2 Kings 23: 1-9
LUKE 9: 18-27

February 27, 2022

Yesterday afternoon, Donna, Megan and I went to Colleen’s house to see Colleen and Ryan … ok, we went up to see our grandson Dax and seeing Colleen and Ryan were our peripheral benefits of the visit.

Those of you who have grandchildren understand the inexplicable joy you get from time with the child or the children of your own children. You get smiles and love and giggles and playtime and you don’t have to clean up their messes. In fact, you get to enjoy all the positive aspects of sparkly eyed little ones … at least when they are young … and then when grumpiness or tired eyes set in … you get to leave and go home. Until your next visit.

And, Dax didn’t disappoint one bit yesterday … when we arrived he had a cup of milk in his hand. Up went the hand and a stream of milk flew across the sofa. “Ryan,” I heard Colleen call out …. “Can you clean up that mess on the couch?”

Actually it wasn’t quite a question … if you know what I mean. And, then before going to the restaurant to celebrate Colleen’s new job … well, we all had sort of noticed that there was a mess that needed to be cared for that might impact our taking in the fine aroma’s of a quality dinner; you understand, right. “Hey Ry,’ my youngest daughter said. “Can you change Daxxy’s diaper?”

Now sometimes, diaper changing for a 2 ½ year old also requires negotiations with the one wearing the diaper. In many cases those young people perhaps don’t sense the discomfort in the room coming from their pants … but once again my awesome son-in-law cleaned up the mess and away we went. Please note, I do not do diapers any more.

Can you imagine God’s view of humanity each day? God’s directives to the Holy Spirit to nudge, push and direct people of faith to take actions as clearly explained in Holy Scripture? To clean up the messes we, as humans of faith, have made and in the case of others who do not believe their messes – well God is relying on God’s people of faith, people like you and me, to stand up for justice while also showing love for all, shining the light of Jesus while sharing His story, and maintaining, as good people of faith, a loving yet humble connection with the Creator. So, God does expect God’s people to clean up the mess that surrounds us rather than allowing the stench to overwhelm God’s creation.

You don’t have to dig too deep into the Bible to hear Jesus say these words, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. I, myself, will be with you every day.” Jesus, after criticizing His disciples unbelief and stubbornness, said to them “Go into the world and proclaim the GOOD NEWS to EVERY CREATURE. Whoever believes will be saved but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” “You will receive the Holy Spirit and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Swedesboro, even unto the Delaware Valley and Samaria, and the Jersey Shore, and to the end of the earth.” The teaching directives of Jesus Christ, Son of God … whom I hope and pray is your Savior, Lord, and Master.

Majesty! Worship His majesty! Unto Jesus be all glory, honor, and praise!” We certainly do say and sing interesting words of commitment when we are in church don’t we?

Jesus before ascending into heaven was helping to clean up His disciples’ messes but Jesus was giving us direction as to our ultimate responsibility. The call to the Christian church … to those who believe in Jesus Christ … all who have heard Jesus COMMAND … not a pretty please if you feel like it request … we heard the COMMAND in today’s lesson from Luke, “ALL who want to come after me, MUST MUST MUST MUST say no to themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” And, He warned with clarity, “whoever is ashamed of me and my words, I will be ashamed of that person when he comes before God and God’s angels.”

And, so can you even begin to imagine God’s thoughts this week realizing that once again the world community has allowed an evil dictator whose life history includes leading the torture of human beings for the KGB in the former Soviet Union to march his armies into the free nation of Ukraine destroying the freedom of those people while killing who knows how many innocent ones. Of course, Putin is no stranger to killing and horrifying innocent people. Imagine God’s thought process when he hears some individuals declare this torturous man is a good leader who leads the right way.

But, today I don’t want us fixated on others although we do need to keep the people of the Ukraine in our prayers. We also need to keep the people of Russia in our prayers because circumstances have put them under the control of a purely evil man. I am sure the vast majority of Russian citizens just like all Ukrainians and most of us desire peace. What we are witnessing is what happens when love of neighbor is abandoned for the sake of empowerment. When humans embrace evil and hate … well we are seeing the results and God is shaking God’s mighty head wondering where the followers of Jesus are. I wonder how often God wonders where you and I are in the midst of today’s world.

As we begin to enter the Holy Season of 2022 and hopefully leave the worst of COVID behind us … there is a desperate need to clean up the mess we have allowed to permeate and stink up God’s world. We as the church attenders who find promise and connection in worshiping the God of Creation have a responsibility to not only connect ourselves to God but also to do all we can to renew and yes, revive the church of Jesus Christ even though we may only have limited resources and power …but the good news is we always have God with us. Somehow, we need to bring families back to God … young people back to a commitment to Jesus Christ and old people who somehow think they can spew divisiveness to a realization that they are to love all of their neighbors not just themselves or people who look or sound like they do.

So, where do we begin?

“O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end …” We sang those words this morning as you might remember but in the moments when you either raised a hand or stepped forward in a church service after hearing an inspiring message … rushing to the front of a church or stadium or other gathering to say ‘here I am Lord’ … in those moments did you align yourself with God and Jesus Christ by promising to serve God right to the end of your times here on earth? Fully knowing that the Kingdom of heaven would be your reward in making this decision of faith. When you became a believer … did you agree to clean up your personal mess for God’s sake. Out of love of God, did you commit yourself to change. Do you still have that same level of connection today as you did in the moment?

