Psalm 145: 1-9
LUKE 2: 15–20
July 18, 2021
To Rest In Peace … First Emily, then Jim and then the rest of the team quietly tip toed into the common area of our Red Bird living quarters to pause and take a look at Mary Ann Jones quietly sleeping with her book in her hand.
Red Bird will do that to you … it will tire you out while working your muscles and then bring you peaceful sleep because at the end of the work day if anyone should ask why did you go to help other people whom you don’t know … why did you give of your time, your sweat, and your energy with some even suggesting that the people you have gone to help … might be able to do it themselves. Indeed, why did we go? I can tell you the joy and peace we experienced working on the home of Mr. Terry Montgomery because it was so worth every ounce of sweat and we obviously, did get our peaceful moments. Every worker who goes on mission trips whether they do hard labor or because of age of physical conditions they take on other tasks … the rewards that God returns to you are so special.
Why were there teams of workers from churches in Pennsylvania and Indiana working at Red Bird this week on other projects while we worked on Mr. Montgomery’s home Why did a grandmother have her two granddaughters each under the age of 10 working along side of her? Why did a college age young man from Monmouth County seek out friends in a Pennsylvania church so he could go to America’s poorest county with them because his own church’s pastor had decided to cancel the trip? And, why did four churches decide it wasn’t about their church’s individual names but it was about the mission of God in America’s poorest county that mattered? Red Bird; one hundred years of needed work to make people’s lives better.
WHY INDEED? It is because the Lord calls us not to be judgmental … not to be dismissive … not to be angry at individuals’ circumstances or to blame them for how they are now living … not to pity anyone but instead to shine the light of Jesus Christ through our work on their behalf, in our conversations, our smiles, our songs of faith, and our prayers. Because our Holy Scriptures regularly remind us that faith without works is dead … that people of faith are to share what we believe and what we have … that we are to DO JUSTICE, LOVE ALL OTHERS FAITHFULLY, and walk HUMBLY with GOD the key words being WALK and WITH GOD.
It might be easy for some to get angry with people they are helping when those people being helped don’t help as work is being done on their homes or in making their own lives better themselves. But, did God call you to make sure that people you don’t know who live in poverty and struggle with their lives lift a paint brush or a hammer or did you say YES, LORD to go and help people whose personal realities and abilities you are totally unaware of. Did God call you to criticize or demonize those who are struggling in this world … do you refuse to help others because you think you are so much better than they are because you took care of yourself? The truth is that on the surface people may appear to be one thing but underneath there may be demons and pains lurking that you will never know … yet some scream LET THEM DO IT THEMSELVES but it’s funny God does not say that … Jesus does not teach that … we are told just to go and do … go and help! Give up all of our stuff and lift up the cross! Go and make disciples of the world for Jesus Christ.
The familiar song of the Christmas season’s second verse begins “Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?” WHY INDEED SHEPHERDS, why did you have a jubilee after a hard day of work when you should have been soundly sleeping? Why did you walk miles down the hills and into the village of Bethlehem? WHY INDEED did you search for a new born baby? A baby born in poverty? In a barn? To a teenage mother surrounded by animals … WHY INDEED did you then start telling your world … people you met … even strangers … about this baby? Shouldn’t you have been making fun of the mom or condemning her and Joseph for not doing better for themselves? Walking up to strangers and laughing about a baby in a manger rather than praising God for all that they had heard and seen?
GLORIA, GLORIA, GLORIA, GLORIA …. In excelsis deo. WHY INDEED?
Friends, when you sing Angels We Have Heard on High have you wondered about that in eggshell deo part? In excelsis deo … God in the highest. A ranking of the Creator above all other elements of life … above all superstar sports figures and entertainers … above all politicians ALL of them … ABOVE ALL …. Do we … do you know how to give GLORY to GOD in the highest? Is the singing of this song celebrating Jesus birth just a fun way to remember Christmas’s past or today was it your anthem … a song when you declared GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST? On a day when you are more than ready to leave this worship service with an energy dedicated to sharing your faith? Sharing your Jesus? Walking with God and doing what the Lord God expects of humanity including you? Taking on a mission project for others who are hurting regardless of why? We have our guide book … don’t we?
And, who can ever forget little Linus walking out onto the stage in Charlie Brown’s CHRISTMAS and saying, “And, suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘GLORY TO GOD in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” And, it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another “let us now go even onto Bethlehem.”
