Psalm 93
JOHN 18:33-38

November 21, 2021

Have you ever paused and wondered just as Pontus Pilate was wondering as he asked out loud, “What is truth?’ He was looking right at Jesus but the crowds incited by evil power brokers were shouting CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM! Perhaps you have a definition of truth that you like or a source you rely on exclusively for what you will accept.

Over these last few years the concept of truth has been challenged like never before. I have seen live video and still photographs of events yet voices have said that the truth was something that the eye could not see … it seems the untruth has become the celebrity of the era we are in whereas reality, fact, and actually truth itself are castigated and dismissed because those concepts challenge worldly gain or power.

Yet, as people of faith … as individuals who have chosen to worship God as THANKGIVING gets all so close and an Advent season of possibility can be sensed it has become more important than ever before to again hear Jesus saying to Pilate, “Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice” As most of us know, Jesus previously had declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life … NO ONE comes to the Father except through me.”

TRUTH … GOD … JESUS … FAITH … and last week we talked about finding our joy through our relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Take Jesus seriously friends and we ‘have the way’ … because ‘He is the truth’ … and then our lives will be aligned with God’s purposes, which provides us joy, peace and much more.

There is a lot we can discover just through Jesus’ dialogue with Pilate as the cross rapidly approaches we should find relief; we should find hope. Pilate could find nothing wrong with the amazing Jesus who stood before Him arrested at the behest of those who opposed truth and feared His message of love that had come directly from God.

And yes, we should realize during this ongoing season of commercialization that we need to again take the small but awesome step to embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ as the directives for our lives because He is the Son of God … He is our Savior … He, not the world, should be the teacher of our life’s lessons. As people of faith we should be embracing the words found in the Psalms 24 hours a day 7 days a week, “The Lord rules!” And, that for those of us in church today that JESUS is our way, truth, and light!

But are we? Do we praise God throughout the week? Allow God to give us peaceful places for renewal? Are we in dialogue through prayer and the reading of God’s Word with the Holy and when choices are to be made do we follow the Holy Spirit’s directions?

Actually as most of us have discovered, the Christmas season is already upon us. We can purchase a wide variety of decorations … Christmas songs are in the air. People are already arguing over greetings to be made; should clerks say Happy Holy-Days or Merry Christmas even though both have the same origination. No XMAS even though the X represents Christ because we don’t bother to understand Greek.

And, yes, the stores are hiding Black Friday bargains in their back rooms denying shoppers who visit the stores this weekend the chance to buy what they want. The world’s powers have dictated that we need an early hour bargain focused day of sales, pushing, cursing and demanding the products of the year to welcome in the season when the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated. The world says we need to take away the one day we give thanks and instead put lust, rush and demand back on our plates.

Since no one wants an empty space where the jolly elf of fiction’s chimney-dusted boots land during our sleeping hours … we SCREAM THE PRESENTS RULE … GIVE ME GIVE ME GIVE ME … I DESERVE THAT GIFT and my kids … my kids DEFINITELY SHOULD BE GETTING EVERYTHING on their list … they’ve been good after all even without church or Sunday School or God or Jesus … they do get the idea that gifts for them is the season’s priority! Give them what the world has because they deserve it … and essentially even many church attending people morph what they say here in church that The Lord Rules into their drumbeat that The World Rules 167 hours a week and once in a while they pray perhaps with meaning perhaps around Thanksgiving tables.

This has been an interesting week but aren’t they all.

Last Sunday, I issued the challenge that Pastor Derek Gatling was issuing to his church in Deptford. The SEVEN DAY CHALLENGE during which he asked his church and I asked you not to post anything that could be viewed as mocking of someone whether you know them or just have read about them or not to negatively attack another human being either through the words you wrote on social media or the memes you shared. The challenge was to share joy, thanksgiving and faith. No name calling of politicians or people whose opinions we disagree with who by the way just like all of us are made in the image of God, loved by God, and included amongst God’s instructions to “love ALL of our neighbors.”

I received a call on Thursday from someone who worships with us. The person thanked me for giving them what they said was “permission” to stop posting attack messages on their Twitter and on their Facebook. I was curious and said I really had never seen their posts. They said that all of their friends are extremely political so this person has shared really hateful memes and mocked others just to fit in. The person said they slammed on the brakes after last Sunday but apparently one of their friends noticed and asked why. The person said, “My pastor said I should stop.”

