ACTS 9:1-9
JOHN 21: 15-19
April 26, 2020 in the Year of the Pandemic

Once again, I stand before you … wherever you are in the world … to declare HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed!>>.

I am here to ask the question as the global pandemic continues to find us isolated … sequestered … socially distanced from each other … Have you discovered Jesus the Christ?Have you celebrated His Resurrection over these last few weeks? Easter happened … Jesus left the tomb behind … Mary ran and told the disciples … Jesus is Risen and in your homes have you thought about that during this past week?

Will you declare that you are one of the people who has accepted God’s love? … God’s salvation? … Are you ready to say that when God called you … you knew Jesus was for you? … On this Sunday morning are you desperate to sing praises to God in your loudest ‘sing in the shower’ voice?Can you dance with fervent energy or rock in your wheelchairs for God and Christ?Can you shout praises to the Lord because you … and I … and your neighbor across the street … and my friend Paul’s new son Jesse in Nairobi Kenya who was born this week … we have all been chosen by God … we all have been created in God’s Holy Image … God has picked every living human to be rescued by His Son Jesus … are you full of joy even amidst the storm church?Who does God want you to be this morning?Who is God calling you to be?

I know I am so thankful for God’s love … I often wonder why did God love me … why did God feel that I am worthy of heaven … but the prophet Jeremiah spells it out for us if we are willing to listen to the Creator of the Universe … God declares to God’s people who had been suffering and struggling and wondering what their next days would be like; “I know the plans I have for you; declares the Lord.They are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future with hope.When you callme and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.When you search for me, yes search for me with all your heart, you will find me.I will be present for you.”

The awesome Word of God for the people … ALL the people.But, friends if you paid close attention to those few verses from Jeremiah; actually if you pay attention to a significant number of verses in God’s Word and these days we all have more time to open up this book <<HOLD UP BIBLE>> to read the words from what we reference as our holy book … if you pay attention when you read it again or if you just listened to Jeremiah you will discover that God has plans … for you and for me … God’s plans not necessarily our plans.

But, perhaps as we consider where we are in life’s journeys this morning; I think we first need to be reminded that God has made God’s presence rather evident.The other morning in my 930 Facebook devotion as I dug through a pail of dirt from my backyard there was so much evidence of a God reality in the worms and roots and greenery.

So, God hasn’t vanished.God is clearly all around us but if we are to be people with a real and active faith then God puts the active requirement on us if we declare God you are God … you gave us Jesus.It is not merely in our ability to say a few carefully honed words because there is more. The prophet Jeremiah shares God’s thinking … ‘when you search for me, yes search for me with all your heart.”

If you don’t want to take Jeremiah’s directives from God that we need to connect with all of our heart perhaps Jesus response to the legal expert, who went to Jesus after his fellow religious leaders were left “speechless” according to Matthew, will strike home with you.Jesus said that you … this means you and me and everyone “You MUST love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being and with all your mind.”That’s Commandment number one filled with must’s so if we are going to find God as Jeremiah suggests we must do; something Jesus taught we are recruited to do as people of faith and if we want to connect with God totally then its about giving our all not just being half hearted in our faith walk and belief.God needs to be held in a place no one else has in our lives.

You see church … faith and our relationship with God is not a mere occasional appearance at a church event or saying grace at lunchtime … God isn’t jumping up and down in joy when people show up for their annual Christmas Eve candlelit service knowing that they are actually thinking about the tree, the presents, and maybe the food that follows because that is not searching for God with even half of one’s heart.

When people ask me why they don’t sense God I often reply with a question … how much time are you giving God?Where is God on your TO-DO-LIST?Because church I do believe that God is sending out messages direct and indirect that are intended not just for the clergy of this world … not just for Sunday School teachers and youth leaders … but for everyone.God has a plan for everyone.

God has a position for each human to take up during our days here on earth for God’s mission … God’s purpose … we have been given talents and abilities each with a purpose. God’s plans … our future with hope.

To be the sort of person who prays a prayer of give me this or give me that is not a person who is in a solid relationship with God.Are we asking God in our prayers to direct us where we should go next for God?For God’s purposes … to serve God … to love God.A prayer prayed in a rush knowing that we need to finish binge watching our favorite Netflix series is not searching for God with our whole hearts.

