Jeremiah 23: 23-29
LUKE 12: 49-56

August 16, 2020

Recently that good old WWJD was tossed out in a conversation I was having. What would Jesus do? Indeed, I have often wondered in these waning years of my life how angry my Savior would be if … if He was to descend in person to today’s world and He then responded to the conditions that we, people have faith, have either quietly accepted or actively endorsed. A destroyed environment … poverty in so many corners of the world while we continue to enrich the wealthy … neighbors only liking and probably not even loving those people of their own kind and politics with Christian identifiers clearly not loving ALL of their neighbors equally while actually quite publicly putting down or condemning their fellow human beings who are not like themselves … places of worship and their leaders seeking favors from rulers rather than going into the world to make disciples … disciples who might come to believe in the radical Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior to those who believe. Remember He taught us to do that …. Go into the world. People of declared faith declaring they don’t want to do what Jesus taught who could never honestly sing our second hymn of this day. Indeed, I don’t think Jesus would be very happy.

Friends, if we are truly people who have spent time wandering through the Gospels. If we have invested the extremely few moments each day that it takes to read a couple of verses or a chapter in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or the first chapter of Acts … you remember my challenge to each of us not for a week … not for a limited Bible Study … but for the rest of our lives. If we have spent any time putting READ THE GOSPELS into our daily life schedules with as much value as that morning cup of coffee, your breakfast meal, or your personal energized indulgence into the news network of your choosing then you would know what Jesus would do. You would hear His teaching.

But, I believe that the movement that linked the 19th century book, “In His Steps; What Would Jesus Do” written by Charles Sheldon and a hymn by AB Simpson from 1891 to the youth movement a century later with bracelets and t-shirts created by youth leader Janie Tinklenberg at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland Michigan didn’t really help people change but instead only considered Jesus’ actions; a historical or philosophical moment but not a life changer. Brothers and Sisters in Christ … I can call you that, can’t I? People of faith already know who Jesus is … people of faith already know what Jesus would do but the real issue; the real challenge is what should we do. What are we doing and will we follow Him? Will we reflect Jesus’ teaching in our words and our actions?

Are we making the Jesus choice? Or, are we wrapped up in making the global choice where we can find personal power, control and prestige by choosing sides in the world’s ongoing battles? Are we allowing our faith excuse to be our whispered asking what would Jesus do? Rather than being willing to engage in His teaching lessons at the risk of criticism from those closet to us? Jesus shared in today’s Gospel that those who follow Him might see their families divided over choosing God and Christ over the world.

We know we are not Jesus the Christ … so by asking WWJD we avoid making the statement IWFJ (I WILL FOLLOW JESUS).

As has often been the case since March, I wish that it was safe enough for all of you to be gathered here but it isn’t safe. Yesterday, a person I have been counseling since COVID 19 became a reality was placed in a South Jersey ICU bed with COVID just because her family held a bridal shower for her future daughter-in-law where safety practices were relaxed and someone in that crowd was asymptomatic. We are being safe at St Pauls.

If you were all here this morning with your beautiful smiling faces sharing the love of fellowship in this beautiful place of worship … I would ask you to declare. In person IWFJ … I WILL FOLLOW JESUS … I WILL FOLLOW JESUS … but instead I am asking you to say that out loud in your living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and wherever else you are. You know I would keep asking you to say it until the rafters shook … I WILL FOLLOW JESUS … I WILL FOLLOW JESUS … IWFJ!

Will, you this morning consider changing your life’s priorities so that as this service ends you can indeed respond to the world that you do follow Him? Jesus over all? He has made you glad? O Jesus has made me glad! I will rejoice because He has made me glad!

So, this morning … actually this summer … truthfully most of my life … I have thought about Jesus and Dave Delaney’s relationship with the Son of God. Of course, I think about your relationship with the Holy too and the relationship strangers I meet have with my Savior … I consider whether standing up for Bible principles actually Jesus teachings matters as the onslaught of criticism pours out in today’s 21st century world towards anyone who stands up for the hard choices Jesus directed us to make in the Gospels; His words … God’s expectations for believers. Did you know that there are individuals who are actually now being critical of the type of box people they don’t like were buried in and attacking those who have cared about that particular dead man?

Carla in reading today’s Gospel lesson finished with verse 56 as Jesus clearly spoke to the crowd, “Hypocrites!” Jesus shouted, “You know how to interpret conditions on earth and in the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret the present time?” A question we could be asking ourselves as Christians today but then in verse 57 Jesus concludes with a hanging question, “And, why … why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?”

