Ezekiel 37: 1-10
LUKE 1: 46-56

July 25, 2021

Mary … did – you – know? On that afternoon when you were talking with your friends … when you were dreaming dreams of life with Joseph … did you happen to look out over the plains beneath your hillside home town of Nazareth perhaps noticing some shepherds in the field … not knowing in those moments that shepherds would be forever part of your life’s story? Would you have ever guessed in those moments that God needed you, the teenage girl named Mary? That God was going to call on you … that you would give birth in a manger’s squalor, surrounded by animals, to the child who came to save the world?

How could she have known? But, she said yes to God’s call … God the priority for her life. And, in her statement to the historian in what we call Mary’s Song from Luke’s Gospel she begins with these words, “With all my heart, I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior!” Mary understood … Mary figured it out and Mary lived for God.

Friends, can you declare Mary’s words as your own this morning … in the depths of who you are, in your actions, and in your words do you rejoice in and share that God is your Savior? That Jesus Christ matters? That you use the Holy Spirit gift from God to direct your days? The gift of Christmas … God’s gift … Is Jesus’ light shining through your life or are the lights of faith packed away until December’s brief moments when Jesus is a very small part of the seasonal celebration?

David Delaney …me … do I know what is going to happen next in my journey of time or just how much time I have left to live for God and Christ? What’s next? My friend Peggy Kelly, an amazing woman of faith, was sure that she was just headed to the beach for a day in Ocean City with her daughter, Diana, last week … until the unimaginable occurred and this afternoon I am headed to the worship service to celebrate her life. She truly expected to be in church this morning for worship and she rarely missed church but instead she is being buried six feet under in the church’s cemetery this afternoon.

Friends have you ever paused to consider what’s next? Have you ever thought about what you want to happen in your future days? Are you investing time and life … at least some of your time and life to live for God and for Christ? To take on the challenges of faith or can that wait until later on or perhaps have you decided that you already did enough to fulfill your obligation to the God of creation. Is it easy to deny or refute the clarity of the prophet who stated for all time what the Lord God expects of those who believe or to think that Jesus was just kidding around when He taught what people of faith are to do with our lives? That is if we truly believe and want to live as Christians.

As we conclude this year’s Christmas in July celebrations I am very much aware that in December I will have thoughts about a 2 year old grandson’s eyes all aglow at seeing a Christmas tree with an entirely new perspective from his first two Christmas seasons; perhaps this will be the year to present him with his first crèche showing Jesus surrounded by Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the animals or if not a manger scene maybe the appropriate gift of Christmas will be his first set of hockey goalie pads. It is my best guess that as we approach Friday December 24th in the year 2021 that lots of people will be thinking about going to a church service for their annual obligation before rushing out to fulfill the real part of Christmas … pastor don’t preach too long on that night … rushing out to see what Santa has delivered or to wrap those gifts that somehow don’t have a bow on them or perhaps to enjoy the dinner of the six fishes.

By the way, did you carve out enough time each day this past week to read the nine verses from Psalm 145 that was mentioned very clearly last Sunday or was the mere idea of reading nine assigned verses from God’s Word not a gift but an onerous obligation?

I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.
I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.
The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness can’t be grasped.
One generation will praise your works to the next one,
    proclaiming your mighty acts.
They will talk all about[b] the glorious splendor of your majesty;
    I will contemplate your wondrous works.
They will speak of the power of your awesome deeds;
    I will declare your great accomplishments.
They will rave in celebration of your abundant goodness;
    they will shout joyfully about your righteousness:
    “The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
    very patient, and full of faithful love.
    The Lord is good to everyone and everything;
    God’s compassion extends to all his handiwork!”

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water? Did you know?” Did those who worship God here with me at St. Paul’s sense the joy this past week in “lifting up high our God and true King? Did the reading of the Psalm cause us to understand that God is merciful and compassionate; very patient and full of faithful love. Good to everyone?”

This week a posting on FACEBOOK deeply troubled me perhaps more so by the fact that people of faith who I know personally were celebrating that social media posting rather than by just the words I read in the meme.

Have you become concerned that your essence of faith has dried up … become dried bones? Do you want that to change? Ezekiel shared how God put life back into those dry bones so that they could again live. God put God’s breath in them so that those individuals would know that God is the Lord … is God your Lord? Jesus your Savior, Master, Teacher, Messiah, Prince of Peace, and God with you all the time?

