1 John 3: 1-7
LUKE 24: 36b-48

April 14, 2024

Last night as I went to bed, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to talk about today.

Once again, the darkness and sadness in the world was literally shoved in our faces … we didn’t know whether missiles and drones would do intense damage to the lives of innocents as they began their Sundays on the streets of Haifa and Tel Aviv. The world did not know … perhaps no one in the world has any idea what the response to that onslaught of missiles and drones will be and whether we will witness a tit for tat ever increasing focus on who can inflict the most damage on the people … the living human beings of the rival nations in the holy land or whether the peacemakers shouts of STOP NO MORE KILLING can ever be effective. It does seem that the task of peace-making is getting harder again with some even suggesting war as an acceptable option here in our own democratic nation where freedom and democracy has reigned for centuries.

And yet, here in the morning there is the light of a new day, and thankfully we can read in the news how the combined military forces of the United States, Great Britain, Jordan, and Israel shot down most of the attackers’ weaponry. Apparently, no one on the ground was killed with reports noting that only one 12-year-old Palestinian girl was injured. We can breathe in the fresh air … see the flowers coming out of the ground here in West Deptford … and we can again consider our faith, our lives, and yes how we choose to move forward with breakfast on our horizons and perhaps even focus on whether walking in God’s light is our priority for today and maybe even for tomorrow.

We move forward … as everyday humans with faults and warts. A consulting cardiologist noted to me, “only one person was ever perfect and capable of coming back to life after death and his name wasn’t Dave Delaney.” By the way, His name is Jesus Christ … He died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins because friends we are all sinful. And, that Jesus Christ left the tomb empty on Easter because HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>. Yes, Jesus was and is the One perfect one … and if I challenged you to a writing assignment to list your faults, your shortcomings, and your sins … you and I would not have enough time to finish before it was time to finish today’s church service.

If we honestly consider life, we realize that there is no possibility to change or even alter in the slightest the events of our past. They are called history because they are just that … unchangeable in their amazing happiness, sadness and in their successes and in our failures. Mistakes and right choices. Life. We all live life as imperfect humans.

Those events of our lives however continue to impact us as we move forward and perhaps, we learn from them. In addition to the impact of our history, there are many choices that all of us have to make as the seconds of life tick by taking us into our unique and personal futures that are ours and ours alone. Scripture attempts to provide the guidance for our life’s journeys and the Holy Spirit is desperately whispering to us how we are to live but we all know that at times it can be really difficult to make the choice of aligning with God’s teaching when the world tells us differently. We are humans after all … everyday humans not a single one of us perfect but each of us subject to challenges, joy-filled moments, sadness, and to the ongoing human reality of imperfection.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi we are reminded again of our imperfection. An imperfection that is reflected in our holy book, the Bible, from its Genesis to the Revelation. Paul reflects on life’s realities by first warning those early Christians to “watch out for the dogs … people who do evil things” but then he shares his personal history that for some might elevate who he was in the society of his time on earth but he writes, “these were my assets, WERE my assets but I wrote them off as a loss.”

Paul then brings into focus what the Light of God can do for our lives … how the Light of Christ can offer potential and possibilities but Paul also remains realistic in his message. He shares, “In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith.”

John in today’s Scripture lesson wrote that once we understand God’s relationship to us … once we get Jesus … when we focus on being in God’s light, turning away from the world and once “we are God’s children we will have this hope to purify ourselves by practicing righteousness in the same way that Jesus is righteous.” Therein lies a challenge … we have Jesus’ words and directions, “to love all … to forgive not just once but seven times seventy … to turn the other cheek” to reject “an eye for an eye” philosophy of doing the most harm to anyone who you perceive has harmed you, which is what the world encourages us to do.

Here in the new day of April 14th in the year of 2024 we have our Holy Scripture to hold onto while realizing that there can and will be darkness in the world. Frankly, if you are a human like me … you will have dark moments in your life where you stumble and either feel pain or perhaps sadness that you want to escape from. We also have the potential to cause pain in our moments of weakness. We will make mistakes in our human condition but hopefully you and I will also have joy-filled experiences and happiness as you go forward.

