HOW LONG DO WE HAVE?
Psalm 103: 1-5
JOHN 14: 1-7
March 8, 2020
This morning when I woke up … and realized that this time it wasn’t the cat waking me up at 5am, like she usually tries to do, but instead my alarm was reminding me that time had sprung forward it was now 6am not 5am and I had lost an hour of sleep … the first thing I did was to glance at my ShopRite receipt from yesterday … by the way be sure to see Mary Ann, if you shop at ShopRite, to make sure that St. Paul’s finances benefit from your grocery shopping experiences.
Anyhow, the first thing I did this morning was notice on my receipt that I had a chance to win the ShopRite sweepstakes just by filling in a brief online survey. So, before my first cup of coffee was finished I was busy online reviewing my shopping time at the grocery store. That possible victory with its cash reward meant that much to me.
Church, how many times in your life have you put your busy schedule on hold to participate in a contest or sweepstakes in the hopes that you would be a big winner? Are you still waiting for the PRIZE PATROL to arrive at your front door because you were sure that the last time was the time that you would win the PUBLISHERS CLEARING HOUSE sweepstakes? Someone wins, right?
Perhaps you invest a dollar or two when the Powerball prize reaches astronomical levels that you know will pay you a prize that might allow you to purchase a professional sports team. You throw out a dollar or two or three or five or ten for those numbers even though the odds of winning the Mega Millions stand at 1 in 302,575,350 or perhaps you limit your dream of wealth to the Powerball knowing the odds are more in your favor since your dollars bring you the chance of winning big at the rate of 1 in 292,201, 338. Someone wins you’ll say and it might as well be you.
And, then last Monday would have been my dad’s 100th birthday. But, he didn’t have that much time here on earth. This September would be mom’s 100th birthday but like dad she didn’t get to spend a century hanging out and meeting Dax because her journey in life was also shorter than 100 years. I have to admit that on occasions like dad’s birthday I have to wonder … just how long do I have?
Today’s sermon is my conclusion to the series on the Apostles Creed and it was planned weeks ago long before Corona meant anything to anyone except beer drinkers. So, when I ask this question it is not meant to be connected to the fears both justified and unjustified that are engulfing the world today but rather it is meant for you to seriously consider today and tomorrow … HOW LONG DO WE HAVE before we move on to our next step in the journey of the soul? Are you prepared beyond plastic gloves, cotton masks, and reams of tissue paper for the long haul … have you chosen to make the easy choice God gives to us or is the Creator too much of an invisible presence to you that you would rather engage the world while taking your chances without God … dismissing and disagreeing with Jesus … ignoring the Holy Spirit?
I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION of the BODY and the LIFE EVERLASTING! I BELIEVE!
In our Psalm of the morning David declares for all time … “Let my whole being bless the Lord! Let everything inside me bless His Holy name! Let my whole being bless the LORD and never forget all his good deeds … how God forgives all your sins, heals all your sickness, saves your life from the pit, crowns you with faithful love …”.
When you truly believe friends … when its not about a membership card that you choose to use on occasion but when everything that you are is God-connected that is when you remember what God has done for God’s people and the hope that exists whether today is our last day or whether we have decades to go we spend our time blessing the Lord.
HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN the CREATOR church; the One we refer to as God? ARE you dismissing what Jesus taught so you can fit in with your friends? HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE until you face the Almighty and does it concern you that you might be asked whether your whole being on earth blessed the Lord? How would you answer the judgment question as to whether you gave your life to Christ or just merely acknowledged Him at a church service once upon a time?
Today, church I am challenged in the face of life and death … I continue to question my worthiness and my readiness because I have listened to dear close friends as they approached their last moments telling me they were good … they were good knowing that they would die within weeks … they were ok … that they knew where they were headed when their last breath here on earth was taken.
Little Sebastian whom this church sent get well cards to … those were healing cards church not that they worked a miracle in keeping him alive but they gave him love and assurance that faith matters … little Sebastian was ready to be with God and Jesus. He believed in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting and if you do, are you ready if today is your day?