And, so these last few days sports fans were given an opportunity to connect with a quasi-sporting event known as the NFL draft.This is an annual event where the hopes and dreams of literally millions of football fans come together as teams select college players for their rosters.21 year old men … 20 year old men … men who had played football for a variety of colleges and universities.Each team considering what kind of football player their team needed to be more complete or competitive. Waiting for their turn to pick and hoping the player they have studied for months and months will not only be available when they pick but they are hoping that the young man will have all the intangibles to produce victories on the football field.

My brother and I FACETIMED on the first night of the draft and then stayed connected Friday and yesterday texting and calling each other about who the Buffalo Bills were picking or who they should pick … or wondering if a certain player really should have been the one we chose.In past years our opinions have played out and sometimes we were right and in some years even those football wise professionals clearly made a mistake in who they chose.The players didn’t have what it takes to be a good pro.

But, friends … when it comes to God it is all too often the human who tries to say not me God.We don’t rush to serve God … we keep our hands down.Perhaps one of you who has sensed God’s nudging for you to take on a new career path … to do something more for your church …. to use your God given talents to do something for God with your time rather than what you have made a priority.It can be as simple as feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, caring for the widow and orphan, or visiting the prisoner.In the times we live in … it might be supporting our doctors and nurses … calling friends … writing letters … delivering food and supplies.

We heard about Saul this morning … yes, later on his name changed and this church bears witness to the incredible man of faith he was to become but there on that road to Damascus Saul was someone who had it all.He was powerful; he not only had a trade but was recognized as a leader who stood up against the people who were following this man from Galilee. A man named Jesus whose followers reported that He had Risen from the tomb … church BTW HE IS RISEN! <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>.

Saul was carrying letters from the High Priests that gave him authority to arrest followers of this Jesus called, ‘people of THE WAY.’He had his life planned out but then God got in Saul’s way.The man Saul who was out to arrest followers of Jesus was confronted on that road by Jesus himself, the SON of GOD.Luke reports that it wasn’t just Saul who heard Jesus but those who were with him. And, God’s plan for this man Saul was to build the church of Jesus Christ. To strengthen the early churches.

We know that Paul didn’t get rich doing this … Paul went to prison repeatedly for walking with Jesus … Paul’s rewards were not tangible to the casual bystander and although it is never reported in Scriptures some of Paul’s friends who knew him better as Saul might have even told him that he was foolish to work for Jesus … that he could make more money and get more power if he casually nodded towards God but instead got on with his life … choose to live life his way for all that the world could give him.

But friends, God gives us more than the world ever can … Jesus Christ has more value than the finest richest or the best gourmet meal money can buy. If we go through Scripture we can discover that God chooses the unlikely … the unexpected … even His Son was born into poverty rather than wealth … God’s Son and Mary and Joseph became homeless immigrants to Egypt where they were not citizens … God’s call is for each of us.

And today, we heard about the conversation that Jesus had with Peter during the lakeside barbecue that Jesus prepared for His disciples.While the others were enjoying the grilled fish and bread cooked by the Son of God Jesus called Peter over to Him.

Peter who had left his successful fishing career to follow Jesus with his brother.Peter who had walked the many miles watching miracles and hearing first hand the messages of God taught by the Son of God … Peter who had denied Jesus three times.

Jesus had one assignment for His disciples, so he said to Peter … ‘Come over here with me away from the others.’ And, Jesus perhaps with His arm around Peter’s shoulder looked into Peter’s eyes and asked as He glanced back at the Disciples including Peter’s brother … ‘Do you love me more than these?’Peter responded … “Yes Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus replied ‘Feed my sheep’ but then in perhaps a slightly louder voice Jesus asks again, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?’And again Peter replies, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

This time Jesus says ‘take care of my sheep.’Once again the question came from Jesus lips .. ‘Simon, son of John DO YOU LOVE ME?’And Peter replies, ‘Lord, you know everything you know I love you.”

Jesus replied … ‘Feed my sheep … FOLLOW ME.’

Church …. You have been picked by God as humans whom God loves.DO YOU LOVE GOD church?DO YOU LOVE JESUS CHRIST?Are you a person who could be identified as being a member of THE WAY?

If you do love Jesus … then give all your love to God and listen because God has picked you and me for a mission of faith.To feed and care for God’s sheep … and to follow Jesus Christ.

We are not here by accident … we are not here to gain as much as we can on earth that we will only leave behind one day … we are called to worship God, love God and to follow Jesus Christ.


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