THERE IS A SPIRIT IN THIS PLACE
Jeremiah 30: 18-22
Romans 5: 1-5
June 12, 2022
A book I recently read begins with this question … “Have you ever come to the realization that a normal day for you may be the definition of …” and then the book continues its journey into what it calls a ‘love-stretched life.” But those words have resonated with me especially as we take another step away from last year’s Christmas Eve celebrations … as time fades into the shadows so does our Holy Week connections with God and Jesus Christ that culminated with three awesome Easter worship services, a mere 56 days ago, … by the way HE IS RISEN!!! <<He is Risen Indeed>>
And, then there is last week’s incredibly joy-filled Pentecost celebration of faith here at St. Paul’s when little Lucy was baptized and together we wore red and some of us donned Pentecost caps … together we waved the red banner at the mere mention of ‘Pentecost’ … such joy; such connection; such faith being expressed together in this church with a meaning and purpose and a connection that for those moments … in that passing hour … at least for just about 60 minutes the world out there was diminished to nothingness because what we had in here was a spirit of faith … a place where the Spirit of the Lord was doing quite nicely thank you!
If you worshiped with us last week either here in person where you were waving your red banners every time I said PENTECOST or online from your corner of the world I know you could each sense the joy emanating from here.
I am curious, after having gone through that remarkable hour together, …. who did you tell the story of your church experience to? Which of your friends, your neighbors or family members were the first to hear about the spirit that filled this place? God’s Holy Spirit! And, hopefully filled your very soul? If you are still in the working world did you talk about the joy you shared and the fact that church was packed with your co-workers?
Did you see the photos Gary posted showing your smiles and reflecting your amazing energy that was happening here in this place … you can still find the photo’s and video on FACEBOOK … you can actually share them with your FACEBOOK stream at no cost to you … that is … that is if you want your corner of the world to hear the story of your faith connection and risk that they might discover that you actually found joy or continue to find joy in worshiping God and Jesus Christ … Allowing your collection of friends to get some insight into the reality that church can and should be. A place where joy and love pervades the atmosphere and where ALL are ALL-WAYS welcome! That worship matters to you … to your family … and should to your friends as well.
One of our visitors told me that if she lived 45 miles or less from West Deptford she’d come here to worship because of the spirit of love … the spirit of God .. the spirit of joy in worship that she sensed from this place. Friends, this church was almost full on a Sunday in June, which to many people is the start of the season when vacationing from God and church is somehow the accepted plan until September returns.
The psalmist reminds us, “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of heavenly forces! My very being longs, even yearns for the Lord’s courtyards. My heart and body will rejoice out loud to the living God.” It’s no wonder that when I said PENTECOST … well you remember. It’s almost like when we remember that HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> And, once again truthfully in these moments my heart and body rejoices … and I hope yours does too.
And, the prophet Jeremiah shared “The Lord God proclaims … there will be laughter and songs of thanks! The city will be rebuilt on its ruins! I will honor them … you will be my people and I will be your God.”
Friends, if you were here … if you experienced God’s love … if you shared in the joy … who have you been telling? Everybody has somebody they can tell … about our God; about Jesus not as a wrapped Christmas story but as a living Savior. Sharing not in a condemning manner … not chastising nor being critical of the others but in a way that reflects the joy you have … the love you have experienced … your love of God; love from God that is always open for ALL; always welcoming; always with the potential to take on great challenges … that can even rebuild the ruins of past history … provide restoration, peace and bring joy. “Their children will thrive as they did long ago and their community will be established before The Lord.”
Right there is a reason to celebrate … well maybe … if worship and our God connection are truly parts of our lives rather than just one hour experiences that we have most weeks.
I did some math … in 31 years there are 1616 one hour Sunday worship service possibilities although sometimes the pastor slips up and worship of God runs 5 or 10 or even 15 minutes beyond an hour but God is forgiving of those awful slip up’s. In those 31 years there are 11322 days. If we do the math …. And I will admit, I used a calculator … if we only invested 1 hour a week for God in worship during our 31 years here on earth that would mean we were giving God .006 percent of our time and we were using 99.994 percent of our time for ourselves. Uh … I am thinking that’s not quite what God had in mind when the first commandment of God is to love God and that the expectation for humans from the Lord God is to walk humbly with God … can’t do much walking in under ½ of 1 percent of our breathing moments can we? It’s like saying we exercised taking thirty steps from our couch to the refrigerator for some ice cream.
