Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike "You Can Make a Difference For God"

I'm a bit slow, but the following was Mike's Easter Sermon:

Happy Easter! Here at our congregation we have been reading the Book of Acts during Lent, 50 readings in 50 days. The companion  book to the series is called, The Essential Question - How You Can Make a Difference for God.

The Essential Question  is from Acts 22. It involves the conversion of Saul, Christianity's greatest enemy, into its greatest missionary and theologian. The Essential Question Saul/Paul asks is "What do you want me to do, Lord?"

Let's hear the story from Saul/Paul...
   As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus about noon, a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me and I feel to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And I answered. "Who are you, Lord?"  And he said to me, "I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting." Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, "What do you want me to do, Lord?" And the Lord said to me, "Rise and go into Damascus and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do."

Saul went into Damascus, prayed and fasted. He regained his sight. He went into the Jewish synagogues and proclaimed that Jesus is the Son of God. He started going by Paul instead of Saul.  He spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Roman Empire.

What a turn around from trying to stamp Christianity out to becoming its greatest promoter. Paul's life made a difference. Two billion Christians in the world and not only is Christianity the world's largest religion, it's growing!

Since our series, The Essential Question, is about a question, I have been investigating questions. Did you  know that in the Gospels Jesus asked 307 questions? The questions were sometimes simple. How many loaves do you have? What's your name? Sometimes the questions were probing, Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am? And sometimes the questions were heart-wrenching... Why did you doubt, oh you of little faith? Do you want to be made well?

Jesus was also asked at least 183 questions. Depending on who you listen to, he only answered 3 to 8 of them directly.

Questions help us to learn and to gather information. Questions even help us to believe. Questions are fascinating.

Back in 1993 a two word question became one of the most successful advertising campaigns ever. Do you know what it was?   ...Got milk?

At first they weren't going to run it because
     a) it was lazy
     b) it was grammatically incorrect

The popularity of the ad spilled over into other fronts...
Got Jesus? Got God? Got coffee? Got talent?

Friends got your back. Atheists got nothing. Kids - got your nose.  A Colorado billboard before you get into Wyoming... Got Weed? (Mike had many more examples and photos on the big screen to go with them. I guess you would have had to have been there.)

In our Gospel reading the woman, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Salome had a question, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?"

The Gospels tell us that Jesus was wrapped in a linen shroud and laid in a tomb cut out of rock, then a larger stone was rolled in place to seal the tomb. When the women got to the tomb their question was answered, the stone was rolled away. Inside a young man in a white robe said, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples. He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you."

Of course, all the questions were answered for the women (sarcasm). They were afraid! They fled. Their heads were probably about to explode with questions.

Of course, when the women told the disciples, all their questions were answered. No way! They had to check it out for themselves. Even then, though they believed, I'll bet they still had questions.

What are we to make of Saul, a Jewish hit man, a thug. He knew for a fact that Christianity was a lie and he wanted to stomp it out. He has an encounter with the living Christ and he asks the essential question, "What do you want me to do, Lord?" He made a difference for God.

You can make a difference for God, too! Maybe you have questions, that's ok. The women at the tomb had questions. The disciples had questions. Saul had questions. Augustine, a great church leader had questions. Martin Luther had questions. The Protestant tradition was born out of questioning.
The thing is, what are you going to do with questions?

For some people questions lead to a negative road of bitterness, indifference, a hard heart and despair. Questions can also lead to understanding, eyes being opened, an "Aha" moment, confession... thank you God for all you've done for me.

If you were to ask me what all this Good Friday and Easter stuff means I'd tell you 3 things.

     1) What Jesus did for us on the cross brought reconciliation between us and God. Right relationship with God has been restored. Our sins are taken away.
     2) Jesus won the victory over death. Because he lives, we shall live, too. We don't need to fear death. it brings us closer to God.
     3) In his instruction, Jesus taught us how to live with God and neighbor. His teaching brings meaning to life. Now I get it!

When I asked God the Essential Question, "What shall I do, Lord?" the answer was Preach the Gospel.

  • You are God's good creation but we are sinners. We fall short. We miss the mark. Repeat every day...tell God you're sorry and that you trust and believe in his forgiveness.
  • God loves you. God is not as worried about your past as your are. God's all about new starts, beginning again. God wants us to have life and have it abundantly. God wants us to have joy. God wants to bless us and he wants us to have a life of purpose.
  • God wants relationship with us. He'll take our doubts, our questions. He'll take our thanks and praise. Thank God for Easter, for the beauty of creation, thanks for Easter dresses, thanks for family and friends, thanks for health, for food and drink. Thank God for all good gifts. Let your Easter and everyday be filled with thank yous for God.

So this Easter you have:

  1. The cross restoring relationship with God 
  2. The empty tomb is victory over death 
  3. The teaching of Jesus brings meaning and purpose to life

You also have the Essential Question, "What do you want me to do, lord?"

Well, that will be answered differently by everyone but let me suggest a few things:

  •    Use your talents.
  •    Be kind, be encouraging, be thankful.
  •    If something jumps inside you... do it.

Whatever you do, ask God to help you and whether it be big or small, do it to the Glory of God. I know you can make a difference for God.

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