Psalm 91: 1-2 & 9-16
MATTHEW 28: 16-20

March 10, 2019

Every year on Memorial Day Weekend, if you turn on your televisions,  you can hear a famous call ‘Ladies and Gentlemen start your engines’ and there is a roar on the Old Brickyard in Indianapolis as 33 cars with powerful engines that have been under the care of the best mechanics in the world begin a journey to the finish line … some will make the journey; some will run out of gas or have a mechanical issue that sidelines them … some will even crash into other cars whose drivers are also speeding around that famous oval … but those who finish the race even if they don’t get the pitcher of milk poured over themselves … those who finish know that they have done well on the journey … Truth is we are all on the ROADTRIP of Life with the question being are we truly on God’s team?

This morning as I woke up a song was going round in my mind … I know that most of you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that.  It was that Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash collaboration ON THE ROAD AGAIN.

On, the road again … I just can’t wait to get on that road again.  The life I love is makin’ music with my friends and I can’t wait to get on the road again.”  And, today we start a sermon series called ROAD TRIP, which will be tied directly to an online BIBLE STUDY called TUNE UP.  I always feel like the start of Lent is a new beginning in my faith walk and I hope that it can be a time when your walk with God is energized too.

Every day this ROAD TRIP called life that we go on is challenging and when we put God and faith first the truth is we always need to be connected to God to run well.   Jesus is calling to us to when He declares that we are to pick up our cross and follow Him.  So we will be considering how we can best do that so that our lives are God-centered.

And, I am here to tell you that just like those cars in Indianapolis you have been given everything you need to make the journey … in fact, you have God’s Holy Spirit with you always giving us guidance instructions to avoid the walls in front of us and helping us to still be running when the checkered flag signals the journey is over.  But we can’t one day say we believe and then put that moment of faith aside except for Sunday’s in church … we need to be cared for and tuned up and out on the road!

Friends, today we gained an extra hour of sunlight unless you are one of those who enjoy waking up early because this morning at 6am when I woke up it was total darkness but even as I sipped my cup of coffee I knew the light of the day was coming.

This Lenten season … this Holy Season … do any of you think of this season as Holy or is it it the trivial time when you laugh with friends about what you are giving up?

When you talk about Lent … is it a time to be Holy or is it a time to laugh about giving things up?  When you hear friends talk about what they are giving up for this season … things like chocolate, Facebook, or certain other bad habits do you say this is God’s special time of the year or is that left unsaid?  Some people, like me, find it a perfect green flag starting point to go on a diet to lose weight but are we using it to grow stronger in God?

When you talk about Lent with your friends, co-workers, neighbors and many of us do … do you tell your friends that you are excited to be in the Holy Season that will lead to the most incredible week of the year when we are reminded of God’s love, Christ’s sacrifice, our sinful nature and our being rescued from sin through the cross and the empty tomb?  Are the first  your first thoughts a connection with your Salvation?  Your faith?  Your life?  And, how each day Jesus is the SON who brings the light for your path from the darkness of the world?  When others talk about Lent are you inviting them to our Palm Sunday service and Pancake Breakfast?  To Maundy Thursday’s service of the table?  To Easter sunrise where Don Strock will be sharing the message or of Easter here at ST. Paul’s?

I do get concerned that even the most devoted Christian … you know the type … those who read their Bibles daily, pray without ceasing and share their testimony when they hear hate being spread and division endorsed that they stay quiet … I get concerned that even the most devoted Christian can get worn down by the world and the world’s journey.  Of course that means the rest of us find it even easier to block out our Christian journey along life’s roadways filled with curves, potholes, and other hazards.   I do get concerned that things get in the way while God keeps looking for what we are doing for God … God is checking how we were representing Jesus Christ and whether we are urging the Holy Spirit to direct our paths.  God is concerned whether our works are for the Kingdom of God or if our lives and our works have been consumed by the world.  God knows our lives and God knows us.  God knows we struggle with darkness so God gave us Light.

After Jesus saved the woman from the Pharisees who were so caught up in rules rather than faith … men who surrounded a woman with their plan to stone her to death … Jesus returned to the TEMPLE to teach and as He spoke to those gathered around Him, Jesus declared “I am the light of the world,  Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the LIGHT OF LIFE.”  Friends, that’s the EXTRA DAYLIGHT we need on the road we travel each day.  THE LIGHT OF LIFE … JESUS … if we are going to navigate our way through the curves, traveling at the high speed that makes our lives go faster than we want with a speed that never lets us stop time, if we are to avoid the dangers that lie ahead, the accidents in the waiting, if we want to be well maintained start to finish … we need Jesus not casually, not in name only, not in a quick nod of thinking ‘oh I believe’ followed by an I am too busy for God because you see … God was not too busy for you … God was not too busy for me … God does not abandon us in a blink or an eye or when God’s favorite TV show is starting.

