“Clear Me from Hidden Faults”

Psalm 19: 7-14, August 19, 2018

Sermon by Margot Celeste Bennett


 

 

Psalm 19

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;

8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;

9 the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

12 But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.

13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

Prayer

Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
I praise you, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Try me, my Redeemer, know my thoughts, I pray.
Fulfill your promise and make me pure within.
See if there is some unclean way in me;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Cleanse me from my sin and set me free. In Jesus name I pray.

Amen!

 

“Clear Me from Hidden Faults”

Anyone know someone who is unhappy or even miserable all the time? Of course, you do. I think we all could name at least one person who seems to be dissatisfied all the time. What if that person you know is you?

The answer is: Meditate on the law of the Lord day and night (Psalm 1:1–3). So, for the sake of your joy and your prayers I want to encourage you develop an unshakable commitment to being in the Word of God every day. To encourage and inspire you to do that, I want to look at verses 7–14 of Psalm 19. The point of this text as I see it is this: Because the Scriptures open us the Word of the Lord – the communication of the living God – they have effects on us that are better than the effects of anything else we can read or study or watch or listen to.

David’s Six-fold Repetition

In verse 7 we hear “The law of the Lord is perfect, …the testimony of the lord is sure…” Verse 8 goes on to state, “The statutes of the Lord are right, … The commandment of the Lord is pure…” and finally in Verse 9 we hear “The fear of the lord is clean, … The judgements of the Lord are true…” Six times David uses the phrase “of the Lord,” that is, God who says, “I am who I am” and there is no other. The God who created all that is and holds it in being, and who understands everything in the universe from galaxies to the Higgs Boson is our God and The God we love and trust.

 The New Testament Teaching

The New Testament confirms David’s teaching. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable . . . ” “Inspired by God!” Peter says in 2 Peter 1:20–21, “No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself said in John 10:35, “The word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken.” The Scriptures are here to teach us the Word of God.

God understands us better than anyone else. He knows how we get to be the way we are and how we are affected by our surroundings. God knows the future and how everything will come out in the end. God is more caring than any counselor. God is more creative than any poet or artist. 

The Good Effects of Meditating on the Word of God

A general statement is found in the first part of verse 10 and the last part of verse 11. David says first in verse 10 that the words of God are “more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold.” And then at the end of verse 11, “In keeping of them there is great reward.”

If you have a choice between God and GOLD, choose God. The point is clear. The benefits of knowing and doing what God expects of us are greater than all that money can buy. 

The Specific Benefits of the Word of God

So, what are some these benefits? What is this “great reward” that verse 11 is talking about that makes meditating on the Word of God so much better than much fine gold?

It seems to me that what David says can be boiled down to three benefits: life, wisdom, and happiness. Miserable people don’t prevail in the right spirit, but that God is the key to prevailing in prayer for the right things in the right spirit because it makes foolish people wise, and miserable people happy. Let’s look at these one at a time. 

The Benefit of Life

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but [shall LIVE] by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This is why he was fasting for 40 days—to learn as a man the radical need for God and the only relative need for food by man. Food can only give physical life. But God gives spiritual life, life that never ends, life which is life indeed.

You cannot maintain dynamic, powerful, vibrant life in God if you neglect God, because “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”

Our life begins with God and we stay alive by God. If we abandon God, we will die spiritually. And this dying is very devious because its chief symptom is the denial that it is happening. Only God gives the life which matters in the end. The law of the Lord revives the soul. God has made it the means of life. Without it we perish. 

The Benefit of Wisdom

We see this in the second half of verse 7: “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple”; and the second half of verse 8: “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.”

A wise person is a person whose life makes sense in the enlightenment of reality. So for example, self-denial will look foolish and collecting “stuff” on earth will look wise only if you are in the dark about the reality of heaven (Luke 12:33) and the danger of riches (Mark 10:25) and the rewards of sacrifice (Matthew 19:29). But if you live in the light of the reality of heaven and the staggering rewards of sacrifice, then it makes sense to obey the command of the Lord to deny yourself for His sake. It is the path of wisdom.

And where is the light of reality shining? Where do we go to get out of the darkness? God is the Essential Reality. Everything disconnected from God is unreal in the way it was meant to function. Therefore, a life without God is an unreal life.

How do you escape the darkness? The commandment of the Lord gives light to the eyes. The testimony of the Lord makes wise the simple. Wisdom is a life that makes sense in the light of reality. And the light of reality shines from the Holy Spirit. 

The Benefit of Joy

But who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

What are these errors and hidden faults?  Most of us are reticent to admit our errors and faults especially hidden faults?  Not me!!!!  Sure, people will admit to minor errors and simple faults.  Often making a joke out of them as if they’re unimportant.   No one is blameless.

