Psalm 111
MARK 1: 21-28

If your smart phone has become much more than a phone, like mine has then you received an alert earlier this morning about the passing of Ingvar Kamprad.  Ingvar apparently lived a long life having passed away today at the age of 91.

Now, I will admit Mr. Kamprad was not part of my sermon until this morning and as I read about the complexities of this man it became clear that perhaps a biography of Ingvar might lead to more questions but his contributions to the world cannot be denied and those contributions fit right in with the question this morning of paying attention to the holy.

My puzzle of choice is sudoku.  It’s not that I am a grand puzzle solver but I enjoy the challenge of finding an answer.  My mom was the queen of crossword puzzles spending time every single day working a Eugene Sheffer crossword puzzle in the Buffalo News.  In fact, even after being admitted to the hospital for her last few days before going up to be with God … mom was working on those puzzles.

We heard in today’s Gospel reading about a different kind of puzzle … a Jesus moment … there walking down the dirty road were Jesus and those who already had discovered that He was a man to listen to .. He was a man to follow.

Mark in the first chapter of his Gospel has very quickly taken us from the prophesy of Isaiah … “Look, I am sending my messenger before you … He will prepare your way … a voice shouting in the wilderness, PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD” …. We hear how Jesus was tempted by Satan; evil attempting to destroy God’s plan and losing while the angels took care of Him, the temptation of Christ … then in Galilee Jesus was found preaching the GOOD NEWS saying “Now, is the time!  Here comes God’s kingdom!!  Change your hearts and lives and trust the GOOD NEWS!!  To the calling of his disciples until we find them on a journey … walking.

At this point we don’t know how many followers were going with Jesus into Capernaum.  Just the 12 or had more changed their hearts … more discovered God’s kingdom through Christ … more who thought it was essential to pay attention to the Holy that they found in this young man.

What we do know is that on the first Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and started teaching.  Teaching is a process of revealing information about life that usually the students should be hearing and learning.  We heard that He taught with authority not like the legal experts who were all caught up in the laws … we don’t know His message of the morning but what we do know is that Jesus was interrupted by an evil spirit … an evil spirit that was condemning Jesus teaching.

The end of the experience was Jesus chased away the demon and that led people to their puzzle … WHO IS THIS … WHAT’s THIS that we just witnessed?

Some of them figured out the puzzle because we heard that “the news about Him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.”  News about Jesus … Jesus defeating evil … Jesus speaking in a way that countered what the church authorities expected and were used to.  Jesus the Son of God … “Now is the time … Change your hearts and lives … and trust this GOOD NEWS!”

When I do a crossword puzzle I will admit that I need to have one of those crossword puzzle answer books handy because some of those puzzle clues just confound me.  I never saw mom use the guide but I have always wondered if she looked at the answers that were in the next day’s newspaper.  I do know that when her brother was alive the two of them talked about potential crossword puzzle answers during their daily telephone calls.

So, the puzzle of faith … the puzzle of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.  I have to admit that many people are confused by the Christian message … many people wonder what this Christ in Christmas is all about.

Well this morning we sang Robin Mark’s great song of praise … our words resonated here in the church:

Men of faith rise up and sing; Of the great and glorious King. You are strong when you feel weak in your brokenness complete.
Shout to the North and the South! Sing to the East and the West! Jesus is Savior to all! Lord of heaven and earth
Rise up women of the truth stand and sing to broken hearts. Who can know the healing power of our awesome King of love,
Shout to the North and the South? Sing to the East and the West. Jesus is Savior to all! Lord of heaven and earth

The clues to the greatest puzzle in life comes from us and we discovered the answers by paying attention to the Holy.  In the Psalms we discover the journey to take … we are reminded of how God has touched those who believe and you know what … it’s wrapped up in praise worthy truths.

When I stepped outside this morning to pick up my two morning papers … the rain was like a cleansing.  God’s cleaning things up for our Sunday … wash away the news to take in the Holy.   In the Psalms we heard “God’s deeds are majestic and glorious” and you know what they are indeed.

Our story in faith can make a difference to others … how we came together in Christ and how God touches us each day … the joy we have .. The redemption we have experienced … you and me … puzzle pieces for others’ puzzles.

This week there was a clergy gathering in Cape May.  There was worship … there were workshops … there was time to share with each other and in the midst of the sharing one of my friends who like me came to ministry late in life talked  about his transition … he talked about changing … he talked about who he once was, someone I never knew.

My friend discovered that not only was his life wrong but his heart was dying … he was told he had a 10 percent chance of surviving heart surgery but it was his only choice.  He was not a church goer … he did not believe … but before surgery he asked for prayers and someone told him how much God’s love meant in their life.  In the middle of the surgery my friend’s heart literally stopped… the surgeon told him that for a moment they thought he was gone but then the miracle of life occurered and the heart started beating … the surgery was finished and as he heard of the miracle in the operating room his friend’s story resonated with him.  That stopping of his heart marked the new beginning of faith … a new heart in God.

Hear the Psalms … God’s deeds are majestic and gloriouis … God’s righteousness stands forever!  God is famous for his wondrous works …

Oh wait, that part of the Psalm … that’s on us.  We are the ones to share the story … we are the ones to tell of the transformation … we are ones to share our joy and happiness in faith.

Now back to Mr. Kamprad.  He was the founder of IKEA.  The name IKEA came from his initials and the initials of the town he grew up in.  He founded IKEA when he was 17 years old.  My daughter and son-in-law LOVE IKEA …. To me there are far too many puzzle pieces involved in putting their furniture together.  In fact, when Ryan and Colleen moved in together they purchased IKEA furniture and we each were given an assignment to put something together … I was the only one who did everything in reverse, which meant we had to undo and redo the IKEA bed frame but thankfully they knew where the puzzle pieces went.

Friends … we have the puzzle pieces of faith … we have been paying attention to the HOLY … we believe … we know Jesus and now it’s time to help those totally confused and befuddled by life’s puzzles just as I was by that IKEA instruction sheet … it’s all in Swedish so what did they expect?

We are the ones … who are ready to praise the Lord at any moment in time .. we are the ones who can thank the Lord with all of our heart in the company of the congregation but we can take that … and our redemption to declare to the world that JESUS is THE ONE … now is the time … we heard the song but we already knew the truth because we had solved the puzzle … JESUS SAVES …. JESUS SAVES … I am so happy because I know JESUS SAVES!!! AMEN

Watch a video of today’s worship service.

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