1 Samuel 3: 2-12
JOHN 14: 15-24

August 14, 2022

This morning as we sang Chris Tomlin’s take on one of the best known hymns of the Christian music catalogue, Amazing Grace, were you thinking about God’s complete and total love for you? “Once lost but now found; blind but now you can see?”

Did you ever consider yourself lost out in the wild, wild world beyond these church walls or these online moments of worship … out there where power, jealousy, anger, vendetta’s, lust, division, hate, and selfishness thrive?  Ever feel like you needed to be rescued from any particular storm of life or perhaps two of them or three or more?  Those storms do pour down on each of us with regularity when we get out in the world and as humans sometimes we get caught up in them.  Friends, when you allow the storms to control your life … you just might lose sight of The Light and forget Jesus.

Do you remember … do you remember …  the very moment; the exact time and place in your life’s journey when Jesus Christ came into your life to rescue you?  When you, you personally, rather than through some faith-osmosis from the teaching of a pastor or friend … that very moment when suddenly the world didn’t matter anymore and you, as an individual, decided to put all of your trouble … all of your struggles … all of your everything into God’s hands and you sensed an amazing relief as the flood of God’s mercy washed over you … AMAZING GRACE, God’s endless love given without you nor I having to do anything other than truly believe and actually be changed because truthfully, how can we say we believe but not change.  The cost … Jesus paid the cost on that wretched cross on the hill next to two criminals mocked by the soldiers, the powerful, and the politically-focused religious leaders who put Him there.  How, precious did God’s grace first appear in those moments when you and I first believed in that Jesus!

Ever feel wretched … as you reflected on how you treated another human being?  On some action you took that you know really did not measure up to the person that you think you have the capacity of being?  Wretched deep inside for your ongoing behavior, your inability to love ALL of your neighbors or perhaps feeling wretched because you accepted some lesson you were taught that said to never forgive anyone who you feel has slighted you?  Or, just wretched realizing how you may have ignored God in a moment, in the weeks or perhaps even over the years.  I know I have been there.

AMAZING GRACE … how sweet that sound that SAVED A WRETCH LIKE ME.”  The song when you sing it with meaning is not a song about the person sitting on the other side of this beautiful church this morning nor is it a song about someone sitting in their living room worshiping with us in another state or another nation.

WHEN WE COME TO WORSHIP GOD and that’s what we are here to do either in person or online.  And, when we engage in worship by singing to God, praising God, and in praying … you and I as individuals are sharing in an experience using words both spoken and silent that should be sincere and honest and open to God so that once again we can hear the Spirit of God calling out to us … calling us to live as people of faith, to change perhaps; to definitely improve; and to actually do what we as Christians know we are to do …. “I was blind but NOW I SEE.”

Friends, AMAZING GRACE how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me … is about you! And, it is about me. Right now … I hope the only place you want to be is worshiping God here in this church or online with us and sensing God’s Holy Spirit while being so thankful to call Jesus Christ Savior, Lord, Master, Immanuel.

We each need to be focused in on God’s Amazing Grace for us as individuals because God through Jesus Christ saved a whole lot of wretched human beings, actually all humans, beginning with me; out of love.  If we think we don’t need that grace … that we are somehow better than hearing the Spirit’s call. Well, then I would suggest we are out in the world rather than accepting that the Lord has promised good to those who believe.

We need that Spirit of God to direct our lives. To follow Jesus Christ and take on the challenges of the world walking in The Light of our Savior.  We need to be set free … we need to take off the chains of the world that weigh us down into squalid ways of the world that go non-stop against God and God’s teaching.

In 1862, shortly after the United States government went to war with the traitorous southern states that had attempted to divide the nation; states where human beings were held as slaves and states that endorsed children being whipped and sold away from their parents … Almost immediately after the Civil War started, the US Navy formed a blockade that caused slave owners who owned plantations on St. Helena Island in South Carolina to run away to the mainland. The whip toting so-called masters were gone and those human slaves from the Island’s plantations were the first freed humans taken out of the bondage of evil and rescued during the Civil War.

