Acts 4: 32-35
JOHN 20: 19-31

April 7, 2024

History … they say we should study history so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past and then not repeat them. And perhaps we can learn from history how to live life in a better way than if we had to do it on our own initiative.

I wonder how many folks out there in the big old world really are interested in focusing in on the learning process and then once they learn … once WE LEARN … how many are willing to use that investment in learning, in discovery, and in the utilization of memories to hold onto the positive lessons so that life can be better and mistakes aren’t repeated over and over again. To share what we have learned with future generations?

These days, we take untold numbers of photographs since we can click away without having to pay for each and every picture. Once upon a time every picture we took came from a roll of film that we had to insert into our cameras. Many of you remember the day … purchasing film, carefully putting the film into the camera and then turning the dial until the film was set. And, we had to try to carefully decide what images to take because once we had taken those 12 photos … we had to go to the drug store or put the finished film in an envelope with cash or a check so that a film processor could turn our memories into prints and those odd negatives that we would pay for with our hard earned dollars. Every picture had its price; every memory we recorded cost something.

Those markers became prized possessions reflecting our history unless of course we discovered that our thumb had been over the lens or that the subject of our photo had moved at the last minute. Of course, if we never labeled the photo’s … well years later future viewers would be asking who are those people in that saved photo and we’d shrug, and history would be lost even though we had a print showing someone or something. We couldn’t look back into the rear-view mirror of history and find the answer unless we were lucky enough to know someone who somehow remembered.

I recently found an old ROLL FAMILY photo album. The ROLLS were my mom’s family. As I turn the pages of the album I notice some faces that I know … some were labeled … ETHEL (My mom with flowers and the family farm’s barn in the background and I’d guess that the photo was taken in the early 1940’s.), an amazingly handsome baby swinging a wooden spoon in front of a Christmas tree with an alphabet ball on his chair’s tray … I know that was taken on Grider Street because it was my first Christmas but the photo wasn’t labeled until recently and I am sure Colleen would never have known who it was, then a photo that my mom strangely labeled as “Ethel’s parents and David” … very strange that she didn’t say Lillian and Clarance. And, my grandparents in their dining room on their 50th wedding anniversary … the back stating THIS IS A KODACOLOR PRINT MADE BY’ KODAK” December 1960. I am not sure if any of my family members will ever know who the man with the sombrero is in the album or others whose photos have been glued down onto pages for more than a half century.

Scripture often brings into focus our need to remember. We do not have photograph galleries of Moses or of Rachel or of Jeremiah … boy there’s a guy I would love to have seen a photo of. We can’t go to an older relative and ask to see their collection of selfies with the disciples or Jesus. Of course, unless you are someone like my rabbi who has been hanging around for a couple of thousand years … but the prophet Isaiah tells us that God’s lesson is this, “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me.”

The psalmist declares, “Your ways, O God, are holy! I will remember the deeds of the Lord, yes I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all YOUR works and consider YOUR mighty deeds.”

And, friends that brings me to today … a Sunday when we will be sharing in The Lord’s Supper. The first Sunday of April in the year 2024. Do you even remember March of 2024? The fact that Easter was last Sunday … Good Friday 2024 further back in history as is Maundy Thursday and Palm Sunday of 2024. Do you have photo’s? Did you post them? Are you holding those moments close in your memory and sharing ….

I know that my mind is wandering all over the place these days. An Eclipse of the Sun tomorrow … heart surgery on Monday April 22, which even though I am friends with the surgeon I can attest that there’s nothing like knowing your chest will be opened up and people are going to play with your heart to make your mind wander. I have both my 31st birthday in May and an awful anniversary later that month. Annual Conference … And, of course my hockey team might make the playoffs if miracles happen, and the baseball season has started with our Phillies at .500 and sitting one and a half games back from 1st place. Lots of things to focus on … to emphasize … to invest our time in.

As I read the opening verse from today’s selection in ACTS I was once again challenged because here in this 21st century I know that the global church is not aligned … across the world God created we cannot say that “the community of believers is one in heart and mind.” Heck, the churches in this county can’t agree with one another.

