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Sunday, September 21, 2014

09212014 Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

I don’t know about you, but as Fall begins to come to Northwest Kansas and the nights get cooler and the days get shorter, on my bed, I have a quilt.  When we had the recent cold snap, I used the quilt on my bed, because I was cold.  The quilts you see on all the pews this morning were made by the women of Emmanuel and they when they reach their final destination, will be used by people who are in need of keeping warm, just like I was and I would guess you were as well.  These quilts are not just an expression of the giving of the ladies, but how we as a congregation reach outside of these four walls and minister to people in need both of a physical need to keep warm, but also the need to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ in action.  This is a clear fruit of God working in and through us today.

But the fruits do not stop there, we also celebrate today the fruit that was planted long ago in the Garden of Eden, which was the story the children heard this morning.  It is the fruit of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ that is offered for us and surrounds us like the quilt we cuddle up in when cold.  But this is not a fruit that is to be kept for only a select few, but it is to be shared for and with all of mankind.  And today, we also with all of us saints gathered here today celebrate “Back to Church Sunday”!  It may seem anticlimactic.  Yet today is an opportunity for each of us to renew, refresh, reconnect and reinvigorate our individual and personal faith and be surrounded by and share with others the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can and should clearly ask, why should this be important for us today?  Why should we want to reconnect with the church and Jesus Christ?  But the reality is that we sometimes feel cold and distant from Jesus Christ and have drifted away from our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  Like a farmer who when planting wheat or corn has to continuously correct how the seed planter drills the seed into the line of the fertilizer that had previously been laid into the ground because of the terrain or terraces.  Or the driver of a car that has to insure they keep the vehicle between the lines so they don’t cause an accident.  Or the child that has to follow the lines when learning how to write the letters in Kindergarten.  We Christians are no different, we need to autocorrect in the church to be drawn back and come back to hear and heed the call of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

However, like all humans, we at times have become comfortable because we have gotten used to not being surrounded by the love of God, not coming to church or being involved.  Like, not waking up early on the one day we could sleep in, because we don’t have to go to work and we can do whatever we want before we sit down and watch football or spend time in the shop or even go out and ride our favorite four wheeler.  When we do come and be surrounded and comforted by the familiar here at the church we force ourselves to make sure we arrive before the bell that indicates we have begun worship.  All because that is what is expected of us, by our parents, our grandparents and even sometimes our spouse.

But today, I want to cast a different outlook and offer a greater opportunity for us.  There was once a teacher who introduced the “Balloon Game” to her two classes.  In the first class the students were told the rules that balloons would be tied to their legs and the object was to protect your own balloon and ‘break’ the other persons balloon in the game.  And the last person left with their balloon unpopped, was the winner.  With gusto the children began the game and in the end the last person left wasn’t the most athletic, nor the most popular, but ironically the least popular person in the class.  He was the winner, because no one wanted anything to do with him, he was different from everybody else and didn’t have any ‘true friends’ or relationships.  Does this sound familiar here in the church?

In the next class, the same rules were stated, but the difference was that this class had mentally challenged students.  As the game began, the teacher noticed something in stark contrast of the first class, the kids who had heard the same rules, didn’t do the same thing, they did the exact opposite, they instead of trying to win for themselves, helped each other pop the balloon.  One child would hold their balloon and invite another to ‘break their balloon’, then in turn the other would hold their balloon, while the other child would ‘break’ theirs.  This went on until every balloon was burst and all of the kids felt like winners.  This is different direction, because the kids were inclusive insuring everybody won and nobody was left out.  This was a clear fruit of grace in action and everybody a winner.

Today we have this same opportunity for all of us to be winners, because we are invited by Jesus Christ to spread and share the message of the Gospel of Salvation.  Simply, the Gospel message is that Jesus Christ died for each and every one of us in order for all of us to be with Him in His Kingdom.  If you believe this offer of grace is for you, God invites you to trust Him and have a personal relationship with Him.

What Jesus Christ is offering all of us today gathered here today is a bridge?  A bridge that connects us with the promises God offers to each of us today.  I know some of us feel we can figure life out on our own, make our own decisions and plot our own path, without any help.  But the reality is that we cannot.  The bridge God is offering is a bridge that connects our soul and spirit with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ into the most personal relationship we have or will ever experience.  There may be doubters among us today non-members and members of Emmanuel alike, they are not alone.  Even in the Bible people doubted, like Thomas, who did not believe until they saw and touched Jesus, or the writing on the wall and sometimes only if it was a last resort.  God today is offering all of us the greatest opportunity to have the deepest connection and personal relationship with Him.

God is offering us His hand to each of us by a bridge through the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  The Gospel of Jesus Christ simply states that Jesus suffered and died and it is the way and means that we can bridge us from our current life without God of certain death to eternal life.  God offered His Son to die in order that we might be saved and we only have to accept it and be surrounded with this truth like a quilt.

Just as most of us have a bank that keeps an accurate accounting of our checking or savings account balance, lets us know if we overdraw the account, gives us an accurate statement of our transactions and the speed that we consume our limited finances.  Today we have the greatest opportunity to build a relationship with God.  The reality is that no matter what our debts may be for what we have done, God when we trust Him and the bridge He offers us, wipes the slate clean, doesn’t have an overdraft fee and when we are forgiven, God will not hold our sins against us.  All of this because of what Jesus Christ paid for each of us on the Cross of Calvary.

Nowhere is this clearer than when we ask the question, how much do you trust God?  The following is a true story that my friend gave me permission to share.  He contacted me because he was depressed.  His family life was stable, but he was unsettled.  He wasn’t doing what he loved to do and he was in a clear funk.  His dream job always seemed a stretch for him and just out of reach.  He wasn’t fulfilled doing what he was doing.  His wife could sense it, his kids though young couldn’t understand it, but for this young father, he felt his life was spinning out of control.  After nearly an hour of talking, I asked him simply ‘how much do you trust God?’  He said, he truly trusted God.  I said I hear you, but I believe you are just going through the motions.  Just spinning your wheels and not really putting all of his trust in God.  He said, he was frustrated and impatient for what was to come.  I responded that I understood, but believed God was orchestrating for him a blessing beyond measure, and that he only needed to ‘put it all on the table’ and trust God.  He didn’t discount my advice, but I know he struggled with it, but appreciated my listening to him.  Less than 12 hours later, God fulfilled His promise to this young father and gave him an answer to his prayer in helping him make his dream a reality.

I tell this true story for one reason, only when we trust God, and His promises of life and salvation and are willing to push in all the chips meaning we are ‘all in’ will we truly understand and have as a reality what the Cross of Jesus Christ really means for us today.  This is why we will sing in a few moments the hymn “Amazing Grace”.  The author, John Newton, former slave ship captain also put all of his chips in the center of the table and in this hymn with clear and deep understanding of the relationship with Jesus Christ tells his own personal story of his trust in God.

This is where today God is inviting us to a personal relationship with Him and calling us to ‘push all of our chips into the center of the table’ and begin a more committed and meaningful relationship with Him. For this is not just for a select few but for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel celebrating the quilts and layettes of the women and also all of us that are the fruits of countless generations gathered here for Back to Church Sunday at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

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