Are You Part of the God Connection?
Isaiah 9: 6-7
LUKE 6: 27-36
July 24, 2022
We went to see The World According to Snoopy yesterday at the Hedgerow Theatre in Media. Donna’s mom, June, and her sister, Beth, are up visiting from Florida and I thought an afternoon in this beautiful theater would be a fun time. Little did we know that the heat outside would be oppressive making a visit into a dark cool theater, for an uplifting musical, the absolutely perfect choice.
Of course, I wore my Snoopy t-shirt and when the show was over all of the cast members, who had gathered for photo’s, took notice. All of the actors were fantastic but the one portraying Woodstock, that cute yellow bird creation of Charles Schultz, was the one Megan had to get a photo with. He had an incredible loving spirit about him.
Charles Schultz … a comic strip artist who became a franchise in himself, thanks to the Peanuts’ comic strip that still runs in newspapers around the world featuring Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Linus, the Red Haired Girl, and of course Snoopy, was a man who could deliver a universal message tied to God. Charles Schultz, a man of faith … a man who lived his life as part of the God connection … never hesitating to show what was his ultimate motivator in life … Jesus Christ, his Savior, and how he valued his worship and acceptance of God and God’s reality.
This morning as we begin another horrendously hot day and as our church focuses on the spirit of Christmas … are you an active, visible, and joy-filled member of the God connection just like Charles Schultz was? Is the universal and clear message of God through Jesus Christ wrapped up in love … the God message … is that the one message that motivates you, energizes you, and creates an incredibly positive spirit of love in you for the world around you to see? Or does the world see something else when they see you, hear you or read your words?
On this summer day when we each will be striving to stay cool … when our church hallways will be filled with children … children excitedly awaiting what Christmas in July is going to be all about … children loved by God … children like all of us deserving to experience the Jesus story and the Holy Spirit’s directions … the Jesus message not the shouts of faces on television who use their alleged religious positions and wealth to divide and conquer the world but the simple message for ALL humans that God clarified through a man named Jesus. God’s love equally available no matter what some church dividers may be saying in the times we are living through.
Yes, the God connection through Jesus for us begins with the Christmas story. God was reaching out to humanity before Jesus was born … it’s just that we humans get stubborn; we humans get selfish; we humans like to criticize others without thinking the harm our words do, we humans like to create gods amongst ourselves to hold onto or wave a flag for rather than facing the facts that there is something so much greater out there. Bigger than all of the universe … more loving than we humans can understand and when we finally understand the truth … when our lives finally are changed then … in those moments when we breathe God in … we just have to exhale and declare out loud MY GOD! And, then we get the truth that God is worthy of our worship and love.
We heard from the prophet this morning … those prophets connected to God who provided the people of Israel with vivid reminders of the importance of being connected to and with God. The essential human need that we all too often forget in our hurried lives to actually worship God and to love God. To give up some of our time for God.
The prophets sometimes used language that challenged the people of their times as well as challenging those of us who read their words in the 21st century. There is a reason, I believe, that we needed the clarification that comes from the Gospels … so God gave us Jesus Christ.
However, the prophet Isaiah offers you and I and every person with even the least bit of interest in discovering that beyond the farthest reaches of the universe is a reality we call God. The prophet’s words offer hope as well as a challenge.
The recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope were so amazingly beautiful and beyond anything we could have ever imagined. We heard that those pictures actually challenged scientists. One declared, “We were kinda sideswiped, to be honest.” The beautiful images we saw only verify to me once again that the universe we live our lives in did not randomly appear out of nothing …. That there is a power beyond human comprehension. And, that power … that scientists cannot define … is who we call God. Not an old man in the clouds but a loving power who created the universe and all that is in it.
But God, while being willing to reveal God’s greatness, never wanted to be disconnected from God’s creation called humanity here on earth. We are valued … we are loved … we have been ever since the first humans walked on the planet but God decided before creation occurred that humanity would have free will. We would have the ability to make decisions for ourselves even when the decisions are wrong and against God. However God always has wanted each human to worship God … to love God … to be connected to God in a mutually loving relationship … God even throws parties when people come back to God.
And, God declared to the prophet Isaiah … “A child is born to us, a Son is given to us, and authority will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be vast authority and endless peace … with justice and righteousness now and forever. The Lord of heavenly forces will do this ….”
And, friends this brings us to the Christmas story but actually it brings us to Jesus, the universe, and to you and me.
In a few minutes, Molly will be singing these words “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O my soul, worship His Holy name. Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship Your Holy name.”
Sounds sort of prophetic doesn’t it … the singer declares that whatever happens in the course of the new day that at the end of the day that the song of worship will be sung from their very soul … for God. That’s being in the God connection … that’s living as a person of faith … that’s making an active decision to love God and live like you love God rather than the world.
The birth of Jesus was not what really mattered; His life and teachings are. It’s rather obvious because two of the Gospel authors don’t even mention the entire Bethlehem scene at all. However, today I want to say that the evening’s experiences of the shepherds matter as a life lesson for us … because they experienced Jesus and then they told everyone about their new discovery! They were connected with God.
Today, though … I want us to focus in on the prophet’s words because the call of God is for God’s people to actually act like we believe. Prophecies are fulfilled and prayers answered more often than not when people of faith take up the challenge and live as if we are part of the God connection through Jesus Christ.
So, for a few brief moments let’s breakdown the prophet’s words … ““A child is born to us, a Son is given to us, and authority will be on His shoulders.” Do you believe Jesus was given to you, to me, and to everyone in this world. I know I can sense your nodding heads … your affirmation of this truth of God but my next question is …. DO YOU PLACE ALL AUTHORITY for LIVING onto Jesus? How frequently have you read the Gospels, which is the only place where we can discover what Jesus said about living life. Did you read the Gospels this past week? Last month? This year? Because if you are not reading the Gospels … if you are merely entrusting your faith walk to some face on television then you are shoving the authority right off of the Son of God’s shoulders and letting His teaching fall to the ground to be stamped upon.
We heard today’s Gospel teaching from Luke’s history from the Sermon on the Mount as a clear reminder, Jesus says, “But I say to you who are willing to hear.” Let’s stop there because Jesus understood that you have to be willing to hear … to listen … to follow. If you are part of the God connection … are you willing?
Jesus continues, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Give to everyone who ask. Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.”
“And, unto us a child has been given …. And authority shall be on His shoulders.”
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be vast authority and endless peace. And, Jesus taught … Or should I say he counseled us as a Wonderful Counselor would counsel … or shared expectations as a mighty God might expect or teach as a Father who wanted peace for humanity … “If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
So, are you part of the God Connection as our week of Vacation Bible School begins? Have you invited every possible child from your circle of life to come here to St. Paul’s this week … to discover Jesus?
One of the closing songs from the musical yesterday has these lyrics, “If just one person believes in you … deep enough and strong enough believes in you. Hard enough and long enough before you know it someone else will think “if he can do it, I can do it.” Making it two, two whole people. Who believe in you and if two whole people believe in you deep enough and strong enough believe in you there’s bound to be some other person who believes.” When we live the God connection of faith … we can change the world just as God promised but it takes one, then two, then three, and four who believe strong enough and hard enough and who are willing to live as part of the God connection. AMEN