Yesterday, I had another opportunity to enjoy Dax. Together as a family we went to an information day at the Toms River library discovering how together we can make Dax’s life a better one. We went for ice cream along the streets of Toms River but when we returned to Colleen’s house it was play time with Dax. Dax has proclaimed that his room is “his house” and I was invited to go into his house filled with stuffed animals and other toys. It was great fun … giggles and smiles in the room. Then Dax said to follow him back down to the living room … and in going down the stairs I missed the bottom step and suddenly felt the pain of a twisted ankle. I shouted OWWWW … the pain overtaking all those joy-filled moments.

As everyone rushed to see if I was ok, I gingerly tested my 31-year-old ankle … realized I could stand on it. Walk on it. Move forward on it. I am sure everyone has forgotten about the pain of the moment, and I didn’t blame the stair because I returned to using it again and again for play time. It was my carelessness … thankfully I could jump the bench this morning … but I won’t.

As I left church last Sunday, I knew I was going to drive to experience the eclipse of the sun. I knew that once again coming out of Easter I personally needed to take the necessary steps to stay in God’s Light … to strive to discover new ways to reflect the Easter season.

The eclipse was AWESOME … surrounded by family members, their neighbors and two members from our Wednesday night Bible Study we watched God in action … reminding us in 15 minutes of God’s power and yes, God’s call. Out in the country, at about 3:10 in the afternoon all of the birds suddenly stopped singing … it was quiet. Totally quiet except for the cracking of the fire in the fire pit. The clouds covered the sky so we didn’t have use for those glasses I showcased last week but at about 3:18 it was as if God was turning down the dimmer switch …. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK …. And there was total darkness except for the fire. The words spoken were WOW … AMAZING … and after a minute or two of total darkness the One controlling the light of the world brought the light back … CLICK, CLICK, CLICK and there was light and all of us were amazed, thrilled and saying how glad we were to have experienced those few moments.

Of course, about a half hour later the clouds moved away … if they had not been there during the eclipse we would have seen so much more but we didn’t need to. We sensed God … darkness into light.

The disciples thought they were seeing a ghost … they were terrified but Jesus kept saying, “PEACE BE WITH YOU.” They sensed out of their darkest moments the light of God that is Jesus Christ. He did his best to normalize the moment by asking for food to share … a human moment with the Son of God.

Paul used words in his letter to the Philippians that are relevant to us today … establishing a desire to “experience the righteousness that comes from knowing Christ.” A goal as we take our future steps forward. Paul fully understood that life can get cloudy just like the clouds that blocked the sun from our view this past Monday afternoon. He noted his imperfection a reflection of his human faults that were just like ours because we all are human after all. He wrote, “It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose.”

We come out of Easter … we leave the Lenten Season specifically designed for people of faith to sacrifice in order to get closer to God … we step forward on April 14th knowing hopefully that we will see April 15th with choices on life. Do we join the embittered and angry ones of the world refusing forgiveness and seeking to bring vengeful harm on others? Do we love others as Christ has loved us? Do we care for the poor and the broken?

Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.”

I stand before you again in my imperfection … sadly knowing I will slip and fall and make many mistakes and sin and if you are honest as well you will realize your imperfections, which might not be as great as mine are but together we can choose to walk in the light of God through Jesus Christ. Together, we can forget what is behind us and reach out for the things ahead of us by following the teaching of Jesus Christ, changing our lives because of God’s love for us.

Discovering the peace of Christ … the restoration of our souls that can be found besides the peace-focused still waters, and opening our minds as noted in the Gospel message that “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and a CHANGE OF HEART and LIFE for the forgiveness of sins MUST be preached in Jesus name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. And, you are all witnesses.” I pray you are witnesses choosing to walk in the light of God!

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