And, friends they went on a mission trip, those shepherds … to find that baby. A baby we now know had the name Jesus but there was more. You declared those names this morning in our CALL to WORSHIP; “His name shall be called Wonderful COUNSELOR, Mighty GOD, Everlasting FATHER, and PRINCE of PEACE.” Matthew’s Gospel reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah as Matthew shares Joseph’s meeting with an angel of God, “Look, a virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will call him, EMMANUEL (God with us.).
Are you still with me church? Do you remember these events that often get lost amongst the decoration of the tree right after Thanksgiving when we eat as much food and watch as much football as we can allowing for a brief prayer to God before passing the gravy time? In December are you focused on the arrival of the sleigh and the hosting of meals and finding wrapping paper to cover the special gifts everyone must have while forgoing anything more than a cursory quick traditional program of song and candles about the most important gift that comes from God?
Do you need to refocus on God’s gift away from the season when the human world’s concept has people who never say I love all my neighbors screaming WHERE’s THE CHRIST in CHRISTMAS and condemning store clerks who don’t say the exact words these folks demand they hear? Truthfully, it is pretty clear that all they want to do is put people down rather than love for the sake of loving, which is the reason God brought us Jesus because God knew we needed Jesus.
LOVE GOD … with all your heart, your soul, and mind! LOVE ALL others just as Jesus loved. ALL the rules fall on those two not whether you call a human holiday that just barely reflects the fact that GOD IS WITH US Christmas or Santa Claus Day.
So, friends who have carved out an hour in your week to worship God with me … WHY INDEED are you a Christian? Is Jesus Christ, God with you on the days when church is not on your calendar? I know He is with us but don’t you think it is time for every person who attends a church to showcase Him in our words and our actions and in our life using Good News truths as our life’s mission?
I always enjoy giving homework … it is perhaps a reflection of my undergraduate degree but in this role that I have as your pastor there are times when I truly hope you will take on the challenge of homework that I suggest from time to time. Today is one of those days and it really isn’t a very complex assignment but the WHY INDEED part is that in doing this homework I am hoping that God’s Holy Spirit will touch your soul in a truly special way … perhaps making adjustments that you and I need. I plan on doing this along with you.
The homework … to read today’s lesson from the Psalms each day of this week beginning today through next Saturday. PSALM 145 verses 1 through 9. Read it alone or read it with your family and then talk about it; I actually think that would be an amazing experience for couples and for moms, dads, and children after all the Scripture declares, “One generation will praise your works to the next one.”
I want each of us to pray how as individuals or as members of this church we can take on tasks for the glory of God. Because time is passing … if we don’t invite young people with families to this church … in ten years this church will not be going on mission trips and we might be shutting our doors just like the United Methodist Church in Verga did at the end of June.
Perhaps by reading verses 1 through 9 from PSALM 145 each day we will become accustomed to blessing God every day … praising God’s name will become our always activity and something others notice in us.
When it was my turn to share a devotion at Red Bird this past week I mentioned my challenge to each of you to write your personal AFFIRMATION of FAITH. Well, the small mission team from Indiana began talking about the value of having a personal Affirmation of Faith and on Thursday evening I was handed theirs, which I will be sharing with you over the coming months.
WHY INDEED share an Affirmation of your faith? Because it matters that others know of your love of God friends … it matters if we are to grow this church to take on new missions for Jesus Christ.
WHY CHRISTMAS in JULY? Because we can focus on the gift of Jesus Christ … we can rediscover that the shepherds were tired and worn down but they heard God’s call through the angels and went into the night down hills into a village where they found Mary and Joseph and the one whose “name shall be called Wonderful COUNSELOR, Mighty GOD, Everlasting FATHER, and PRINCE of PEACE.”
EMMANUEL … God is with us. JESUS CHRIST. Is Jesus Christ worthy of your work? Your time? Your abilities? Are you ready to declare God’s great accomplishments?
If someone is asking you why you have changed … why you are caring for ALL of the poor and broken without mocking or condemning those whose hands are out for help … are you willing … are you ready. .. to declare that God’s gift of Christmas taught you to love them … to help them .. to feed them … to make their lives better without throwing the first stone or joining in the mocking tones?
And, if you call your brother or sister up today and ask them what they are doing next July 10th through July 16th and you tell them you want to help people living in America’s poorest county and you want your family to go with you … what will you tell them when they ask why?
WHY INDEED? The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!! The Lord is good to EVERYONE and EVERY THING! God’s compassion extends to ALL of God’s handiwork and ALL of humanity, male and female, was created in God’s Holy image … we all are worthy of God’s love … we are all called to love us Jesus loved.
WHY INDEED? GLORIA GLORIA GLORIA GLORIA in excelsis deo!