In his song, Time Passages, Al Stewart wrote about the end of life as well as life’s journey. “[1]Years go falling in the fading light … time passages. Don’t know why you should feel that there’s something to learn, it’s just a game that you play.”

And, Jesus Christ … born in the manger, which we celebrated on Christmas Eve because we know most church attenders actively put Him aside on Christmas Day when the tree matters more … Jesus Christ Son of God; the One who from the very “beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Everything came into being through the Word and without the Word … nothing.”

That Jesus whom you declared as Savior … whom you and I declare we believe is the Son of God … if you and I are failing to learn from Jesus teaching … if we are reserving our Jesus moments only to when we are alone or connected in church then did we ever really promise to serve Jesus to the end or is our Christianity just a game we play denying that we have something to learn and discover for our faith walks in our time passages insuring that we fit in with the world in denial of Christ’s teaching?

Are you and I creating messes of faith because the world’s darkness offers more appeal or because we are embarrassed to be shown in the light of Christ … and are we waiting for God to clean up the mess God’s children create including our own … guessing we’ll be ok because we raised our hand or rushed forward on an alter call … or neatly wrote our name in a Bible that gathers dust?

Well, the really good and awesome news is that God is a forgiving God … God is a God who celebrates faith and repentance!

As we enter this season of Lent I am asking you to join me in a journey of both rediscovery and renewal. I want you to be bold enough when people ask you what you are giving up for Lent to say “I am giving up belonging to the world and am again making the choice to serve Jesus to the end!”

I believe that if we each discover the essence of our faith that we will be embolden to share it so that God’s church grows … love becomes an operative word … and yes, we begin to insure that this mission location of God in West Deptford has the strong footing to last another 100 years or more serving God through worship and mission.

The year was 640BC. Josiah was the new ruler of Judah. Now, Josiah’s father and grandfather had been evil rulers … Putinesque you might say. False gods were lifted up and the people bowed to the flags and the images that had nothing to do with Jehovah. [2]Josiah inherited a nation that practiced witchcraft, idolatry, child sacrifices to demon gods, astrology, and every kind of wickedness imaginable. God’s judgment was certainly imminent.”

But, friends Josiah recognized that God was God … Josiah had lived through the tumult of evil and darkness yet he was not going to succumb, which he could have easily done. The new king ordered the Temple of God to be restored! He took down all the images of the false gods and destroyed them. He cleaned up the kingdom … he led by example … Hilkiah rediscovered the Torah, the first five books of Scripture that include God’s expectations for God’s people. AND THEY WERE READ and TAUGHT!

Josiah went public and committed himself to God! Promising to do what God directed him to do! He then called on the people to repent of their sins … he wanted everyone to experience the spiritual renewal that he had discovered. The joy and peace of faith … the awesome feeling when God is active in your life. He knew it was right to clean house … to get rid of the personal messes that had kept God away.

The lessons from Second Kings is that the past does not have to be the future. That when God’s Word is rediscovered amazing things can happen, and God is always ready to welcome us back with love when we come to God with love!

God clearly has commanded us to have no other god before God yet so many humans worship other humans following their words while ignoring the Bible. It is so easy to stray from God’s clearly lit pathway when we hide God’s Word and dismiss worship as something that is occasional … when we find momentary benefits in not serving Jesus thinking no one will notice.

[3]So, friends … “Jesus, the eternal Son, left His throne to love us completely. He died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead three days later.” HE IS RISEN <>.

Scripture teaches us to keep the Passover and make it holy … Scripture teaches us a lot. But, the overwhelming truth that should bring joy to all of our hearts is that the God of Creation loves us … that Jehovah the God of Israel and of all time wants us to journey with God and Christ through eternal life in heaven and has made the path so easy.

As this year’s Ash Wednesday approaches, this church gives you three opportunities to worship God … at 7am, at noon, and then at 7pm at the Westville church with friends from other United Methodist Churches … will you find value on the first day of Lent in the year 2022 to actually take time from your busy busy schedule to worship God in a church with other believers?

There is a quote I have always loved, I am not sure who wrote it and most of you know it, “When the caterpillar thinks his world is over he becomes a beautiful butterfly.”

We may be walking around with our messes quite evident to others even though we are good with having the mess … but God is ready to clean us up and make us beautiful. God is ready for us to take on our assignment of being change agents in the world.

Let this Holy Season bless you as I pray it will bless me. Let it change you and bring you closer to God just as I pray it will make my relationship with God stronger and better.

Go out into the world today embracing the light of Christ and noticing who in your world deserves the opportunity to get closer to God and Jesus with you and tell them the story of Jesus because I think they deep down want to hear the truth of our Savior who came through God’s love! AMEN

[1] ‘Time Passages’ by Al Stewart RCA records
[2] Encountering God; 10 Ways to Experience His Presence by David M. Edwards, published by BakerBooks
[3] Ibid

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