So, if I again pose the question to you, “What is the definition of your normal day?” Would you in an instant realize and reply that your your normal day’s definition is living for Jesus and allowing God’s Spirit to be your personal guide through the wilderness of the world that offers so many other gods to treasure, clutch, and worship. That your focus is not on defending your worldly things that you treasure in your arguments and thoughts but rather in following the directives of Jesus for each day?
The question again is about your normal day … not about this awesome hour we share together in worship either in person or online but your everyday Monday or Wednesday or even Saturday … WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION of YOUR NORMAL DAY and is God your first love and is Jesus Christ your master and teacher and is the Holy Spirit the source of information you turn to or do you go online to repeat the phrases of the world?
And who is the somebody you are sharing your life’s definition with … allowing them to perhaps get some of the joy you have and I have in not just worshiping God but in “Living for Jesus, a life that is true. Striving to please Him in all that I do.” Or, letting those around you know what worldly gods matter most to you …
Just a side note … Thomas Chisholm who wrote ‘Living for Jesus’ lived an interesting life. He was born in Kentucky; did not have any formal education but became a teacher at the age of 16; an associate editor of his hometown newspaper at 21; ordained a Methodist pastor at 37; and at 50 moved to Vineland New Jersey where he sold life insurance. He wrote more than 1200 poems and 800 were published in Christian periodicals such as the Sunday School Times, Moody Monthly and the Alliance Weekly. He wrote, “I have sought to be true to the Word … I have greatly delivered that people might have some definite message to the hearts for whom it was written.”
So, on this rainy day with the skies literally booming and flashing here in South Jersey we come to contemplate our God … come to worship God and Jesus Christ … or perhaps we come to see friends and spend .006 percent of this week’s time in this beautiful place called St. Paul’s before we again focus in on representing the world in our lives.
I remember when I first heard Shout to the North that we sang earlier. It was the second song on Robin Mark’s album ‘Revival in Belfast.’ Ireland had not yet found a peaceful transition from THE TROUBLES and here was this singer leading a faith revival in Belfast. The recording was done with a live audience and every time Marks sang the words SHOUT there was a special emphasis but what struck me is that the song’s lyrics reflected that Jesus was there for all … in the North and the South and if you know the history of the Irish people’s struggles for freedom that delineation between north and south mattered but the message being shouted Jesus is Savior to all … He is Lord of heaven and earth! It is God’s call … God’s love but today as we let the words from Jeremiah resonate … I want you to think of the song’s lyrics from the last verse pausing to remember how good last week felt here in church …
“RISE UP CHURCH with broken wings … fill this place with songs again!! Of our God who reigns on high!! By His grace we will fly!”
On Sunday June 5th in the year 2022 … a June Sunday … a Pentecost Sunday … on a day when 6 or 8 people were in a church a few miles from here and another dozen at another church … on a day when people were fighting and arguing with each other at other churches … here at St. Paul’s there was a spirit of joy that was energized! Alive with God’s Spirit and impacting people’s lives. There was a loving spirit showcasing the lesson of God that ALL neighbors are to be loved not merely acknowledged but loved as EQUALS in God’s Creation … sadly some of those other places called churches are attempting to set pecking orders that claim only those like the church leaders are accepted by God … there was a lesson shown that children are the church! Children are to be in church! That children are the future of the church!
‘The Lord God proclaims … “There will be laughter and songs of thanks! The city will be rebuilt on its ruins! I will honor them … they will be my people and I will be your God.”
We are in the season of Pentecost … we are blessed to be connected to this incredible church family … but we each need to answer the question to ourselves and to God … what is our day? Who are we? Are you included in Paul’s definition of living for Jesus? “Since we have been made righteous through faithfulness, we have pace with God through OUR LORD Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into His grace in which WE STAND through Him and the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” There’s a Spirit in this place and I pray in you! AMEN