< back to Sermon archive

Sermon for Sunday 19 May 2019

First Reading                                        Acts 11:1-18

1The apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3“You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Psalm                                                          Psalm 150

1Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy temple; praise him in the firmament of his power. 2Praise him for his mighty acts; praise him for his excellent greatness. 3Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with lyre and harp. 4Praise him with timbrel and dance; praise him with strings and pipe. 5Praise him with resounding cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals. 6Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Hallelujah!

Second Reading                         Revelation 21:1-7

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

Gospel                                             John 16:12-22

12{Jesus said to his disciples,} “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 16A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Behold I Make All Things New

I don’t know about you, but I not only enjoy reality shows, I especially like shows that feature people looking for lost or buried treasure.  Recently, Terry and I have been watching two different shows, The Curse of Oak Island and within the past couple of weeks we’ve added to our watch list Legend of the Superstition Mountains. The reason I find this second show so enjoyable is thatI grew up near the Superstition Mountains in Arizona and in many cases have been in or near the areas highlighted on the show. 

Another thing that makes these shows so interesting is that there is plenty of mystery; cryptic treasure maps, hidden clues, history, legends, curses, intrigue and in both cases, there are lots of people, past and present, who have and are feverishly searching for this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  In the case of The Curse of Oak Island, the treasure is gold, and priceless historical artifacts like Shakespeare’s original manuscripts and temple treasures from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.  In the case of the Legend of the Superstition Mountains, it’s the Lost Dutchman’s mine and gold mined and then hidden by Franciscan Monks.

What I find most interesting about shows like these, is the obsession that the people who star in them have as well as the people they feature.  Each of these people are willing to spend decades and untold amounts of money to find these elusive and fabled treasures.  In the case of The Curse of Oak Island, Marty and Rick Lagina spend 2 to 3 million dollars, per year, drilling, digging and researching the buried yet elusive treasure.  What’s more, none of these people know whether the treasure, even if it was real in the past, is even still there.  Yet they place their faith in these old maps, clues and historic stories and press forward despite the skepticism they receive from others. 

Now in case any of you decide to join in on one of these treasure hunts and are somehow successful, please remember that we’ll gladly accept a donation to pay for the repairs to the Historic church!  Speaking of treasure this morning, I want to suggest to you that someone here today is searching for something and they aren’t even sure what it is.  For a lot of folks these days, there’s a restlessness in their life–an undefined longing.  They’ll work, study, participate, play, purchase, and yet there’s still seems to be something else they’re missing.  Well I hope that by the time you leave here today, you’ll be able to say, “This is it!  That’s what’s been eluding me.”  I say this because I believe God’s word can, and does, meet our deepest needs.  

Consider today’s reading from the book of Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”  Now to be clear, this passage I believe has both future and current implications.  In the eschaton, God is clear in Revelation that things as we know it, will be purified and all evil will be purged from God’s creation.  All creation will be restored to God’s original intension, that is perfection; back to the time when God declared His handiwork good.  This is when God and the kingdom of heaven will dwell here on this renewed earth.  However, I also think this passage has a present application as well.

Didn’t the apostle Paul tell us that “if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation?”  (2 Cor. 5:17).  Since this is the case, wouldn’t it be great if God were to do a new thing in our life today?  Wouldn’t it be great to leave here a new person?  Wouldn’t it be great to go home to a much-improved marriage–a much-improved family–to get up tomorrow morning and go to a new job–a job that brings out the best in you?  Well, according to our second lesson from the book of Revelation, God is in the business of making all things new when we allow Him to shape our lives for His glory.  It’s like the story of a man who was selling an old warehouse.

The building had been empty for some time and needed repairs.  Gangs had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and thrown trash everywhere.  As he showed a prospective buyer the property, he took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage.  The buyer smiled and said, “Forget about the repairs, if I buy this place, I’m going to build something completely different.  I only want the shell and the site.”  When God does a new thing in our lives, He starts with the basics and the site and builds from there.

In the book of Acts, we read that at Lystra there was a disabled man who couldn’t use his feet.  God used St. Paul to give this man new hope–new life.  Paul, looking at him intently, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.”  And the man sprang up and walked (14:8-10).  He had been given a great gift–the gift of a new and improved life.  Of course, Paul himself knew what it was to be made a new person.  Saul the zealous and dreaded persecutor, became Paul the dynamic preacher.  New teachings–new life–new hope–new direction—that’s what God does, and the Gospel is all about.  We can be a new person.  We can have new life in Christ.  “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation” and “Behold, I make all things new.”  Yet with these two very clear promises given, what is it that holds us back from real change taking place in our lives?  

The broad answer is pride.  But for our consideration today, we can break this 7th of the deadly sins down a bit further into two pieces; call it two small voices deep in our consciousness that speak to us in every one of our waking hours.  The first is a voice that tells us that “we are too good to change.”  You and I may recognize that our lives are not all they could or should be, our families are not all they could be or should be, our relationships with the world outside are not all they could be or should be, but we aren’t ready, or willing to pay the price of change.  We’re coping, we’re getting by.  Let the rest of the world change to accommodate us.  Sound familiar?