Friends, although this pastor is in total agreement that we need to let THE LORD RULE and accept Jesus voice as the voice of truth we listen to … we each need to make a very personal choice of who rules us, the world or God. This pastor has plenty of faults … Jesus doesn’t. I would hope that if we are asked why we no longer are mocking politicians on our social media that we would share our faith and say it is because we believe Jesus’ teaching to “love all of your neighbors just as I have loved you” applies to every human being. So, I am asking you to join with me in extending last Sunday’s challenge into a forever challenge as a small but awesome step towards changing the world for Jesus Christ. Each of us actually choosing to follow what Jesus taught through our words and the images we share on social media. No more mocking … no more hate messages … no more trivialization of others. For Jesus’ sake per Jesus directions … Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit not only give you permission but have been demanding that we do that all along.

Around midnight as this Tuesday night moved into Wednesday morning, as I sat in the ER hallway of Inspira I couldn’t help but notice in the physician’s glass enclosed work room that the doctor who had been caring for my neighbor throughout the night was getting high five’s from his fellow ER docs. As he prepared to go home, leaving us to another physician’s care, I went over to thank him but I was curious whether he had just found out that his wife was pregnant or if his sports team had won or if he had received a promotion because of all the joy in the work room. So, I said CONGRATS for whatever your good news is. He then said he didn’t achieve anything. But, I said everyone was high fiving you … he smiled saying, “One night last week a man came into the ER with major drug and mental health issues. My team took care of him and he was released to his family. Earlier today we received a notification that he was missing and his family was concerned. I just received a call that he is at another one of our facilities.”

This ER physician who sees patients screaming, overdosed, shot, confused, angry with a wide array of conditions every single night found in that moment that small can be awesome. A man who was just one of hundreds he had seen in a week had been rescued and was safe. And I could sense the Holy Spirit’s whispers …

Made me think about the celebration of angels … made me think about how much God wants us rescued from the world. Made me think about you and me and our need to escape from the world back to God … our children … our grandchildren … our neighbors whom we see in person and online and who we might be the only witness of God’s love they ever come across … our small testimony; our small difference of love contradicting the world might be their only opportunity … God can use our small individual faith connection in awesome ways!

Many people of faith somehow think God is going to fly down in a chariot to answer their prayers when truth be told God gives us other humans to answer our prayers … God gives us nature to bring us peace and joy … God gives us scientists and innovators and amazing physicians and others who are answering prayers daily.

Who do you think Jesus expects to be the light carriers of faith when He proclaims, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life?” It’s not the Christmas displays that rarely include a manger scene but definitely have Frosty and Rudolph and all the other disciples of the world’s concept of Christmas right in our faces. If we are not entering the Christmas season getting kids excited about Christmas Eve worship services because we’d rather find some mall or store that allows Santa lap photo’s even with COVID still flourishing … who are we allowing to rule our days and nights and weeks and years and lives?

This past week, our own Lillian Quillin a youthful energetic 99 year old posted a meme on Facebook that said this, “It’s ok to slow down but never give up. XXXXXX.” That post reminded me that God is calling all of us of every age, education level, and background to never give up living in the light of Jesus Christ. That God’s love is there. We all don’t have to become pastors … we don’t have to write books of faith … we don’t have to go on concert tours singing praises to God although I am still waiting for some talent scout to sign me up to star in such a tour …

We each have a choice … God loves us as individuals …. God created us in God’s Holy image … God has expectations for us that we love God and love all of our neighbors but in our unique small way what we can do to lift up the kingdom of God is awesome!

Jesus looked Pilate in the eye and said, “My kingdom DOES NOT ORIGINATE from this world! My kingdom is not from here.” So friends, which kingdom are you in this morning? Which kingdom are you using your small but awesome voice and heart for?

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good … his love endures forever! Devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts …

And, as this Thursday approaches but then on every day that follows do as Scripture tell us to do … BE THANKFUL!!! And, then go into the world for Jesus Christ to make disciples rather than to be focused on just being in the world. Your small awesome voices of faith are desperately needed … invite families to Christmas Eve services with energy and excitement and love!! Begin to be the ones who change the world …. Take the challenge on! AMEN


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