Last week’s Psalm included this statement about people of faith, “They will rave in celebration of Your (God’s) abundant goodness; they will shout joyfully about Your righteousness (God’s righteousness). The Lord is GOOD TO EVERYONE and all your faithful ones, God, bless you!”

Have you ever completely out of nowhere started singing ‘Joy to the World the Lord has come?” Or another song of faith that brings happiness in your walk with God?

Or are you more comfortable sorting out the people of the world and dividing them into those on your side and those against you? Have you decided to limit your sharing of God’s call of love and forgiveness to only the people you decide are good or worthy of your love or help? Is your song about Joy to the world wrapped up in “Jeremiah was a bullfrog (Not a prophet). Was a good friend of mine. I never understood a single word he said but I helped him to drink his wine … and he always had some very fine wine.”

It’s easy to go out there and join in the world’s view. “Love to have my fun” goes the lyrics of the Three Dog Night song but perhaps as people of faith that darn Jesus tries to get in the way … or maybe Jesus appears in our minds … God calls … the Holy Spirit nudges and you and I … we have to make a choice. The cross appears in front of you … Jesus or the world. Love all or just the ones we like … who exactly did Jesus love? What was Christmas all about? Mary said, “He shows mercy to everyone …. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations …”

And, I had to read on my FACEBOOK page “I don’t care what anyone says. Good people get tired of being good people to ungrateful people.” Interesting … because the first element in this meme is all about the dividing of people … the judging of people …. ‘Good people’ and obviously the person who created this meme and all who agreed with it self identify as ‘good people’ and then there are those ungrateful SOB’s. Clearly those are the ones not in the club of good people … perhaps they are poor or broken … perhaps they don’t look like the good people; they are semi-people. Why? It is clear that they did not bow down to the good people to kiss their feet … didn’t spend the money on a thank you note attached to flowers or a cash reward or gift card for the good people because when you are good … you should only be good because you expect rewards, right? Isn’t that the reason you do good … for self satisfaction when the lowly needy person cries out thank you oh thank you … you are so much better than me? Cast them down … even if they are developmentally disabled or have mental health challenges that prevent them from understanding the thank you process or even if they are embarrassed by their need or have communication issues … doesn’t matter if you are good might as well not allow those ungrateful ones to wear you down … time to party with those who are like you they just might have some really fine wine!

And, then there is this guy … do you think that Jesus gets tired of being loving and good to ungrateful people? Mary said, “He shows mercy to everyone from one generation to the next. He has lifted up the lowly and come to the aid of His servant Israel.” He went to the cross for everyone and the wine on the Lord’s Table is THE BEST WINE because it is representative of God’s love for all … God’s willingness to forgive those who come to God for forgiveness … God’s desire to have everyone back home and living a life for God and with God.

Dry bones alive … faith restored … possibilities with endless goodness separated from thee world on a spiritual journey towards the place where our dear sister Judy Muhlbauer and my fried Peggy Kelly are today. The promise of the Creator.

So, friends … do you know what’s next in your life? Are you ready to joyfully accept the Christmas gift of God that is available every single day of the year and if you are accepting it are you ready to put it to good use?

Will you shine the light of Jesus Christ out into the dark plains in front of you so that others who have abandoned God … left Jesus behind … attempted to limit the good they do in the world … have stopped worshiping God sense the breath of God entering them, changing them, bringing them back to a new life … a renewed life .. a reenergized life in faith …

Do you sense the call of this year’s Pentecost as we come out of the pandemic to rebuild the church of Jesus Christ? To invite others to worship and to take on projects for those in need whether or not they ever say thank you or whether or not your friends declare that those people in need deserve your help … are you ready to stand up stand up for Jesus Christ?

Will you sing Joy to the World today with a renewed sense of joy and connection with God’s breath of life? Will you join Mary in declaring WITH ALL MY HEART I WILL GLORIFY THE LORD!!! In the DEPTHS of who I am I REJOICE in GOD MY SAVIOR!

I am thankful that I know my friends Judy and Peggy clearly lived for God … they knew how to have fun but each of these ladies knew the priority Jesus God and faith. If we know what’s best for our next days it is rediscovering the joy we can have in God, pushing aside the fears the world presents, and then do all we can to rebuild the church of Jesus Christ starting right here in West Deptford by inviting friends to church with a smile and then going out into the world for all of God’s people not judging nor separating but uniting with the love God has given us. Rejoice that you have Jesus and if you are wondering or challenged or want to know Him but don’t know how just give us a call. AMEN

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