1 SAMUEL 16 Selected verses
JOHN 9:35-38

March 22, 2020

And, the Lord God said, “That’s the one … go anoint him” So, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers and the Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.”

Friends, God in this Old Testament history lesson wasn’t looking for appearance or stature.  God was reminding us that the values that we humans place on things that we have created don’t matter to God.  The Lord said to Samuel, “Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the LORD sees into the heart.” So, are you ready to see what God has planned for your life?  Are you ready to live as one of the anointed of God?

I chose today’s sermon title, theme and Scripture selections before CONID-19 or the CORONA VIRUS were household names.  I chose today’s Scriptures as an effective theme for the season of Lent, which I have often referred to as a time to get closer to God, to Jesus Christ, to the Holy Spirit and to our faith.  Little did I know what our realities would be today.  Our increased free time to get closer to God. St. Paul’s is not filled today; our people are hopefully safe in their homes … instead we are a food providing organization of faith, which allows our Food Pantry volunteers and other volunteers to come to our church as we care for members and strangers the best we can.  And, we are streaming worship, Sunday School, daily devotions, and Bible Study.

But friends … I have stated before during moments when the dark clouds of separation, fear, and confusion were looming on the horizon and when loud voices were wondering where the future was going. … I have told this church family …. We need to continue to be the church of God, a physical location in West Deptford New Jersey where God’s love is shared called St. Paul’s.  A church family that understands what God expects … a church family that welcomes any individual or family who has walked through our doors or reached out to us.   And, today amidst our quarantines and isolation I am declaring to you wherever you live … regardless of whether you have walked through these doors or ever will and I am reminding myself that we are to be the people God calls us to be because if we allow the world to control our very souls we will be lost and taken up in the confusion .. the anxiety … the frustration … and the darkness of the world.

All too frequently, humans find the need to cast blame or point fingers just listen to those who can’t call COVID 19 or the Corona Virus by its proper name instead insisting on casting dispersions towards others.   Just this morning I read of a news story from the Finger Lake region of New York State reporting how young people  pushed their way into a grocery store and pushed and shouted at senior citizens during an hour that the grocery store chain had set aside for their older neighbors, pregnant women and the vulnerable in their community. Human needs … lack of love or compassion for the hurting.

The words of the Lord to Samuel ring in my ears “Humans see only what is visible to the eyes …” but humans who have discovered Jesus Christ … humans who understand the real and living God … we have been taught; we have been reminded; and many of us have attempted to structure our lives into people who accept the very clear and concise directives of Jesus as real and life changing … the life changing Jesus.  Do you believe this morning church that Jesus Christ is your Lord … your Savior … your Master and Teacher?

Many of us were blind and unable to see God in our walks of life before faith … allowing human weaknesses and human desires for the things we see and our urgent wanting to be part of the ‘in crowd’ made it easy to eliminate God from our daily lives.  We were too busy … later pastor … when I get older I will … I deserve the finest things … I really hate my neighbors pastor because they are in the other political party … my kids need to be superstars and get college scholarships not church goers who waste time on  Jesus stories when they can be spending their free time of youth on the practice fields; pastor let them figure out their faith later.  I have been told those things friends … We have all had the moments when we lived for today and wanted our today’s to be as much like the days of the RICH and FAMOUS as we could make them.  All about us I am sure have wanted to prove that we were better than whatever group we selected as being the despised others.

So in the Gospel of John, a group of humans were busy judging a blind man whom Jesus had healed … they shouted that he was an evil sinner to be rejected from society … in the lesson from history that John reports to us, human judgment rained down on another human being.  Why did they find the need to do that?  Power … making themselves feel better at the expense of others?  Kick another to the curb … mock him … get others to mock him for his disability for his weakness … at least in their eyes.

That was the story that preceded our Gospel lesson today.  Faith leaders shouting and pointing fingers at a man of faith whom these leaders decided couldn’t be God’s child because he had been born blind … he wasn’t like them.  Even though Jesus had healed his blindness they continued to declare SINNER SINNER and they expelled him from their midst.  How many times do we separate others from our lives … how many of us have used our time to judge or rank others based on who they are, what they look or sound like, where they come from, who they live with, the sports teams they enjoy … “Humans see only what is visible to our eyes but the Lord sees what is in the heart.”

And, friends today as we enter into our nation’s second week of living with COVID 19, the Corona Virus … learn its name … as we in New Jersey become sequestered into our homes and many of us are separated from people we love dearly not sure when we can see them in person again or hug them or kiss them.  On this day in the year 2020 … we each have been given an amazing opportunity to reexamine our own hearts and as we discover that we can’t get box seats to the Yankees or the Phillies … when we can’t show off our finery to anyone other than those quarantined with us … when we can’t be part of a crowd jeering and name calling others … we have time to examine our hearts and determine if we want to align ourselves with the Holy, with the Creator, with God and Christ.

Now that we are all left to spending our moments in our houses, our apartments … who have you been modeling for during the last year or so of your life?  Who is it that you have been attempting to impress?  WE ALL have time to think about this now … WE ALL need to consider who we will be once the world returns to a sense of normalcy when we get COVID 19/the CORONA VIRUS under control.

