Psalm 30: 1-3 & 11-1
MARK 5: 21-34

June 27, 2021

I am sure that all of you, like me, go through your days with a schedule pretty much in sync with the paths you have travelled on before. You see, we humans are creatures of habit … we like to be in our comfort zones and we truly appreciate being in control of our next few steps or at least thinking we are in control along the journey. An assurance that we are safe and secure and confident, in our minds, as to what’s around the corner.

But, what happens when things change? What if the best laid plans offer choices that are not the ready made plans you had for the morning? For your day? Your week? Or perhaps, your entire life? What do you do? Do you stand still and shrink out of sight? Do you refuse to live life? Or do you go forward? … Cautiously more than likely … to see what’s around the corner but on you go making life choices.

Yesterday was one of those days of just taking a step beyond the well thought out plans for my family.

Some of you were able to get to know my mother-in-law, June, back before Megan went on peritoneal and before the global pandemic struck. Those situations plus her own health realities have kept June in Florida since 2019. Well, this week June and my sister-in-law travelled to New Jersey to get a week with Donna and Megan. It was the first time that Beth had ever seen Dax, our grandson, and it gave June some quality time with Dax since he is now much more than just the baby she had last seen.

Yesterday the plans were left to me and since both in-laws enjoy art I decided to head to the Wyeth Museum in Brandywine. In addition, I chose a highly rated and reasonably priced Greek restaurant for dinner. An ‘everybody would be happy day’ but those well thought out plans did not come to fruition … it began with the madness on the highways and it concluded with another version of just plain mad. Collectively, we had to step out in an unintended direction hoping for the best.

And, so it was off to Wilimington where the NeMours Estate was our new destination … when Megan heard we would be on the border of DuPont Children’s Hospital she was thrilled because that is where an amazing surgeon, amidst prayers and worries, made the choices that have allowed Megan’s legs to work properly and her arm to be a useful tool for life. And, we discovered a treasure of beauty … created by God … that we realized we never had seen before. We also saw the amazing creation of the DuPont family. Our unplanned step was the right choice … so it was off to Grecian Delights, which I had carefully researched only to discover my research was a failure … what to do? Everyone was hungry for Greek … I made a quick call to the MAD GREEK just hoping for indoor dining in an environment conducive to eating. The MAD folks said come on over … and we were treated to one of the best Greek meals we have had in a long time only a few minutes from here along the Pennsylvania and Delaware border.

So, where does this fit with our connection to God? Jesus Christ? The Holy Spirit? You may be thinking?

I truly believe that the global pandemic has provided people of faith with a crossroads of life emphasized by the timing of this year’s Pentecost. I believe that this church, St. Paul’s, with our now global congregation has an amazing collective of talented, gifted, and faith-filled people capable of shining the Light of Jesus Christ out into the world. I told our District Superintendent Reverend Glenn Conaway this Thursday, during my annual review, that I believe St. Paul’s is positioned to be a church that grows in the coming years and becomes a beacon of faith even as we sadly watch neighboring churches vanish off the map … the reason? I believe that all of you both here in church today and those of you worshiping through technology are ready to take the step needed to make worship relevant, mission work locally and globally essential, and are ready to hear the call of Jesus Christ to lead others to become new disciples of Christ from amongst the people of the world … from Westville to Wenonah to Clay County Kentucky and across the seas to Liberia, Pakistan, and Malaysia!

To take that step … requires that we dramatically change the comfortable paths we were on way back in March 2020. It means that we need to envision a life with God as our essential partner rather than as an occasional subject of conversation. It means we worship God with reverence and enthusiasm. And, that, yes, we step up to declare what we each believe … providing confidence in our friends who have been quiet about their beliefs while also allowing the world to know that the people of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of West Deptford New Jersey each have a story to tell to the nations about our Lord Jesus Christ. Our affirmations of faith do matter … long or short.

We are EASTER PEOPLE who take the history of that first Easter seriously, faithfully, and thankfully as we declare JESUS CHRIST is RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>. We are CHRISTMAS PEOPLE who understand that Rudolph is not the one we worship nor thank for the gift of Christmas that lives on but rather we exclaim JOY TO THE WORLD; the LORD has COME! We are the people of Pentecost … who yes can wear our RED CAPS … but together, we lift our arms together in praise and worship declaring COME HOLY SPIRIT COME and we mean it. And, we are not afraid to stand on our feet together as our time of worship concludes to sing with joy a song of faith allowing the Holy Spirit to lift up our spirits … our very souls … before we return out into the world.