And, unlike that early church … how many amongst us would be willing to hold everything in common rather than putting a label on what is mine because what is mine can never be yours … it is mine. Yet, we heard that those early Christians … the ones who had actually witnessed Jesus Christ walking with them and talking with them were ready and willing to learn from Him and Luke reports that “NONE OF THEM … not a single member of the community of believers … NONE OF THEM would say, “This is Mine!” about ANY of their possessions, but held everything in common.”

But that was then, right? WE have learned to treasure, prize, and lust for our possessions in life. To separate ourselves based on stuff … OUR STUFF … MY STUFF … to rank where we stand in society by the have’s and not have’s. Reject the not have’s of course. And, perhaps that’s why we aren’t ready to remember that we are God’s EASTER people …

Imagine with me if the world’s church community united behind the teaching of Jesus Christ. If all of us who so easily declare that ‘we are Christians’ devoted our worshiping to God and Jesus Christ rather than to worshiping people and things of the world. That our two daily priorities, every day, were to love God and to love all of our neighbors! And that all of us willingly and energetically always crossed the road to provide aid, comfort, and moneys to help anyone who is suffering and worn down by the world’s cruelties. Jesus did tell the legal expert that what it takes to get to eternal life in heaven is that willingness … to do as the Good Samaritan did and to care for the least amongst us.

Have you already put Easter in your rear-view mirror and locked it away? Dan Panetta laughed with me after church last Sunday when he said, “PD, did you count how many times you said HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> during the service?

And, no church … I didn’t count the number of times that we joyfully shouted the words celebrating Resurrection on Easter. Last Sunday, I had no intent of locking away Easter 2024 into the history books of time … relegating the joy in our packed church last Sunday into some future commentary amongst those who were here … they might say or perhaps you have already said, “Wasn’t last Easter’s service pretty good? The kids sang … can’t remember what Pastor Dave preached about but I remember shouting HE IS RISEN INEED … and then brunch afterwards was awesome. And, that chocolate bunny… so good.”

My sermon’s title by the way was WAKE UP TO GOD and our Scripture lessons were from Isaiah chapter 25 and John chapter 20. You can, if you want to, read the sermon online at our website if you forgot what I shared.

My true concern as we move forward from Easter is the fact that the words of Jesus Christ seem to be hidden away … behind closed doors perhaps because today’s version of the disciples are afraid not much differently than we heard in today’s Gospel. That there is a fear to share Jesus … and I am talking about Jesus whose words are found in the Gospels. Jesus whose focus repeatedly was on love and caring for others not about aligning with a specific power broker of His times but aligning with the God of the universe who knows no borders and does not even have a favorite sports team.

When Jesus was in the room there was peace … we heard that “when the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending YOU!”

Interesting … history reports and if we had the video we could replay it over and over again. Look forward … be filled with joy … take what you have learned … allow God’s peace to be with you … you and I are being sent by God to share the EASTER lessons of Christ. The teaching of Easter … not leaving Easter behind in our rear-view mirrors but applying the joy we felt when I declared HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> and there is joy in that isn’t there church? For the record that’s the third time today you shouted that. Sharing the joy, the peace, and most importantly God’s love!

And, we heard that “the apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all.” Perhaps a history lesson to take in today … perhaps a reminder that the joy of this church is worth sharing. That even though we might not be aligning with all of the others in this County … we the people of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of West Deptford can and should be together in bringing others to discover God’s love through this church, through our words, our actions and our social media. The lessons of loving God … loving all of our neighbors … and of being the witnesses to our segment of the world. We will receive God’s peace and grace when we do that.

I woke up this morning with a text message photo of a ram with a painted back with green grass surrounding him and waters behind him. I knew from my memories that my friend must be in Ireland …those images are woven into my mind even as I worry about today’s life but friends treasure the lessons of faith always remembering them and make your day as we share in the Lord’s Table one where you, like the psalmist, “seek the Lord with all of your heart and do not stray from God’s commands. Hide God’s word in your hearts so that you do not sin against God. Praise the Lord God and allow God to teach you God’s expectations.” AMEN. HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> that was the fourth time.

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