One huge error we often make several times a day are the sins of presumption.  What does that mean?  It means that we will make judgements about people, things, places or situations where we have no basis in truth, yet we know for a fact that we are right.  I’ll give you a personal example:  I have an antler from a mule deer I picked up in Jackson Hole Wyoming in 1997. I have been dragging the huge antler with me everywhere I have been since.  One day very recently I found a use for it and went out to the garage to look for it because that’s where it always was.  I couldn’t find it after looking everywhere.  Then I thought, maybe it was stolen.  The maybe turned into a fact it was stolen.  Who would be so low as to steal my antler?  The Water heater guy! I left him alone for ten minutes or so and that was plenty of time for him to grab it and toss it in his truck.  By the time I was finished I knew for a fact that the magnificent antler was stolen and who the likely culprit was.  I presumed quite a bit didn’t I. I made up an entire history and became angry, and then I thought, maybe he needed it more that I did.  After a few days I let it go and used some cedar driftwood for my project instead.  For those few days though, I remained angry and allowed it to get to me. Can anyone relate?

A few weeks later Connie and I were looking for a specific box.  After searching the house, I decided to go check the attic because you never know.  Upon climbing half way up the ladder guess what was sitting right in front of me on the ledge.  A mule deer antler.  Boy did I feel dumb. I put it there and forgot all about doing so. Romans 8:28 – “God works all things together for good for those who love him and who are called according to his purpose.” Oh, I found the box we were looking for too.

Hidden faults.  Most of those aren’t really hidden.  They’re ignored as faults.  Most of those aren’t really hidden. They’re just ignored as faults. When I first read this Psalm, I was struck by the: “Clear thou me my hidden faults.”  My first thought was, I didn’t have any hidden faults. My ego is as large as the Grand Canyon.  I know what my faults are. But the more I thought about it the more it came clear that my hidden faults are obvious if I just open my eyes and admit them to myself. Since then I’ve tried to identify them as they have come up and work through my faults.  It is slow and very hard work.  Very often I find myself praying, asking The Lord to “Help me with this!”

Hidden faults are sneaky and insidious. Does anyone know a person who always must be right no matter what, and never once considers the possibility of giving the other person or persons the right to be wrong? These people never seem to be very happy, do they? There’s a thought, Give the other person the right to be wrong.

How many of us know that person that everything happens to? “Why does this always happen to me?”  I find these people to be miserable all the time. The truth is bad or inconvenient things happen to people for two reasons.  One reason is they just make bad decisions and must suffer the consequences of those decisions.  They want to do things their way and ignore God and the good the God has in mind for them. The other reason is, and I’m sorry to say this because you don’t want to hear it, but it’s just your turn.  “Stuff” just happens.  It happens to everyone.  It’s not what happens to us, but how we deal with it that makes all the difference in a happy, hope filled and faithful life, or a miserable life.

I hope I’ve given you a few things to think about and I wish you nothing but peace, happiness and joy.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Amen.

 

“Be Kind to One Another”

Ephesians 4: 25 – 5: 2, August 12th, 2018

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


 

“Hear now these words of scripture from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians, chapter four, verse twenty-five thru chapter five verse two.”

Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2

25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.  26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil.  28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.  29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.  30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.  31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

“Having heard this ancient writing with our ears, let us now open our hearts to these words of instruction from the Apostle Paul, as we seek their meaning for us in the Twenty-First Century.”

 

“Be Kind to One Another”

Kindness is an action in which one shows consideration, or thoughtfulness and possibly helpfulness to another.  The action of kind-heartedness often is done with compassion and is frequently offered when a moment of charity is needed for the good of someone other than yourself.  Sympathy is an act of kindness and is commonly used when consoling and comforting someone over their loss of a loved one.  One of our beloved members of our fellowship, Louise Richards, shares with me about kindness, virtually, every time I visit her.  She shares how when she was a child, a long time ago, her grandmother would tell her to be kind to others and they will be kind to you.  Be kind to one another, what a wonderful message and she has carried it with her since she was a child!  I searched high and low for an idea of how to talk about today’s scripture lesson from the writings of the Apostle Paul, yet, I find myself resonating on this simple phrase given to me by Louise, which was passed on to her early in her childhood from her grandmother.  She has also shared with me how the plight of slavery is part of her heritage, yet front and center in her cherished memories is this sermonette surrounding being kind to one another!

Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, to the Ephesians who were struggling to be a viable church in that region of the world, contains this same message.  In verse thirty-two Paul clearly states: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you!” /Ephesians 4:32b/ As we have studied Paul’s words over these recent weeks, we have learned how he has instructed those early Christians, that they must recognize all whom have confessed a relationship with Christ and thus have been baptized with the Living and Holy Spirt, of Christ, of God our Creator; thereby being in true and unrestricted fellowship with them.  In today’s lesson Paul speaks of all the emotions and triggers that keep people from honoring their sisters and brothers in the faith, and in so doing have blocked themselves from the ability to be kindhearted and thereby preventing them from imitating the example of Christ in their lives.  Which, Paul clearly believes we are meant to do if we are to be followers of Christ.

People come to me wanting to know how we can build up our declining and aging congregation.  Every pastor I know understands the depth of this question.  It is a question deserving an answer.  There are as many answers as there are communities of faithful Christians meeting together this morning throughout the world!  The current Pope since 2013, Pope Francis, serving and leading the largest group of Christians, speaks of the simple values of ministry, all the time, and has literally, rocked the Roman Catholic Church with the power of his simplicity!  Perhaps, it is said by many, this is because of his Jesuit background.  Which is a religious order which takes a vow of poverty and they are known for their reverence.  His methodology for leading his vast congregation is to go back to the simple teachings of Christ, which is to keep it simple.  Love God and your neighbor as yourself by imitating the man Jesus and follow his teachings.  To many his methodologies are a new beginning.  At the same time there are those that feel strongly he has taken them the wrong direction, wanting to go back to the old rigidness of their church, reinforcing the conservative ‘hard lines’ of Roman Catholic doctrine.  You perhaps can see the struggles which pastors throughout the world face when someone asks: “how do we strengthen our church”, yet not wanting their pastor to try anything new.

The Apostle Paul was the lead pastor of these young churches, like this church in Ephesus, to whom he has written his letter and now we look to for guidance.  In the case of the Ephesians, there must have been signs that members of their fellowship were still doing things the old way and not the new open hearted and charitable ways of Christ Jesus.  Consider his chastisement about not being truthful with each other, or being angry towards others, or in Paul’s own words: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.” /Ephesians 4:32a/ Clearly, this must have been a problem, or he would not be dwelling on it like he is!  In this scenario the message is clear: “remove and discard all these negative and unproductive pagan ways!”  Paul is clearly telling this small church, your nonreligious secular ways do not work in the church, not if we want to build it up in a model supported by the example and teachings of Jesus!  Sounds clear enough doesn’t it?  But, let’s be honest here, letting go of old biases and habits is much harder than just snapping one’s fingers and presto everything is new!

Many of us have tried to make changes in our lives along this long and winding path of life.  Some of us have indeed made real and substantial progress too!  But, it is never easy.  Simple, maybe, easy, no!  I tried an experiment with the congregation I was serving up in Middletown New York.  First let me say this was an older, historic church, which was founded when a group of blue-collar workers wanted a new church, away from the white-collar bosses’ church, which was established when the railroad first came to that community.  They picked a spot on the top of a hill overlooking the entire community!  Built it out of volcanic rock that was laying around in people’s back yards.  The building is a one of a kind and historic.  They also had a Three Manual Skinner Organ, with thirty stops, and five thousand pipes, many of which were wooden.  They had this organ imported and installed!  During the fifties and sixties their church flourished and was packed to capacity every Sunday!  By the time I got there in 1997 the average attendance was thirty-three.  Now, the experiment I tried, a few years after I arrived, (and we had built attendance up into the seventies) was to ask people to sit in different pews, taking a different seat on Sunday morning.  Most everyone was willing to get up and move during that one service.  But, by the next week ninety percent had gone back to their previous places!  It is easy to say we are open to new ideas, yet, seldom do we find it easy to change our thinking about that old more ‘comfortable’ way.

The discussion which Paul has presented to us today, is a lot more serious then our unwillingness to sit in a different chair or in a different location within the sanctuary on Sundays.  It is about how we treat others, how we treat each other.  This carries real consequences and can actually cause harm and bad feelings with the relationships of people we interact with in all areas of our lives.  What if we held each other accountable for being untruthful with each other?  What if we started being mindful of how hurtful anger can be in our lives.  Paul tells us it is ok to get angry yet says we ought not to let the sun go down before we do something with it!  He is clearly suggesting that we must do something with our anger.  Gestalt therapy had not been developed at the time of Jesus, so a more personal approach is needed.  Consequently, like Gestalt therapy suggests, we need to take responsibility for our lives.  We must put the here and now of our lives into context.  We need to take a moment and consider why we are angry, what caused it and what part do we as individuals need to take responsibility for.  If someone or something outside of our selves caused this disruption we need to pause and consider why they may have said or done what they did.  There are anger management classes available for people who struggle with getting their anger under control.  Why?  Because it is recognized by modern professionals that anger is an emotion that we need to take responsibility for rather than blame people, places and things for our emotional wellbeing.

