Jeremiah 31: 6-14
JOHN 16: 19-24

January 5, 2020

“The time will come when the watchmen shout … “GET READY!! We’re going up to Zion to the Lord our God!”

Are you ready church … to use the changing of the year to go up to Zion and experience the Lord our God or is this another year when the call of the watchmen falls quietly amidst the clutter of the world.  WHAT WILL YOUR YEAR BE?  WHO WILL YOU BECOME and HOW WILL THE INEVITABILITY of CHANGE IMPACT THE PERSON YOU ARE and YOUR LIFE?  I can guarantee that all of us will have experienced change in our lives by the time January 1st 2021 arrives; some expected and some not; some good and some not so good but how we deal with change will say a lot about ourselves.

Well, if I haven’t said it already to you … Happy New Year!  I know one place I won’t be going to in 2020 is the Super Bowl but that’s ok because my life is not dependent on the entertainment skills of athletes performing a game called football …. But oh if the referees had not created that non-penalty my Bills were on their way to field goal territory and a victory last night.  Oh well … entertainment not life.

It’s been a long time since I came up with a listing of resolutions for a year.  Perhaps I have stopped because even the resolutions with the best intent never seemed to work.  And, last night one of my best friends Jake laughed as I mentioned my new car to him.  He said ‘once we get to our age cars just don’t have the same excitement value that they once did.” Time truly changes us … so will we be lulled into complacency or energized for hope in the coming days of 2020?

I do get contemplative as the years change … I do get a little emotional and curious looking back and then looking forward.  Some of our social media even tugs at our memories by out of nowhere showcasing images from our past.

Just this week a photo of Colleen and Ryan from 2011 walking along Atlantic City’s WALK showed up.  It was 2 months after they had met but their eyes were already focused on each other … it was easy to see that they liked each other a lot but they still had college to complete … who would have guessed for sure that nine years later Dax would be here and that the two of them would be doing so well.  Then there was the snow video from just a few years ago of me playing in the parsonage yard … ahh snow.

Oops … my mind started to take me to a good place but friends we are here at a place where worshiping God is a reality.  We are in a location either in person or via the internet where Jesus Christ is worshiped.  And, if I were to be assigned to write an essay about church I would suggest that church is the incubator for people’s faith walks … a place of discovery and reminder that God is calling … that faith without actions just isn’t faith … and that God has given us what it takes to do God’s work in this world because at the end of the day … at the end of our life journey … what we take with us is what we have done for God … in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  We are sharing a moment in a good place called St. Paul’s.  A place where love for all resounds and is experienced!

Those of you paying attention to the news this week or who are on our e-mail list or look to our social media know that the United Methodist Church was in the news this week.  I shared some of my thoughts with you in my letter on Friday and this is not the time for me to go further into that discussion other than to again emphasize that one thing that I pray will never change is how all of you … the people who make up St. Paul’s of West Deptford … truly love and welcome every person who walks through our doors.  The Communion table is open to ALL.  This church family understands that ALL humanity is created in God’s Holy Image and that any person … ALL people wanting to be members of our church … any person wanting to take on a leadership role with this church … any and all human beings wanting to connect with God and Jesus Christ at this church will be welcome without hesitation.  We love because He first loved us and through that love we don’t attempt to set God and faith and leadership aside exclusively for those who mirror the exact people we are because we know God and Christ are for ALL.  So, in this spirit of change … we will not change our love for ALL; never ever because if we stop loving all equally then we have walked away from the second commandment of Jesus Christ.  St Paul’s is a welcoming and loving and inclusive church of Christ!

We heard this morning some of Jesus words before the walk through the Kidron Valley to the Garden … before the arrest .. before the trial before the cross … words that hinted at the empty tomb to come.  An empty tomb that empowers and saves.  Jesus said to those gathered around Him who were debating what Jesus meant when he said “Soon you won’t see me.”  Jesus told them that at first when He went away they would “cry and lament.”  But, in words that should remind us of today’s truth … Jesus said that when the world thinks that Jesus is gone … when the world believes that Jesus no longer can have an impact … Jesus declared that “the world will be happy.”

