A GOOD FRIEND & A GOOD NEIGHBOR
Acts 8: 26-40
1 JOHN 4: 7-21
MAY 9, 2021 MOTHERS DAY
“So, God created all of humanity in God’s own image, God created them male and female. God blessed them and said to them ‘be fruitful.’ God saw all that God had made and it was very good. And, there was evening and there was morning — the sixth day.” OH HAPPY DAY!
And, Jesus declared, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me YOU CAN DO NOTHING.” For those who know Jesus and who are bearing fruit … OH HAPPY DAY!
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or SIT IN THE COMPANY of MOCKERS but whose delight is in the Lord. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in the season … whose leaf does not wither.” To those resisting the call to join in the mocking but who choose to find their delight in the Lord God who created all … OH HAPPY DAY!
And, once again friends … when we live lives in the way that has God calls us to live … as we produce fruit for the kingdom of God by being loving and caring neighbors and friends to all not just to those like us … when we obey the teaching of Jesus and clearly of God from the beginning chapters of our Bible through the closing verses then I am sure that the God of creation declares IT IS VERY GOOD … O HAPPY DAYS!! The last words of the Bible by the way are “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with God’s people … “ OH HAPPY DAYS!
On this special day of the calendar year when we celebrate women who have shown love and nurturing care to others … as the summer season approaches … have you considered the fruit you are producing for the kingdom of God? Does that even matter to you after you have read the words of Jesus perhaps in Matthew chapter 28 verses 19 and 20 or you have opened up to Acts chapter 1 verses 7 and 8 in your quest to discover what your Savior and mine expects of us? How have you declared your sense of being a good friend and neighbor to all in these difficult days? Are you willing to declare ALL your neighbors as those you love or perhaps just some … you know the ones who are like you even though you do clearly remember Jesus’ teaching that His disciples will be known because they or hopefully I can say we … love all of our neighbors; no exceptions.
Which side are you taking in the lesson I just shared from the Psalms? Hanging out with the mockers and the creative name callers or pleasing the Lord by choosing to reflect the Lord our God in all that you do, say, and write … Micah, as you may have heard, shared in our Holy Scriptures what the Lord God REQUIRES of believers … requirements certainly differ from suggestions or afterthoughts … “The Lord has told you human ones what is good and what the Lord requires from you … TO DO JUSTICE … EMBRACE FAITHFUL LOVE of ALL and to WALK HUMBLY with YOUR GOD.”
We are moving away from Easter very quickly but we can still showcase to the world that we not only believe but that Easter is more than chocolate eggs to us and that our lives are interwoven with the Easter truths. We can continue to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ …. HE IS RISEN!! <<HE IS RISEN INDEED!!>> OH HAPPY DAY!
As the sun rises over the horizon … does your heart ring out singing “OH HAPPY DAY … OH HAPPY DAY when Jesus washed my sins away?” Or is that too much for you because you are ingrained in the world that surrounds us and your energy is devoted to taking sides rather than in sharing God? You haven’t written your Affirmation of Faith yet because you can’t affirm one. Perhaps that is the greatest challenge facing those of us who call ourselves Christians as we move forward to the places our future takes us … in some cases unknown destinations for our futures coming face-to-face with people we don’t know yet and for others of us it will be the same circle of humanity whom we have interacted with for years …. How will you be known? How are you known?
That is a point of consideration this morning because time is fleeting …. I should know because my chronological clock moved forward at the midnight hour. It seems like only yesterday I was 30 … that’s right I was.
This past week, we celebrated the National Day of Prayer. I am so thankful to Charlie Taylor for sharing his gift of song and Glenda for playing the keyboards. Carla for spreading the word and bringing in the audience. And, I am thankful to our Township for entrusting our church, St. Paul’s of West Deptford, to be the church that reflects love for all of our West Deptford neighbors … You see, when I first came to this church and happily went to the community’s National Day of Prayer program I asked the organizer why there were no Roman Catholics present and he said ‘They aren’t Christians.” Apparently this man had the power of God within himself to limit and restrict our community’s day of unity and prayer to only those who were like him.
But this past Thursday’s beautiful event also gave me a sour taste because I had invited a young pastor to speak but when he heard that my Muslim and my Jewish friends would be present he said he could not be there because of them. He told me he would have to tell them they are damned … and I thought ‘where is the love?’ Where is the care for ALL neighbors … where was his example of walking with ALL people that Jesus Christ shared; Jesus did not limit his ministry to His disciples and Jesus did not walk around saying ‘you are damned’ … you over there are ‘damned too.’ What Jesus did … he walked in love; he loved the Samaritan woman at the well when Jewish folks were told by their leaders to hate the Samaritan’s. My goodness in His most clear example of how to love one’s neighbor Jesus told how the religious leader walked by the beaten man … how the man of society walked by turning his head but it was the actions of the despised Samaritan man that were good and the lesson of how true believers and followers of Jesus Christ … believers in the One God should act if we are to see the kingdom of heaven one day. And, that means we don’t pull ourselves apart but instead we ingrain ourselves with others; showing love for all … caring for the poor and the broken no matter who they are with a loving and caring smile on our face that leads to inevitable their question about why are we different … why aren’t we making up names to mock our leaders or those we disagree with … why aren’t we condemning half of society … and why are we not fearful of the future and filled with joy … why does it appear that we are having a HAPPY DAY almost every day ….