The United States government assigned an abolitionist named Charles Picard Ware to reorganize the farms, work with the people who were now free of their chains, and to help them live life.  His cousin, William Francis Allen, worked with him and  in 1863 shared the words of a song that these former slaves sang as a boat across a creek on the island.

Michael row de boat ashore, HALLELUJAH! Michael row a GOSPEL BOAT, HALLELUJAH! Brudder lend a helping hand, HALLELUJAH! 

These verses were amongst many and yes, I am sure our dear sainted Sally Jordan would want only two verses but there were so many messages that needed to be sung. One of the verses that Allen wrote down that he heard these men and women sing is one that is fitting for today … fitting for every day … fitting if we are people of faith listening carefully to hear the Spirit calling us to do God’s work. “Sinner row to save your soul, HALLELUJAH! Sinner row to save your soul ….HALLELUJAH.”

God is calling each of us … God does not need to remind us of the truth of faith because we, as church attending people, are already labeling ourselves as Christians.  We have heard about Jesus’ journey … He was born in a manger … taught us how to live … died on the cross … on Easter morning the world discovered that HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> and then he taught for 40 days more, ascended into heaven and is coming back again one day.

We know those facts … my one wrist band reminds me of those truths but friends, as James states, “You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves.  Those who hear but don’t do the Word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror.  They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like.”  Do you do that after being in church?   Walk away … forget … disconnect … ignoring God in the moments ahead allowing the world’s storms to swallow you up … perhaps even inviting the world’s storms in by your words and actions and denial of God’s love and Spirit.

Sinner row to save your soul, HALLELUJAH! Sinner row to save your soul ….HALLELUJAH.”  We cannot allow the world to win in our lives… we need to row … and row hard to move forward in our faith journey and we need to hear God calling out to us through God’s Holy Spirit.

Samuel was confused …. He thought Eli was calling him.  When first one man and then one woman approached me to ask if I was a pastor I quickly brushed them off.  We heard this morning again that Samuel didn’t even know the Lord … but still God was calling to him and it took Eli’s realization that it was “the Lord who was calling to the boy.  Then the Lord came calling “Samuel, Samuel!”

Friends, this time … Samuel was ready for God.  “Your servant is listening.”  An interesting phrase that is used throughout Scripture … Samuel,  telling history that he was a servant of God.  How often do you think of yourself as a servant of God or have you made an active decision to make the God of the universe your personal servant whom you expect to answer your requests and demands … your genie in a bottle.

One of the challenges we have friends is that we need to accept that God is God … we need to treat God as God … we need to row to save our souls rather than just expecting God to take care of us because we deserve to be taken care of …. Do you actually believe what you sang … “AMAZING GRACE … how sweet the sound that SAVED A WRETCH LIKE ME.

Or, do you think you are so amazing that the God of the universe needs to get it through God’s head that you are in control and that God has no choice but to give you salvation no matter how you treat God?  That no matter how you live, no matter what words you spew out, no matter how many humans you treat as if they are gods or objects of the world that you hold in higher regard than Jesus and His teachings that you somehow can tell God what to do and God will do it? <SNAP FINGERS> Just like that.

You servant is listening,” Samuel said.  And,  the Lord God said, “I’m about to do something that will make the ears of all who hear it tingle!”  God in God’s AMAZING GRACE is offering salvation to all who believe … should make us tingle.

So where do we begin … again … our Gospel lesson is a good place to start.  Jesus said, “If you love me … YOU WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS; whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them. I will ask my Father and He will send a Companion who will be with you, the Spirit of Truth will be with you.”

One of the Twelve, Jude, asks why Jesus was not revealing Himself to the world but only to His believers.  Jesus answered by saying “Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love them. The Word that you hear is the Word of the Father who sent me.”

What we hear … what we sense … what we need to follow IF YOU LOVE JESUS CHRIST … is the Word of God, the directions of God that the Holy Spirit brings to us. And then brothers and sisters … if you hear the Spirit calling then you and I need to row out into the world doing the work of God, living as people of faith, and making disciples so others can experience the AMAZING GRACE and be set free with God’s unending love covering each one with His mercy that has already saved a wretch like you and me. AMEN

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