Our churches would be overflowing with anxious, curious, and excited people who had figured out that God is real and beyond our comprehension. Their friends and family members would have invited them to come to church because they already valued Jesus in their lives. It would be incredible if the faithful had shared the truth that God has an unbelievably essential love for every single living and breathing human being, which led to Jesus being sent here to earth to teach us about living life even here in the 21st century, and at the end of the game of life, most importantly, God sent Jesus to be our ticket to paradise; our Savior, our Lord, our Prince of Peace. BELIEVE, CHANGE … experience the renewal of being born in the Spirit of God and be saved rather than being judged.

And, that brings me back to my question of the morning and one that we each need to focus in on. I often wonder how many individuals if given the opportunity to find Him in person would go looking for Jesus Christ? I hear the tales of empty and closing churches … I hear the commentary about church and Christianity … and as the Lenten Season approaches in this year 2024 I am not hearing voices declaring that they need to get closer to God and Christ rather I am once again hearing what people plan to give up for Lent … to sacrifice the chocolates and the habits not for a time to search for God but for some sort of reward experience on Easter when we get indulge in chocolate bunnies and bonbons filled with all sort of amazing fillings … unless you are on a heart healthy diet of course.

ASH WEDNESDAY is approaching … the start of the Lenten Season and yes, it is also Valentine’s Day. Choices choices choices … worship God or pay more for a restaurant dinner because it is Valentine’s Day when the prices go up. To get a smudge of ashes on our foreheads or chew on candies that say “I LUV YOU.” Hurry to sign those cards or rush to invite friends to church. I do have a challenge today for you … we are hosting three ASH Wednesday services here at St. Paul’s. One at 7am, one at noon, and one with our friends from National Park, Westville, and Colonial Manor at 7pm. I have flyers … 50 of them … and I am going to ask you to courageously take one or a couple to put up at your favorite diner at your grocery store or somewhere that showcases the opportunity to find Jesus Christ on February 14th at this church you love. If you are online you can share the meme that advertises our services; it’s easy since you are already on FACEBOOK. Just go to the posting and hit the SHARE BUTTON and magically all of your FACEBOOK friends will see that you are inviting them to church to start the Lenten Season.

What is your concept of Lent? Of a Holy Season? Do you often reflect on Easter’s truth that Jesus went to that awful cross … died … was placed in the tomb and on Easter morning the world’s first evangelists, the women, went to the tomb and found it empty and received the ultimate message of love … about Jesus for you and me … they were told in those early morning hours, “HE IS RISEN!” <<He is Risen Indeed!>>

And, if you embrace those lessons of God’s love … then in the coming weeks will you be joining me and striving to get closer and closer to God by searching for God and Jesus rather than bragging to friends about what we have given up for Lent?

James Hatfield and Lars Ulrich wrote an incredibly powerful song called, ‘Nothing Else Matters.’ Their lyrics weave for me a connection to our relationship with God and Christ. “Trust I seek and I find in You. Everyday for us something new. Open mind for a different view and nothing else matters.

When we start to look for God and Jesus Christ with a sincerity that reflects our trust that God is so evident and loving that is when we will begin to find God and God is ready to make each day new. But friends we need to make this our essence … an open mind that unlike the world as people of faith we have a different view of life; a view taught to us by Jesus Christ. You can find the directions just by reading His words … words of love … words of a calling … words almost begging humanity to discover or rediscover that peace that goes beyond understanding and that love that is so real, which can change who you are!

The call of the Lenten season also is a call to us to share the story. Jesus is quoted in today’s Scripture energetically telling His disciples, once they had found Him and probably after having some coffee, “Let’s head to the nearby villages so that I can preach there too … that’s why I’ve come! TO PREACH!”

And, Jesus preached and taught. His lessons of loving God, loving all neighbors, caring for those hurting and poor, and sharing God’s expectations reverberated through the land and into our lessons for life. We will sing today What the World Needs Now is Love but who delivers the love? Who shares the Gospel story? Who invites those outside of church to church? We are the ones … we are the ones coming to share in the Holy Meal of Communion today … we are the ones who in our search I pray have found God and Jesus Christ and continue to search for more lessons to live out in our lives.

Isaiah in today’s lesson said, “Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God … the Creator of the ends of the earth! Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength and fly up on wings like eagles. They will run … they will walk and not be weary!”

And, the songwriter sang … “So close no matter how far. Couldn’t be much more from the heart. Forever trusting … and nothing else matters.”

Let your faith be strong … be prepared for the Holy Season … share your faith because there are many who truly need to find God and Jesus Christ rather than being out there lost … perhaps not even looking any more. AMEN

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