In our lesson from Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, which again I find ironic that I had chosen it for this week,  Paul writes to that early church … “Nobody should deceive you with stupid ideas!”  OH MY … how many of us have bought into stupid ideas, followed hurtful voices who encourage us to separate from “those people” for our own good. WE have rewarded those who are telling us what to do even when we knew it was wrong.  Paul writes, “God’s anger will come down on them.”  He writes, “You shouldn’t have anything to do with them.”  So, church this morning here’s a first step in changing who you are modeling for … STOP and think about who you are allowing to direct your life.  STOP accepting what in your heart you know are stupid ideas; hurtful causes; or programs that bring injustice into the world … start modeling for God.  Paul understands that we all were once in the darkness but …

Ok, here’s this litmus test and I know perhaps that in these days of confusion its hard for you to be with me on this but are you living in the Light of Jesus Christ?  Are you more than a CONVENIENT CHRISTIAN and by that I mean are you examining your daily life, your thoughts, your online posts through the words of Jesus Christ?    Do you know His words?  Have you read the Gospels?

And, I left something incomplete a bit earlier today the concise directives of Jesus Christ.  You know the baby born in the manger … you sang JOY to the WORLD the LORD HAS COME  and it was so cool when the lights went out and you lit a candle and sang SILENT NIGHT HOLY NIGHT but did you then rush to unwrap both your presents while packing away that connection to God that is Jesus Christ knowing that on Easter you would come again to a faith moment … well right now Easter sunrise services aren’t looking very good are they?   But, Jesus answered several times what God expects … we aren’t talking the famous TEN on the rock Moses brought down.  We are talking about the GOD EXPECTATION on which ALL other LAWS and PROPHETS rest … LOVE GOD with all your heart, soul, and mind ALL OF YOU LOVE GOD no other gods that you put before the real One … the Creator … no other things that you put ahead … LOVE GOD with all your heart, mind and being but these days … friends this is your opportunity to change who you are modeling for and to align with God and Christ … if today you are claiming to be a Christian then you MUST LOVE GOD and then LOVE ALL of your neighbors as JESUS LOVED and friends Jesus modeled love for us .. he loved the rejected and the despised … we heard about the blind man hated by religious leaders who insisted that even with Jesus in his life the blind man was damned because of the human reality he was born with … Jesus explained what loving our neighbors is through the story of the Good Samaritan and I don’t have time to retell the story other than to say the ALMIGHTY CHURCH PASTOR RELIGIOUS LEADER full of pronouncements and political connections walked past the hurt man and in today’s world we have some of them don’t we; religious couched in politics and power… then the RICH MAN with all of life’s treasures walked past but the SAMARITAN loved as Jesus says we are to love … he’s a model for you and me … look up the story it’s in LUKE 10.  I know you have time on your hands today … read it with your kids.

So, Paul tells that early church … and he is telling you and me that if we accept Jesus Christ as our director of life; the supervisor of our schedules; the guide into the darkness that some of us are sensing around us right now … if Jesus is whom we are modeling our lives after Paul writes, “LIVE YOUR LIVES as CHILDREN of LIGHT.  Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth.  THEREFORE TEST everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord and DON’T friends … the Word of God is telling us not to accept nor buy into directions nor voices that go against goodness, justice and the truth.   He writes, “Don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness.  Instead you should reveal the truth about them.”

And, here we are … We all are concerned.  I can’t see my family because of the realities of COVID 19; the CORONA VIRUS.  Our church is empty today and will be for an unknown number of weeks.  I can’t work out at the gym … oh wait, I haven’t been working out in the gym.  The baseball season is delayed and that concert I was looking forward to has been cancelled.  Our lives are disrupted … thank goodness for my cat!  But truthfully, thank goodness for GOD!  Thank God for Jesus Christ!

We as the people of the 21st century have lived lives where our focus has been on us.  No real fears for most of us … roofs over our heads … food on our tables … no one coming to conquer our communities nor kill our friends … read your history books our times are unique in the course of history but our times have also allowed us to push God and Christ and the requirements of faith aside because we have found things in front of our eyes that have called us to them.   Human stuff … glittering bling when we need life.

Today, hold onto that verse from First Samuel and try to mold yourself into the model of a human being who has Christ as your Master and Teacher rather than your holiday theme … The Lord said to Samuel, “Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the LORD sees into the heart.”

Know in your heart that if Jesus was to stop by your sequestered location today and ask you just as He asked the blind man whom He had healed, “Do You believe in the Human One, the Son of God?”  That your answer would be the same … “Lord I believe!”  And, are you ready just like that man 2000 years ago to begin to worship Jesus again?

And, Paul finished off today’s portion of his letter to the people of Ephesus and it his words that I finish off today’s message for you with …. Praying that you are using these moments to find hope in God, joy in Jesus and are ready to model the type of person God has directed all of us to be with the guidance of the Holy Spirit … Paul wrote, “EVERYTHING that is revealed by THE LIGHT is light.  Therefore, the prophet says Wake up Sleeper!  Get up from the dead!!  CHRIST WILL SHINE ON YOU … it’s up to you to get into that blessed light!


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