STILL on VACATION?
Habakkuk 3: 17-19a
Luke 22: 14-21
August 1, 2021
This morning church, did you listen carefully to the voice of the prophet? Did you hear his exclamation of faith … did you associate his words with your life? Have you been reflective lately of God’s call and does the table of the Lord have a value beyond any meal that you consume at the finest of restaurants?
Are you carefully considering how to grow in faith and to serve the Lord our God? Have you spent time considering how you can help St. Paul’s become a better and stronger light for Jesus Christ in our community, our state, in our nation, and in the world? Have you invested time thinking about who you can invite to church and then perhaps afterwards to a Sunday breakfast where you can talk about church with them? Whose kids are you making sure don’t miss next week’s VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL?
And, Jesus said … “This is my body which is given for you. This cup is the new covenant by my blood which is poured out for you.” God’s new covenant in love … God’s sacrifice for us that does not require anything more in return than our love, our belief … our faith, which we reflect in our lives rather than putting it away except for occasional moments. We know what happened on the next day following this meal … the cross … the death … but then we also know about Easter morning when that tomb was empty and the women of faith declared HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>>
During the next few weeks I am going to focus on our journey in faith. Perhaps sharing some tools that will allow you and me to once again reset our collective compass or maybe in today’s world compasses are passé so lets reset our GPS, God Provided Salvation … it should be our life’s guide, so that our lives are experiencing the joy of knowing that the Table’s bread and cup are for us; God’s forgiveness is readily available if we follow Jesus teaching; and our paths are to glory not pain.
But we also are fully aware today that Jesus’ betrayer was right there at the table; a challenge amongst the disciples … taking a faith walk is not without challenges but the Spirit travels with us and offers us daily guidance as to God’s priorities, we only have to listen. The prophet today provides us with a good reminder of making a choice in life.
Before I repeat the prophet’s words again, I want to share a brief conversation I had with Joe Casey, my friend of many years, as we drove home from the St. Paul’s night at Citizen’s Bank Park. I’d call it St. Paul’s Phillies game night but the Phillies never showed up. That night I was surprised to discover that my friend also calls the Troxell’s his friends. My good Roman Catholic friend who when I asked him to serve as the treasurer of two of our neighboring United Methodist Churches said yes …. Yes because he is a Christian and yes because he is a good man and now for several years and through the pandemic he continues to make sure that two of our United Methodist churches financial record keeping is done with excellence and the bills are paid. Joe asked the simple question … “How is your church doing? Are people back?”
Well, Joe I said … it is hard to say because it is summer time and most people don’t place church attendance as an essential element to their summer Sunday schedules so our attendance is not what it should be but we are caring for the homeless and hurting. We have been on mission to one of the poorest regions of America to verify that mission for Christ matters. Vacation Bible School is coming and I told him that we would be feeding homeless families through Family Promise, which his church is also active in. And, then I said … I am guessing your church’s attendance is doing ok. He said, “Dave it is summer time and unfortunately people choose not to go to church in the summer months.”
Are you surprised church? Are you surprised that the concept of worshipping the God whose love for ALL brought Jesus Christ to earth is a mere after thought or deserving of a respite lasting all summer long to people who attend church at other times of the year? We already are aware that there is a significant number of people who believe Christmas Eve and Easter morning cover the worship requirements in their lives … but where does that leave you and me? Do we wish that we were on vacation somewhere … somewhere where we did not “have to go to church” not even sensing the urgency to find a church whose doors are open …. Wherever we are just because we need to worship?
And, when it comes to God and Christ and the Holy Spirit …. Do we find it easier to be on vacation from them investing our time and energy as well as our renewal time somewhere else where God is not included?
Last week at the service celebrating the life of my friend Peggy Kelly, my former partner in ministry, Reverend Ron Watts, spoke of her excellence in her faith walk. As we grieved the tragedy of our mutual loss, the packed church again heard the essence of who we are called to be. To do everything in our life with excellence but to do it with an excellence that reflects our faith in Jesus Christ. He quoted Solomon’s Proverbs, “Strength and honor are her clothing; she is confident about the future. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Let her deeds praise her in the city gates.” And, the church said AMEN.