Michael Slater tells in his book Stretcher Bearers of a teen at the beach with his friends.  He’s in trouble in the water but doesn’t call out for help.  A lifeguard notices his struggle and rescues him.  Later he asks the teen, “You were drowning.  Why didn’t you cry out?”  The young man responded: “What would my friends have thought?” 

Some of us have a voice within us that says, “I know I need to change, but I can’t ask for help.  I can do this on my own.  What would my friends think?”  Some of us have a voice within that’s saying that change is for other people–but not for us.  We’re good enough–strong enough–capable enough.  So, we miss the joy of a new life because we listen to the voice that says that we’re too good to change.

And then there are those who refuse to seek the assistance they need to create change in their life because they think everyone else needs to accept them, faults and all, the way they are.  It doesn’t matter what they do, how they act or what they say, because it’s everyone else’s responsibility to accommodate, to overlook, to even gladly accept them for who they are.  And when this doesn’t happen, they blame their bad behavior on something else, society, other people even a medical condition.  Folks I’ve said it before; there are reasons and there are excuses.  Do we make excuses for our questionable actions because we refuse to accept help and then make the effort needed to change?  And then there are those who buy into the victim mentality that’s forwarded today.

For some, there’s another voice that speaks to many of us.  It’s a voice that says we’re incapable of change.  How many here have ever bought a self-help book or gone on a diet or made a New Year’s resolution?  What is it that defeats many of us when we try to make a meaningful change in our lives?  Now without trying to oversimplify sometimes complex issues, isn’t it a small voice that says, “You can’t do it.  You haven’t got what it takes.  You never see anything through to completion.  You’re irresponsible. You’ll never make it.”  Some folks struggle with the voice that says, “You’re too good to change,” but for many it’s a voice that says, “You’re incapable of change or you’re simply too bad to change.”  Some of you know what I am talking about.  

Deep down we struggle with an insecurity that says, “You don’t have what it takes to change.  You can’t make it.  There’s no use for us to try.”  Some of you will remember the Broadway show from the 1960s, The Man of La Mancha.  The main character in The Man of La Mancha is an idealist.  His name is Don Quixote.

Don Quixote meets a woman with low morals and a lower self-image named Aldonza.  He tells her, “You will be my lady,” and then he gives her a new name, Dulcinea.  She laughs scornfully at Don Quixote, but he keeps affirming her and declaring her to be what he wants her to be.  When she appears on stage later, hysterical and disheveled, after having been raped, she again hears the voice of Quixote saying, “My Lady.”  “Don’t call me your lady,” she says.  “I was born in a ditch by a mother who left me there naked and cold and too hungry to cry.  I never blamed her.  I’m sure she left hoping I’d have the good sense to die.  Oh, don’t call me a lady,” she screams.  “I’m only a kitchen wench reeking with sweat.  A strumpet men use and forget.  Don’t call me a lady; I’m only Aldonza.  I am nothing at all.”

As she runs off into the night, Don Quixote calls after her, “But you are my Lady Dulcinea!”  At the end of the play a much older Don Quixote is dying, scorned, laughed at, rejected.  Suddenly to his side comes what appears to be a Spanish queen.  She’s beautiful and proud.  When the old man asks, “Who are you?” she responds, “Don’t you remember?  You called me your lady.  You gave me a new name.  My name is Dulcinea.”  There are two voices within each of us.  One tells us we’re too good to change.  The second tells us we are too bad or incapable of change.  What we need is to hear God’s voice saying, “Behold, I make all things new.”

The affirmation that Don Quixote gives to Dulcinea is the affirmation that God gives to us.  We are that important to God.  As someone once put it, “If we were the only person in this world, Christ would still have given His life in our behalf.”  The late R. L. Middleton told about an Englishman who had a beautiful estate on the Yorkshire coast from which one could see a great distance in every direction.

One day the man and his daughter climbed to a summit on the estate and the man said, intending to teach his little daughter a lesson: “Look up.”  Then he said, “Look down.”  And then, “Look out.  Now turn and look behind you,” he said.  He then added, “Dorothy, just so high, so deep, so wide, and so broad is the love of God for you.”  She learned a lesson she would never forget, but she also taught her father one that he’d never forgot.  “Daddy,” she said, “If God’s love is so high, so wide, so deep, and so broad, then we’re living in the middle of it!”

What a difference would it make in our life if we really believed that we’re living in the middle of God’s love.  God loves us and wants to do a new thing in our life.  We’re never too good to change nor are we ever too bad to change.  The question then becomes how?  How does God make all things new?  God does this by giving us six things—forgiveness, hope, His Spirit to guide us, a new confidence, a new perspective, and a new dream.  Think about the change that could take place in our lives if we, after having acknowledged that we’re forgiven, that the Holy Spirit is with us to guide us, and we now have that hope for the future, that we also can have a new confidence–confidence in ourselves–confidence in God.  What a difference it would make in our lives if we could wake up in the morning and say, “Truly this is the day that the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).  If we could live openly and honestly believing that He is always with us; then, even when we don’t feel adequate, we can trust God is.