Church … are you with me and have you traded your sorrows, your shame, your sickness and your pain for the joy of the Lord? Are you blessed that God’s promise through Jesus Christ will endure and has the joy in our faith, become your strength? REJOICE in the LORD ALWAYS, are you? Are you ready to use God’s presence in taking that step that is needed to be closer to God in the days ahead more than you have even been before?

That’s your choice … our choice but you know what, I think if we pause and realize that the direction we were headed in was not going to build the church of Jesus Christ … was not bringing others to know Jesus … was truly not actually serving God … then it is time for a change, probably an unexpected one for many, from the self-planned safety zone into the embrace of God knowing God is going to be with us every step along the way!

In a few moments Charlie and I will ask each of you to sing the refrain to Charlie’s offertory song … “Walk with me, I will walk with you and build the land that God has planned where love shines through.” PEOPLE of ST. PAULS, we already know how to love every person who walks through those doors … it is time to take the next step of faith …

Are you desperate to sense Jesus? When Jesus went to Jairus’ home that woman who had been suffering for a dozen years knew this was her chance; her moment in time … to take a step forward; a leap of faith … going where others might have told her not to go. We do not know if she debated not going into the crowd that day. We don’t know how many people told her that Jesus wasn’t all that special and she should just live the way she always had lived … but, friends, she made the decision … even seeing the crowd that swarmed around Jesus.

She could see him ahead of her. Would she walk toward Jesus pushing the crowd aside or would she turn to go home and binge watch some tv? When you consider where your life has been before today … knowing Jesus is there for you … would you walk toward Jesus taking that step of commitment … will you take that step … knowing your life can and will be changed by the Son of God … knowing once you are energized by the Holy Spirit you can live a life where worshiping God matters, where you feel the call to study God’s Word, and you can sense the Holy Spirit directing you to use your abilities for God’s purposes or of course, you can get back to the journey where your time and life have other things and perhaps people as your priorities or semi-gods.

The woman had the choice … push through the deafening crowd knowing some would stare at her, whisper things about her … she took one step then two … she couldn’t even see Jesus face … but then she knew …. She had to get to Him. Another step then another … ‘if only I can touch his clothes; just a touch of Jesus … maybe.’ And, then she moved forward, a new path … a path out of a long period of suffering … and she reached out and felt that cloth that covered the Son of God. And, at that very moment Mark reports she sensed the healing power of God. The psalmist wrote, “I cried out for help and you’re healed me. LORD you brought me up from the grave … brought me back to life from among those going to the pit.”

It is so easy to walk a journey with those who don’t believe … it’s so easy not to push through the texting crowd … it is so easy not to disrupt the vile streams of social media by declaring JESUS in your life. The every day paths we have been on … the people who line those highways … have you told them to love ALL of their neighbors? Have you shown them how to love and walk with God? Have you been the example in your words and deeds of doing the justice that the Lord God requires of believers? Or have those steps been out of alignment with who you are?

And, so this morning perhaps it is a day of commitment … a day of renewal … next week we begin CHRISTMAS in JULY. St. Paul’s goes on a missions trip to Clay County Kentucky … Vacation Bible School is around the corner … but MEN, are you going to come to the MEN’s breakfast next Saturday? MEN and WOMEN are you going to volunteer for Vacation Bible School AND INVITE families you know with kids who need Jesus to come. … will you tell your friends I AM TEACHING. … I AM LEADING … I AM HELPING at VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL so can you bring your children for those 5 nights? Are you singing today … ARE YOU SINGING. As loud as you can at home and here … I’ll Fly Away … WALK with ME … Are you considering starting a SMALL GROUP BIBLE STUDY in your home for a few couples? WHO IS ON YOUR MUST INVITE TO CHURCH LIST?

Friends, are you desperate to touch Jesus this morning even if it means taking a step out of the path that you are so so comfortable living and walking on? Has your faith healed you or are you still debating your faith?

I believe that this church family more than any other church family I know is on the cusp of doing great things for the Lord! We can use the lessons of the pandemic and declare with the psalmist … “You changed my morning into dancing! You dressed me up in joy so that my whole being might sing praises to you and never stop. LORD, my God I will give thanks to you FOREVER!”

If we are faithful … we will sing praises to God. If we sensed the spirit of Pentecost this year to renew our faith and reenergized us as the pandemic here in the United States lifted its shroud this Spring …can you imagine Peter standing here in front of this loving, joy-filled church in the building and online declaring from the prophet Joel, “God says, I will pour out my Spirit on my people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy. And, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Friends … are you ready to take that step? Are you ready to call on the name of the Lord? We can do amazing things and it starts today. Write down your ideas for this church … call on the leaders … volunteer to be a leader … join us as we grow this church not just for this year or next but for the next 25 years because there is work to be done and by taking the step towards God we will all discover reasons to rejoice! AMEN

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