We are living in new and challenging times. The global pandemic that continues to slam most of the world and has raised its ugly head again here in the United States as the Delta variant begins to fill ICU’s in many regions of our nation … it has created an unexpected era in history and we are living through it. This week tornadoes set down mere miles from here … humans are being killed daily in Afghanistan in warfare and children are shot to death weekly in obscene numbers here in the United States. Some of us have overwhelming personal challenges in our lives … some are dealing with illness and grief and others have lost the balance and are in the throes of mental health challenges …. Yet, the one potential strength for us is easily accessible … the one source of joy amidst turmoil is alive now and has always been … it was true in the prophet’s era as well when he declared that “the fig tree wasn’t blossoming, there was nothing on the vine and the olive crop was withering and they had no cattle nor sheep, enemy forces were approaching yet …. even though Habakkuk says he was trembling he declared, “I will rejoice in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my deliverance. The Lord God is my strength. He will let me walk upon the heights.”
God will let us walk upon the heights … Friends, God does not hold us back from doing God’s work in this world. GOD WILL LET US WALK UPON THE HEIGHTS but as you can guess that doesn’t require a vacation from God or from our faith but it calls for engagement because faith without works is dead … and each of us has our own gifts, talents, and abilities to take on the heights that are before us.
In Colossians Paul writes, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people. You know that you will receive an inheritance as a reward. You serve the Lord Christ. Keep on praying and guard your prayers with thanksgiving!” A faith walk in excellence … choosing the joy connection with God … looking to the heights and saying ‘they are mine to conquer with God’s help!’
Deep breath … this box was in my office on Thursday. It came from a woman who does not attend St. Paul’s. In fact, I don’t think she has ever stepped inside this church. She has her own church but every Wednesday in a note she wrote, she said that she tries to share in the Lord’s Table with us online. Inside the box were bundles of undies for our UNDIE SUNDAY … inside the box were hand written Pokémon get well papers clearly created by pre-K children from the Sunday School class this woman teaches. Page after page … love through images of Pikachu and others. Can you imagine this woman telling her Sunday School class that they were going to make a boy with cancer at another church happy … that their love of God and Christ could lift another’s spirits by using their talent to create colorful messages? Someone must have invited her to our Wednesday morning online Communion service that is now important in her life … her class also gave a love offering for Logan’s family that allowed this woman to buy a $50 gift card … Jesus … God … Holy Spirit … WHATEVER YOU DO do it from the heart for the Lord … And, Jesus said “This is my body given to you … do this in remembrance of me. This cup … THE NEW COVENANT poured out for you!” HE IS RISEN … “I will rejoice in the Lord!”
Church are you still on vacation? How many days, weeks, months, or years have you been saying you can’t help out with anything at church … you can’t invite friends to church … you don’t have time to read God’s Word … you just need the time for you?
When all this time God has not stopped loving you nor me. God has not ever stopped welcoming people of faith into heaven … God could say that from August 1st 2021 until January 1st 2022 no one will be allowed into heaven because God needed a break. His love is always there … God’s forgiveness is always ready but Jesus reminds us that as people of faith we need to forgive also if we expect God to welcome us.
I am going to ask our Red Bird team to come forward. Mike Minder from Evangelical United Methodist Church was also a key member once again this year. As they come up, I want to share a quote from Pope Francis that was posted yesterday. He said, “We try to accumulate and increase what we have but Jesus asks us to give, to diminish. We like to add, we like addition; Jesus likes subtraction, taking something away to give it to others. We want to multiply for ourselves; Jesus appreciates it when we share with others, when we share … the true miracle, says Jesus, is not the multiplication that produces vanity and power but the sharing that increases love and allows God to perform wonders. Let us try to share more; let us try the way Jesus teaches us.”
Wise words of faith from the pontiff. So, church both here and across the globe worshiping God with us online … who are you going to share your faith with today? Tomorrow or the day after that? Are you going to have your kids color pages telling them Jesus said to love those who are hurting? Are you going to going to lead this church on a new mission adventure for God’s sake … you sharing so God can make the wonders happen?
We were going to help some of America’s poorest in 2020 … but the pandemic got in the way … but faith said GO! Jim and Cherie said LET’s GO. Our team shrunk in numbers but we went … Mr. Terry Montgomery will be forever thankful. Are you going to come next July to change lives? And can you join with the prophet today … make this a day where God is an active part of your life and do it again tomorrow? THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH … HE WILL LET ME WALK UPON THE HEIGHTS. AMEN