Uncontrolled and unresolved anger can and does, lead to a disconnection with God and God’s Spirit.  Paul uses a number of different ways to discuss this.  Bitterness and wrath are kissing cousins to resentments and anger!  All of these emotions lead to pointing a finger at something or someone outside of our control.  In the pointing we are putting blame on someone or something outside of ourselves.  Paul wasn’t buying into this line of thinking.  Apparently, he understood that when we point one finger at anyone or anything, three are pointing back at our self!  Try it!  Point your finger at me… right now!  Now, as you do so, look at your hand.  You will see three fingers pointing back at you!  Stop pointing your fingers at that which is outside you!  You and me, we need to look inside ourselves to resolve our conflicts.  When I slipped on the sidewalk in front of a hotel, it wasn’t so much the fault of the sidewalk or the rain.  It was my rush and carelessness to get to my car that was the cause.  You over react to some constructive feedback about something you are doing.  You take offense and get a resentment which unresolved… leads to anger.  Stop a moment, step back and consider your context.  You skipped lunch, you are feeling light headed and are already regretting doing so and are behind in your tasks at hand.  This is what caused you to wrongly take offense to what was meant to be, simple feedback, to assist your efforts on a project which you are currently working on.  Yes, we always need to review ourselves first… before giving in to these negative emotions.

The simple phrase that Louise has now passed on to all of us, is simple and basic.  Be kind to others, and they will be kind to you.  Jesus said: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” /Ephesians 4: 26/ Kindness begins when we stop assuming the other person is what is causing our present discomfort.  Transference is a common problem which most of us are guilty of now and then and some of us more frequently than not.  This means we blame others for our lack of proper sleep or our poor eating habits.  Kindness is good nourishment for everyone.  This is not just for us Christians.  Yet, as children of God, followers of the teachings of Jesus, it would be well if we followed this ancient, yet simple advice.  Paul was saying these words out of kindness.  The Apostle Paul, transformed and called by Christ, truly believed that Jesus was all about love and kindness.  “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. /Ephesians 5: 1-2/”

Amen.

“The Signs are Everywhere!”

John 6: 24 – 35,  page 867, August 5th, 2018

Sermon by pastor Tim Woodard


 

 

 

“Hear now these words from the gospel according to John, chapter six, verses twenty-four thru thirty-five.”

John 6:24-35

24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.  25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”  26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?  What work are you performing?  31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

“Having heard these words from the teachings of Jesus, passed down to us through the ages, let us now focus on seeking out the signs in our time and ascertaining their meaning to us in our lives today.”

 

“The Signs are Everywhere!”

Last Sunday, we found Jesus sharing in an extraordinary meal with his disciples and five thousand of his followers.  They called it a miracle because so many were filled with so little.  Jesus filled them with his blessings and words of hope.  Yet, after this occurrence, Jesus and the disciples slipped away to Capernaum, where the crowds again found him.  They ask Jesus what he was doing there.  “Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” /John 6: 26/ As Jesus continues this dialogue with his followers it becomes clear they are more focused on the here and now, the physical signs that Jesus can fill their bellies with food and heal the sick.  Yet, Jesus tells them these are not the signs that they need to see.  Rather, he wants his followers to see the bigger picture.  Jesus wants them to understand that the signs are meant to lead them to who Jesus truly is… in the realm of the kingdom of heaven.  He begins to talk about eternal life and bread from heaven, the bread that gives life, eternally!  It would appear from this discussion, that the people were confused about the signs and who Jesus was.  One can only wonder, are we too confused?  Are we still wanting Jesus, to only fix our needs and wants, in this ‘all too real’ and ‘all too material’ world we live in?  Can it be, we identify with the crowds in the scriptures and still hunger and thirst for the spiritual nourishment of which Jesus speaks?  But we have no clue how to see and understand these signs?

One scholar tries to give us some direction.  “Jesus knew that we all have a tendency to put our faith in things that ultimately cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our soul.  The only “bread” that can truly satisfy our hunger is the life that God offers us. “/Alan Brehm/ Many of us struggle in this way.  Many of us talk about faith yet believe that faith is in the seeing and in the partaking of the abundance which is offered to us through the love of God.  This is not the definition of faith.  Yes, faithful people often have abundance and often mystically are helped in the human journeys through life; often-times in physical and material ways.  Yet, those are only fringe benefits and are not meant to be the goals of faithfulness!  Faith, however, is believing without seeing.  I once heard it said: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so!” /Mark Twain/ Years ago, I looked that up and found that this statement is a quote from Mark Twain.