Adam Hamilton in his book CREED points out that the Apostles Creed and the other early statements of the Christians who carried on the faith in the early centuries that were closer to the days when Jesus walked the earth than to the times we live in did not complicate faith with religious rules. He writes, that the Apostles Creed and other statements of faith offer only a “short list of things that were considered essential to confess if one is a Christian.” Hamilton states, “Many of the things that various Christians believe today and are willing to fight over are not found in any of the documents of the church from the first five centuries of Christianity.” It seems that we have become determined to set our rules rather than just following Christ.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus … you do remember Jesus church? The Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary suffered under Pontus Pilate was crucified, died and was buried and then church on Easter morning the truth of life was made clear as many witnesses confirmed … Jesus left the tomb … HE IS RISEN! <<He is Risen Indeed!>>. And, we affirmed again today that we believe Jesus will judge the living and the dead but He gives us hope too that when we are judged we will be welcomed home.
Jesus taught us that we shouldn’t be troubled nor afraid. An interesting concept especially if I were to hold today’s headlines up in front of all of you but church if you are with me in believing that this is just a short chapter in our existence as God loved beings then are you troubled and are you afraid this morning or are you willing to accept the words of Jesus and trust in God and also in Jesus?
Obviously, the disciples of Jesus had heard Him tell the pathway to God over and over again so it should not surprise us when Jesus says to them after having shared in that first holy communion in the Upper Room, ‘you know the way to the place I am going” but there was that infamous doubting Thomas looking like a deer in the headlights saying “How can we know the way.”
Church in that moment Jesus declared simply and clearly when He states “I AM THE WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Because I love music and because I treasured my friendship with him I frequently share the words that Paul O’Neill wrote for his band Trans Siberian Orchestra. In fact, every Christmas Eve service Paul’s paraphrase of Jesus words are always in the bulletin or in my sermon but Paul went home to the Lord. He was good with his life ending … he was at peace. Paul’s lyrics, like so many other song writers of songs of faith, suppose Jesus words blended with the Gospel stating “for all the years you borrowed and for all the tears you hide and for all the fears you had to keep inside. I am the way .. I am the light … I hear your hopes …. I feel your dreams … don’t turn away; just take my hand and when you make your final stand I’ll be right there. I’ll never leave and all I ask of you … BELIEVE.”
That’s the challenge in the skeptical 21st century where we don’t want to accept truth as truth … where we dismiss facts as fake news even when we see or hear the evidence … we are being taught to not believe in anything at all and to be taken up in fear.
Today, I am not selling a magic potion like Jim Bakker is in his attempt to confuse his viewers once again as he did in the days that he and Tammy Faye attempted to defraud folks of their money in the name of Jesus. His $125 anti-Corona magic potion is just like any other magic potion … a way to make Jim wealthier.
In these last few weeks many good people have come to me or called me or messaged me with their fears of this virus that is impacting the world. Over the last 3 years so many people have come to me in fear or criticized me for not being fearful of certain people and things but I have to fall back on my Savior … on my Jesus … on my God.
Megan is here for Girl Scout Sunday … she is the same loving woman as always; she exemplifies God’s love and her fears are diminished by her love of God and Christ. John writes there is no fear in perfect love but friends our challenge remains because it is an individual choice not a pastoral declaration nor a church policy …
We have to decide if like Paul O’Neill … if like little Sebastian … if like my friend Pat DeMarco who died a week ago … are we ready to face God and Jesus Christ? If today’s the day or 100 years from now is our time are we living as a people ready to die and be with God? Do you accept Jesus as THE WAY and THE TRUTH and your source of LIFE because for all the time you have borrowed to do your own thing … that is the truth you need to have in you … in our heart … in our soul .. in your mind. That first commandment of God should have each of us searching to get closer LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, ALL YOUR BEING, and ALL YOUR STRENGTH … that comes from the Torah in Deuteronomy, which continues “these words must always be on your minds and you shall recite them to your children.” Jesus answered the legal expert who asked what the greatest commandment was by saying, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And, the second is like it, You MUST love your neighbor as you love yourself. ALL laws and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”
So on this eighth day of March in the year 2020 are you with David and living this statement … “Everything inside me blesses the Lord’s Holy name.” Do you believe and have you taken the hand of Jesus the Christ transforming your life into one where God’s directives matter and where you are loving God and loving all of your neighbors as today’s priority.
None of us have very much time in the scheme of history to make our impact and to connect with our God … if you haven’t done it yet because you like saying you are a Christian but truly enjoy living like the world prefers then perhaps you need to consider how long you have.
I BELIEVE in GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY … I BELIEVE in JESUS CHRIST HIS ONLY SON … I BELIEVE in the HOLY SPIRIT … I BELIEVE in the FORGIVENESS of SINS … the RESURRECTION of the BODY and I BELIEVE in THE LIFE EVERLASTING … do you?