And, friends that is when we can declare … JESUS WASHED MY SINS AWAY … O HAPPY DAY. “Jesus taught me how to watch, fight and pray. Oh Happy Day!!” Don’t you want to break out and sing with enthusiasm that great song by the Edwin Hawkin Singers? It was in the movie Sister Act … OH HAPPY DAY JESUS WASHED MY SINS AWAY …
Friends … are you a good friend and neighbor to ALL this morning including those neighbors you don’t know personally and to those who live on the other side of the river or the ocean …. Do you love them all equally? Having this opportunity to worship God and Jesus Christ this morning whether you are here in person or online don’t you just want to stand up and shout O HAPPY DAY JESUS has WASHED MY SINS AWAY!! My Jesus, my Savior LORD THESE IS NONE LIKE YOU!! ALL of my DAYS I want to praise … my goodness church you do remember HE IS RISEN!! <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> Now that is some feel good God connecting Mother’s Day praising!
Luke’s history lesson about Philip always touches my heart because we hear how God brought two different people together in a faith moment. The powerful Ethiopian leader who was also a eunuch was heading home from Jerusalem after his diplomatic mission. The eunuch was clearly a faithful man as he was reading from the prophet Isaiah. But, that African eunuch … that powerful man from another nation … he didn’t have Jesus at the moment that the Holy Spirit told Philip to RUN after the carriage …. RUN up to a stranger … out of breath chasing down a carriage … ‘hey, wait … I have something you don’t have …’ Philip had Jesus. Philip’s love for his neighbors included the most unlikely neighbor to share God’s love with … a powerful man; a man from Africa; a eunuch in a carriage going down the highway … declaring to this nameless man, I can tell you what the prophet’s message is … I know who he wrote about … it is a man named JESUS. Let me share some good news. And, we heard Luke tell us what happened, “Philip started with the passage from Isaiah and than proclaimed the Good News about Jesus to the man.” Friends can you imagine Philip’s smile of joy … OH HAPPY DAY as he shared how JESUS WASHED HIS SINS AWAY … and “as they went down the road, they came to some water … and the Eunch asked “WHAT COUILD KEEP ME FROM BEING BAPTIZED?” Can you image the joy when these two strangers stepped out of the carriage after Philip told him nothing will stop you; God’s Holy Spirit is there for you … Jesus is for everyone … and Philip baptized him and than amazingly when they came out of the water Philip was gone but the Eunuch continued on his way rejoicing at what this new neighbor … a good neighbor and a good friend had done for him. OH HAPPY DAY!
So here we are … about to move forward from a brief hour of worship. And, once again the lessons of Scripture are so clear … God’s call and God’s expectations can not be dismissed as hearsay or instructions for some not all. Believers have requirements to verify that their … that our faith is true and not just subterfuge that impresses folks with our membership cards … John’s first epistle, it’s towards the end of the Bible if you go looking for it, is packed with faith reminders and our lesson today from Chapter 4 shines some light on what it takes to be the Good Friend and Good Neighbor to all people that God REQUIRES of us … John wrote, “Let’s love each other because love is from God and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God because God is love.”
He points out that on judgment day it is how we reflect God’s love that should give us confidence … he shares, “those who say ‘I love God and hate their brothers and sisters are liars. This commandment we have from God … those who claim to love God ought to love their brothers and sisters.” And, the great joy from being immersed in God’s love is that “THERE IS NO FEAR in love because perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.”
So, in this world … this world where mockery seems to be rewarded by humans focused on instilling fear and division … love can be our best weapon; love can be our protection; and love can be the way we fulfill God’s loving call to us to be fruitful in our lives not for our gain but for the Kingdom of God here on earth. You do remember saying last week … and you will say it in just a few moments in a prayer to God … ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” your request and mine that in the times we live we want them to be like heaven … where love abounds, fear is gone, and justice prevails.
Today, take time to remember those who have embraced you with love. The women who are responsible for watching over you as you grew through your formative years and who have taught and mentored you. Celebrate the women of faith who shone the light of Christ brightly towards you through love and whose example of loving all others taught you what Jesus expects. If you are like me it was your birth mom but it might have been your adopted mother or your foster mother. Perhaps it was an aunt or a grandmother … or a non-relative who was there for you like a neighbor or a teacher.
Paul wrote to the early church in Italy, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who LOVE God. Who have been called according to God’s purpose. For in this hope we were saved. The Spirit helps our weakness. If God is for us, who can be against us. He gave His own Son up for ALL of humanity. Neither the present nor the future not any powers neither height nor depth nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Friends … today is the day to be a loving neighbor and friend to all. To be welcoming and caring. To live without fear; to live in joy because today and tomorrow we will be able to celebrate the truth that JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> and we are loved. So listen to Jesus and love all of humanity and do what you can to bring them to know the love we have. OH HAPPY DAY!!! AMEN