Have you ever watched a basketball player when they’re “hot?”  When a basketball player is “hot”, they get the feeling that everything they touch is going into the basket.  That confidence in turn engenders success.  Now I’m not big on affirmations, because of how abused they’ve become.  This whole notion that if I say something enough times it will be a reality, must be tempered with common sense.  For example, I don’t care how many times I tell myself I can be as good a ball player as Shaq, I’ll never reach that level of greatness for several reasons.  For one, I’m 58 years old; for two I’m not 6’8” tall.  However, when common sense is employed and when we recognize that we’re not to rely solely on ourselves but on God, a promise from the Bible, affirmed for the right reasons namely to glorify God through us, we can start each new day with the positive affirmation, “God is making me into a new person.  He is with me.”  He has given me forgiveness through Jesus, His Spirit to guide me in all truth and a hope for the future.  He gives me a new confidence.  And what’s more, He can also give us a new perspective.  

One of the greatest gifts we can employ is the ability to step back and look at our lives realistically.  It’s tempting to be defeated by those inner voices that tell us that we can’t.  It’s common, and easy, to exaggerate the difficulties that confront us.  How often do we say or feel, “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” when an objective view will reveal it to be only a minor and temporary setback.   Perhaps this is one of the most blessed benefits of prayer.  Spending time alone with God helps us to develop a new perspective–a perspective that allows us to reflect rather than simply react. 

A man writes of visiting England and touring the little church where Shakespeare is buried.  He writes, “When my wife and I visited the little church where Shakespeare is buried in Stratford-upon-Avon, an usher handed us a sheet of paper which said, “We ask as you walk around, please to remember that you are on holy ground, to behave reverently, to restrain your speaking . . . and, if you wish to see the glory of this church, do not forget to look up.  “The pamphlet referred specifically to the beautiful ceiling of the church, but I took it as a reminder that prayer—looking up—is perhaps the most important thing we can do in developing the true sense of where we are.”

Forgiveness, God’s Holy Spirit, hope, a new confidence–a new perspective–and God gives us one thing more–a new vision.  To a great extent, we are shaped by our visions.  Most people get out of life exactly what they really desire.  The problem is in knowing ourselves well enough to know what it is we really desire.  For example, a young person says he wants to be a great musician, but he refuses to put in the necessary practice time.  You see, what he really desires is more leisure.  Then he learns that an excellent teacher has moved to town.  It’s a great opportunity, but our young friend is too timid to pick up the phone and call this teacher.  You see what he really wants is to avoid rejection.  He says his greatest desire is to be a musician, but really his greatest desire is to avoid work and avoid rejection. 

What about each of us?  Do we know ourselves well enough to know and admit what our deepest desire is?  For some of us it might really be to please our parents–even though our parents may be dead for many years.  For others it may be to have people like us or to be respected by our colleagues.  What is your deepest desire?  What is your greatest goal?  Wouldn’t it be great to be liberated from inferior dreams?  “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation” and “Behold, I make all things new.”  What can we aspire to that will glorify God in our lives?  Many of us here today remember the TV show Hee Haw?

One of the stars of that show was named Lulu Roman.  Lulu Roman grew up in an orphanage.  Her greatest dream was to be adopted and have a family who loved her.  She remembers sitting in her closet in the orphanage and crying each time a car pulled away with another child.  No one ever came for her.  Lulu had a thyroid problem and was a heavy child.  Her weight made her a target for bullies.

Lulu started taking drugs to escape the pain of loneliness and rejection.  In fact, she was high when she auditioned for Hee Haw.  As the show became more successful, Lulu’s addiction grew.  She got kicked off the show and told to clean up her life.  At about this time, Lulu discovered she was pregnant.  She became bitter and angry toward God.  She felt there was no way God could love her.  Lulu’s son, Damon, was born with serious health problems related to her drug use.

When the doctors told her that Damon wouldn’t make it, Lulu reports, “I can remember lying in that hospital bed trying to pray, but I was so mad at God that I didn’t want to have anything to do with Him.  The only thing I knew to say was, ‘Yo, dude, if you’re real, I’ll make a deal with you.  If you’ll let me have my baby, I’ll straighten up and stop doing drugs and I won’t do anything except what you want me to.’”  A few days later, Damon’s condition improved, and Lulu took him home from the hospital.  Not long afterwards, Lulu ran into Diane, a girl she’d grown up with in the orphanage.  Diane had become a Christian, and she wanted to share her faith with Lulu.  Lulu tried to shut her up, but Diane said, “Just listen to me.  Let me tell you that Jesus is real.  Let me tell you how He’s changed my life.”  Thankfully, Lulu did listen, and she prayed, and God’s mercy was realized in her that day.  She says at that moment she found the love she’d been searching for her whole life.

Through God’s mercy, God also took away her desire for drugs.  When the producers of Hee Haw saw how completely Lulu’s life had changed, they asked her to come back on the show.  She used her fame to share her testimony of how Jesus had changed her life completely, how His love and grace had given her a new life she once thought was impossible for her.  Many of us have been listening to the wrong voice.  We need to listen to the voice that seeks to encourage us and remake us.  “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation” and “Behold, I make all things new.”


Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.

< back to Sermon archive