God’s love extends beyond neighborhoods and borders … God’s love is there for people of all backgrounds, lifestyles, ethnic and racial identifiers … actually since ALL of Humanity was made in the image of God … it’s pretty darn clear that God loves all, which we should be eternally grateful for but when we make the Jesus choice then we are told we must love all. Followers of Jesus … Our Savior taught us, that we His disciples, will be identified as His when we love all others, all of our neighbors not just some, as Jesus loved (You can look it up in the Gospel of John) clearly His disciples are not identified by being known as outspoken voices critical of certain groups of humans or individuals because that runs counter to loving as Jesus loved because He loved the outcast and the rejected … He loved those hated by the people in power … frankly Jesus loved all and died a death on the cross for all so that any of us who come to God through Him can get peace, hope, and perhaps most importantly have eternal life with God in heaven. That is the Christian faith … that is the teaching of the God of creation. We can have joy amidst the storm when we have Him.


We have a Jesus choice to make. This is perhaps the most important decision we can make in our life and it is personal as well as essential. You don’t make the Jesus choice by occasionally rubbing shoulders with other people who tell the world they are Christians or by sitting next to or with people who like to attend church. We heard from the prophet Jeremiah this morning the reality of God’s presence, a presence we can each find if we only pause in our busy desire to fit into the world, Jeremiah wrote, “The Lord, declares, am I a God who is only nearby and not far off? Can people hide themselves in secret places so I might not see them? Don’t I fill heaven and earth?”

Church, God knows where you are at. We can’t hide from God nor can we fake God out with a good moment here and there. God knows our hearts … God knows our minds … and the world notices how we connect or disconnect with Jesus.

The Jesus choice is a two parter, much to the chagrin of some of the WWJD crowd. I takes the belief that Nicodemus was told about as he snuck in to see Jesus after noticing how Jesus was different from any other faith leader. Nicodemus heard the love lessons and saw the healing. Jesus said BELIEVE in ME because as Jesus continued in John 3:17, “God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through Him.” Jesus also warned Nicodemus of a truth both in their time and in our time, “The light came into the world and people loved darkness more than light, because their actions are evil. All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed in the light. Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.”

And, there in that closing comment to Nicodemus we are reminded of the second phase of making the Jesus choice. If we believe … if we have found the light then we must do what Jesus taught because faith without actions is clearly not faith and claiming faith while doing what the world expects over God’s teachings is clearly going against God.

So, on this rainy South Jersey Sunday morning we each get to make a choice about our lives. There are many who will dismiss or minimize Jesus so that their comfort in the world can be complete. The truth is we won’t get wealthy by choosing Jesus Christ because God does not rain down dollar bills on the homes where daily prayers are lifted up or when mission projects originate. The truth is we will be criticized when we tell the world we hold true Jesus teaching in chapters of the Gospels like Matthew 25 or Luke 10 and perhaps you want to be comfy cozy with your worldly friends who enjoy dividing up humanity.

But, today I care about your eternal future … I care about God’s world here. I want you to find joy, peace, and the hope that extinguishes fear even in these TWILIGHT ZONE times we are living in.

I want you to actively choose Jesus! That’s why I keep telling you to read the Gospels … they are more life changing than a Stephen King novel and if you believe and if you discover the reality of Jesus the Christ then you can and you will actively do something to make God’s world better for others just because you will know that’s what God wants and expects. Not an occasional moment but your daily priorities.

I have known too much death … again this week sitting with someone in those moments … time rushes; the next phase of existence approaches and each of us has been exposed to the means to having that eternity with God but God allows us to choose to accept or to reject both are active choices.

You cannot accept but then live for the world … you cannot claim the name but live a life where your words and actions clearly reject Christ just because you don’t like what Jesus said we are to do … somehow your friends and allies have more say than God’s Son?

If you aren’t sure where you are. If the magnetism of the world’s power has been pulling you in especially in this time of pandemic … especially in this political season … if you want to stand with Jesus Christ … if you want to be aligned with God then yes read God’s Gospels daily, pray with fervor more than for a few moments, and change those habits that might satisfy others but go against God.

And, if you need someone to talk with … if you need to really confess how challenged you are … reach out to me … find someone who is living a life of faith each day because they will listen and they will pray and they will point out the expectations that will put you on God’s team.

God’s already drafted you, and me and every other human being to be on God’s team now and for eternity … sadly all too many choose not to accept being on God’s team because they think the temporary matters more … I can assure you it doesn’t.


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