The GOOD NEWS … that wasn’t the end of Jesus teaching that day because He reminded them and all of us that once they knew the full story their sorrow will turn into joy.   Once we understand and believe the full story of Jesus the Christ … the teaching, the challenges of faith, the cross taking on our sins, the empty tomb and Jesus walking again, His ascension and His future return then all of us will know the joy!  All of us will have our joy complete and what we ask in His name … not for our purposes but in His name will be ours so that we can walk the walk of faith even out into a world that is happy when Jesus is hidden behind a boulder.

So, church WHAT WILL YOUR YEAR BE LIKE in 2020?  Where are the places that you will be going?  How important is it to take the bread and cup today … what are you looking forward to … who might you share the Light of Christ with or are you waiting for something from the world?

The time will come when the watchmen shout … “GET READY!! We’re going up to Zion to the Lord our God!”

Last night as I pulled out of Woodcrest’s PATCO station after watching my team’s season end I turned the radio on and the very first song that came on as I hit the 295 was from Philadelphia’s Harold Melvin and his Blue Notes.  The song was actually written by Teddy Pendergrass … WAKE UP EVERYBODY.  And, it brought back memories.

I first met Teddy at an event run by the Camden County Office for the disABLED at Cooper River.  Teddy was the entertainment and I was the speaker.   Teddy was there moving around in his wheelchair and singing with all of his heart.  We would get other moments together in the years before he died but I remember him saying something  to me like “man” he always started with “man” … “man, we all got gifts and we can’t let little things bring us down because we gotta share with the world.”  He didn’t allow being paralyzed from a car accident stop him from sharing.  The words from WAKE UP are so powerful and I found myself smiling and challenged as I listened driving in the rain knowing that today I would be asking you to consider what your year will be.

WAKE UP EVERYBODY no more sleepin’ in bed.  No more backward thinkin’ time for thinkin’ ahead.”  Teddy’s lyrics written for the Blue Notes continue, “The world won’t get no better if we just let it be.  We gotta change it … yeah, just you and me.”

So, I find in a new year a clarion call for revival and change!  In just a few weeks we are going to examine our CREDO … words we use in faith but today we have the Lord’s Table in front of us.  We have a world of challenges beyond our doors.   We have a God who loves all but places expectations on those who believe.

The prophet declares, “LISTEN … LISTEN to the Lord’s WORD you nations” but the prophet doesn’t stop with just listening he then adds, “ANNOUNCE IT TO THE DISTANT ISLANDS.”  Jesus said, “go into the world and make disciples!”  No more sleepin’ in bed friends … the call of our God … the call of our Savior is that the “world won’t get no better if we just let it be.  We gotta change it … yeah, just you and me!”

I have to admit that is challenging but perhaps the biggest challenge I find for people of faith is to allow their faith overflow into expressions of joy and celebration.    Our Psalter today was from Psalm 150 … “Let every breathing thing PRAISE THE LORD … PRAISE GOD in God’s Sanctuary! With drum and dance and even loud clashing cymbals!”  Today’s reading from the prophet teaches us that when God’s people reconnect with God … “they will come shouting for joy on the hills of Zion!  Young women will dance for joy and the young and old men will join in.  The Lord declares, I turn their mourning into laughter and their sadness into joy!”  Paul teaches, “Rejoice always; again I say rejoice!”

The time will come when the watchmen shout … “GET READY!! We’re going up to Zion to the Lord our God!”

And, as I listened to that song I heard Teddy’s voice buried in the music as the song was reaching its conclusion singing words I haven’t noticed before … “You preachers start to preach … preach the truth.”  Friends, the truth is in the Good News of Jesus Christ … God’s love … God’s call … a reason for us to praise and be filled with joy!

A new year is here … in the words of my friend WAKE UP; We need each other!  Just how are you going to be using the days ahead that God has provided?

Come to God’s Table today knowing you are loved … opening yourself to the Holy Spirit!  Remember the world won’t get no better if we just let it be … we got to change it you and me and every other person who believes in the Risen Savior JESUS THE CHRIST!











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