So, as we start this journey through LENT … towards EASTER … as we truly consider if we want to have 130 people in the pews of this church every single Sunday morning … I need you to consider whether you want the world to know … more specifically, I want you to think about how you want your church to be known because it’s the easiest place to get out on the road of faith because we are fortunate church … we are lucky and blessed friends … we all know that St. Paul’s is truly a special place .. a church that is unique so unlike many who can’t talk about their church with excitement and love we can.  So, this place called St. Paul’s is what I want you to think about and pray about daily as you begin this ROAD TRIP with me because this is the connecting point where no matter what the news stories report about churches .. no matter what the commentators may be saying about the United Methodist Church …. No matter what people think about priests and Southern Baptist church leaders … St. Paul’s has always been and will always be a place where everyone is welcome; everyone is loved because our church family knows God made us equally in God’s Image and that God calls us to love all of our neighbors not just a few select individuals.

The Gospel message today is my point of focus for our ROAD TRIP but the PSALM is our fueling station … if you want to be on this ROAD TRIP of faith … if you want your journey in life to truly include Jesus whose light is brighter than the greatest high beams … whose Light is the Light of LIFE … then pay attention to the psalmist … and declare to the LORD … “You are my refuge, my stronghold!  You are my God the one I trust!”  That’s the greatest starting point for each day church … first words out of your mouth even if you are waking next to your husband or wife before you say “did you put the coffee on” … can you start this ROADTRIP talking with your mechanic … the CREATOR who will forgive your sins and make you right and give you the Holy Spirit … the first truly powerful way to get rid of the potholes, to eliminate the roadblocks is by making this your daily habit … WRITE IT DOWN, take your bulletin home and read the PSALM again but here it is church your waking words to have next to your bed … “LORD .. YOU ARE MY REFUGE … MY STRONGHOLD … YOU ARE MY GOD THE ONE I TRUST.”  Say it with me …. Believe it as your wake up … do you want to get out on that ROAD with JESUS well then hold God close …

Did you hear the psalm continue … God when you make God your place of refuge … when you truly trust God … God “will order God’s messengers to help you, to protect you wherever you go … they will carry you with their own hands so you don’t bruise your foot on a stone.”  Church … that doesn’t mean you won’t get sick … it doesn’t mean that you won’t get bills you can can’t pay … church this means that for what matters you will be surrounded by God’s angels, guided by God’s Spirit, and you will be living a life what the Light of Jesus Christ shines out for others to escape the darkness.

“Because you are devoted to me … God says God will rescue you and will protect you because you know God’s name.”  You see church … I get worried when I see the hate spewed out from church people … clearly God is missing in those moments … I get worried church when I hear people who claim the name of my Savior saying we need to live in fear of …. You can fill in the blanks but you know there are people out there bringing in a great harvest of profit just by making people afraid … fearful of others … lighting the match of the gas covered pile of hate to enflame, divide, and diminish God … making God secondary and human power primary … we know it is out there and we need to embrace the EXTRA DAYLIGHT on the ROAD and that’s Jesus Christ.  We need to become focused on God … devoted to God … not only knowing God’s name but sharing God with the world with love and care not harshness and condemnation.

I can’t promise you that this ROADTRIP won’t be challenging because it will be.  Others will toss obstacles in your way … in fact each of us will create our own personal roadblocks … my goal to lose some weight faces ice cream in its path just think how hard it is to if our goal is to be Christ focused and God-embraced when the voices we hear, the memes we read on social media, and the power of the world is anything but God’s truth.

Our first and ongoing challenge was there in the Gospel teaching from Matthew … Jesus last message in His words, “Go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  But for our ROADTRIP of life, Jesus adds, “I myself will be with you every day … EVERY DAY!”  So, we are to make disciples … invite friends to church …. Tell our stories … live lives for God by standing up against hate and injustices in this world.  A challenging task but part of the living life for God.

ON this ROADTRIP … I want you to find your Bibles and bring them to church … if you don’t have a Bible that is in print buy one.  Yes, I know we all have or should have Bible apps but by the time we reach PALM SUNDAY … I want us lifting our Bibles along with our palms to shout HOSANNA to GOD … HOSANNA in the highest for Jesus.

The ultimate daylight …  church … was the right there in the Psalm … did you listen?  Did you hear?  Are you going to read it when you get home or at breakfast or lunch; imagine walking into a restaurant like the Piston and hearing one voice coming from a booth reading God’s Word out loud … well to give you inspiration for this ROAD TRIP … hear the Word of God again, God says “because you are devoted to me” note the word devoted doesn’t say because you claim to be a Christian but are understandably too busy to stand up for your faith when people are hateful … devoted does not mean never read God’s Word and never pray .. God’s Word talks about devoted … so friends hopefully this ROAD TRIP and our Tuesday TUNE UP Bible studies are tools to help you get devoted or strengthen your devotion to God … so God declares, “because you are devoted to me, I’ll rescue you; I’ll save you and glorify you … I will show you my salvation.”

The light of Christ … shining us past the cross where He died to the glory of the empty tomb … we are in Holy Season … we are on a journey of faith … we are on a ROADTRIP.

“I just can’t wait to get on the road again.  The life I love is makin music with my friends and can’t can’t wait to get on the road again …” Let’s get in the Light and join our friends for God and Christ!


Watch a video of today’s worship service:

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