Philippians 3: 7-14
JOHN 12: 20-26

April 3, 2022

I am starting to really understand the joy of grand-parenting because Dax is ready to play on the floor, giggle, and interact with such an amazing smile every time we see him.

I am sure that all of you have played the simple game of peek-a-boo where you hold your hands up to your face pretending not to see the other person and suddenly it’s PEEK A BOO …. I SEE YOU. Last time we were in Toms River I had fun playing it with Dax.

I will admit that I am curious whether the babies or little children who engage in such games with an adult really think the adult has vanished from their presence or are they just going along because they think the adult in front of them is confused because after all they are right there … in the child’s presence … ready to share the love that is so evident in every moment of connection.

Of course as children get older the game of ‘hide and seek’ becomes more of a search and rescue operation because one must find those who carefully hide away in hopes of winning the game. My junior high youth group, at the last church I served, loved to play a variation of hide and go seek called MAN HUNT. If you can imagine about 30 teens half of them rushing to find a hiding place followed by the charge of the remaining 15 searching for them …. Well, let’s just say there was a lot of energy and noise and excitement throughout the church as one after another teen was caught by the searching team. However, this pastor … who I am sure not surprising to most of you was an active participant in Man Hunt … had at least three hiding places where I was never found.

It was such a rush of excitement when the kids were right there in front of me but they somehow year after year never looked directly at me to find me. And, they continued the hunt and I carefully stepped out of my hiding place back to the safe zone. Believe me they begged to be told what my hiding spots were.


Perhaps, I should ask a more important question in this Holy season of Lent … How often are you looking for Jesus, the Son of God? The One whom I would assume most of us would very quickly declare this morning to be not only the Son of God but to be our personal connection to salvation. For heavens sake, we are Christians after all and we take the Christ in the membership name, Christian, quite seriously … right?

Are you in agreement with Paul when he wrote these words to those early Christians in Philippi, “I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus, MY LORD.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines LORD as a noun meaning “[1]someone or something having power, authority, or influence. A master or a ruler.”

So, do you agree with Paul in calling Jesus your Lord? Does Jesus have power, authority or influence over you? Your master? Do you live as He expects you to live?

Do you remember the Christmas story? With Linus on stage in front of Charlie Brown and all of his friends? Maybe you consider it the … Christmas … Eve story because we all know what Christmas Day is for but I know you have heard it before. Linus reads from the Gospel of Luke <<RIGHT HERE IN THE BIBLE>> Linus talks about the shepherds in the fields. But then an ANGEL of the LORD appears … “and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And, the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a SAVIOR, which is Christ the Lord.” Linus finishes up by telling Charlie Brown and all of us that this is the meaning of Christmas … not Charlie’s frazzled Christmas tree nor Snoopy’s overly decorated dog house. The meaning of Christmas is God sending Jesus as a baby to become a SAVIOR, which is Christ the Lord.

A “SAVIOR” … Christ the Lord. Well, we already have heard what Lord means but what about Savior. Again, I turn to the Oxford English Dictionary whose definition states a [2]noun … a person who saves someone or something from danger and who is regarded with the veneration of a religious figure. Oxford then adds this, “In Christianity God or Jesus Christ as the redeemer of sin and saver of souls.”

So, with Holy Week just one week away and Easter Sunday with our shouts of HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> merely 14 days away …. Have you allowed Jesus to rescue you from the danger of the world? In First John we read, “This is love; not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” So, have you allowed Jesus to be your Savior? Have you returned God’s love by loving God? Have you embraced your salvation so you can deny the world?

Donna had a conversation with one of the Smithville neighbors this week about Jesus and our church. The neighbor wanted to know about the term “born again” Christian versus the every day variety Christian. And, wanted to know if we were a “born again church.” I wasn’t there to listen in but I am sure we all know Nicodemus’ story, which Donna shared. A powerful religious leader who needed more than the rules … more than the pomp and circumstances and power of being a Pharisee. After all he had seen Jesus in action.

And, sadly the 20th century and now the 21st century church has simplified the message Jesus shared that day into a raised hand … or a walk forward to an altar or church railing but Jesus did not say “stand up at a Billy Graham Crusade and you’ll be good to get into heaven.” Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless someone is born anew, it is not possible to see the kingdom of heaven.” It is no different than when Jesus declared, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to SAVE THEIR LIFE will lost it;” in essence you must be born again into a person of faith … a person who holds Jesus as Lord and Savior. Or as Paul wrote in our Scripture of this morning, “I have lost everything for Him and what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found in Him.”

And, I know Donna said St. Paul’s is a loving church … where the church family believes in Jesus Christ while also loving God and loving ALL of our neighbors … ALL of humanity not merely for a momentary raise of the hand or bowing at the altar but life changing faith.

God created ALL of humanity in God’s image … God allows us to discover the reality that God is real every day not denying science but allowing science to make God’s reality even clearer. God makes it simple to understand what God expects through Jesus teaching. God didn’t mandate that we memorize a complicated multi page legalistic manual to be on God’s side … no, Jesus told Nicodemus “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And, Jesus said the commandments that get us there … LOVE GOD …. LOVE YOUR neighbors and James brings the message into focus “faith without works is absolutely dead.”

Today right before we eat the bread and drink from the cup of the sacrament of Holy Communion I will share again Jesus words from the Upper Room that the bread and cup are not just for those in the room with Him but for many …. The many who have truly come to believe and change. The many who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. People potentially like you and me.

So, church have you found Jesus?

Are you hiding from Jesus even though Jesus is right there before you … hoping that the Holy Spirit won’t make you become like a Christian because you don’t want to lose your connection to the words and actions the world values? Are you going peek-a-boo with Jesus saying you are a Christian and thinking you can hide that you aren’t loving God and loving your neighbors merely by saying you are a Christian … thinking you can not only fool your neighbors but also fool God, the Creator of all humanity?

The good news is that while we breathe … while we are engaged as alive human beings we have the opportunity to find Jesus for our lives. We have every opportunity to bow down to God … to ask that the Holy Spirit steps in to guide us … still knowing we need to pray for forgiveness because if you are like me you will slip and fall and then crawl back to God.

Today, in this season of Lent … I am praying that each of us has an awakening in our need to live as people who hold Jesus as Lord and Savior fully recognizing that God is the one power who controls our destiny … Paul’s message should be ours today, “forget about the things behind and reach out for the things ahead. The goal pursued is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.”


[1] Oxford English Dictionary
[2] Ibid

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