Is every one of us concerned about the here and now?  Sure, of course, we are!  So why can’t we expect a little help from Jesus?  Fact is I am certain you can find a few pastors offering these types of reassurances from their pulpits this very morning.  Trust me, I too want this.  The ‘signs’ are everywhere confirming this point.  We live in a world where the younger we are the more likely we have become programed that things, the good life, excitement, and entertainment… can be had virtually instantly!  Cell phones, the internet, face time, each enhance this feeling of instant connection, instant gratification at many levels.  We go shopping on the internet and we can have clothing, food, furniture, literally everything can be shipped to our homes.  It would be difficult to not be drawn into this belief that happiness can be attained at the snap of the fingers.  That is, if we believe we can fill that void in our lives with things.  Jesus pointed out to the crowds that they were focused on the wrong signs.  Abundant food that only comforts your need to consume fuel for your human bodies, will not lead you to the nourishment we all need for our souls, the essence of our core needs!

The material world is important for our human lives, I am not suggesting to you anything to the contrary.  We do however, need to look for the signs of that which will feed out spirits, our hearts and the very character of our beings!  What we, as followers of Jesus need to spend some quality time doing, on a regular basis, is looking for the signs of God’s grace and love, God’s kindness, compassion and mercy in the midst of our lives.  The crowds that followed Jesus, they were hungering and thirsting for all these things and the basics of human existence.  Many in our society today are in this same quagmire, thus their predicaments complicate their search for God’s saving grace.  This has been true throughout history, before and after the time of Jesus.  Leaving us with the overriding question: How do we connect with these signs which Jesus eludes to?  Can it be as simple as humbly having faith and trusting in the ministry and message of Jesus?  It is an easy statement to make, and most Christian pastors would agree with this, yet many add a few adverbs or adjectives.

Some pastors would agree that: “Simple things can be signs of things too great to even fully understand.” /Rick Morley/ As an example: You are in the supermarket buying one item.  You find it with the help of a store clerk, whom you have wrongly identified as he is just a young man running an errand, like yourself in the same market.  Yet, his kind, unjudgmental, and helpful response helps you locate what you need quickly.  You head toward the checkout counter, bumping into an elderly woman whom is having trouble reaching an item on a high shelf.  As you maneuver around her, you say to yourself, ‘somebody ought to help her reach that’.  You never stop as you head for the checkout counter.  Hum… that was rather rude and thoughtless.  Finally, you get to the checkout line.  The express lines are shut down.  You utter an unkind phrase under your breath, thankfully no one heard you, other than your Creator.  Unfortunately, the manager is racing down row five, where you just left the elderly woman needing assistance.  Seems in her efforts to reach what she needed she slips and falls.  A few minutes later the E.M.T.’s arrive to assist her.  Finally, you pay for the jar of relish which you need for Saturday’s barbecue, after a fatigued mother, with a baby riding in her grocery chart, waves for you to step in front of her in line.  You go home muttering about the challenge your pastor made about looking for signs, which he said were everywhere!

When we read scripture about Jesus, we need to view his words in context with everything else we have learned about him!  Jesus was a compassionate, loving and kind man!  He cared about the needs of the people he interacted with!  He told us parables and stories like that of the Good Samaritan.  You remember the story, it is in the gospel of Luke 10:25-37.  “It is about a traveler who is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road.  First a priest and then a Levite comes by, but both avoid the man.  Finally, a Samaritan happens upon the traveler.” /Wikipedia/ The message is all about having compassion for others, even if they are your enemies!  This is what the Good Samaritan did, he stopped and helped the man.  Used his own money to care for him, while others walked by ignoring the man’s plight!  This story came from the heart of Jesus and his teachings!  If you truly want to be a follower of Jesus, look to how he lived his life, humbling himself for the good of others, people like me and you!

Jesus is telling us today, that we must ‘stop’ concentrating on our own ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.  Subsequently, by doing so, we will be free to focus more on the needs of those around us.  Does this mean we shall need to give everything away to others?  No, not at all.  Yet, there will be situations when we need to be inconvenienced from time to time for the sake of another.  This means that occasionally we need to open our hearts and perhaps put that empty guest bedroom to use, helping a friend or someone in need of it now and then!  These are the kind of things which shall count most when we are looking for entrance into the kingdom of God.  Acts of kindheartedness not acts of getting your personal chores done in a timely manner.  These are the actions that Jesus has worked to instill in our hearts.  The signs are everywhere.  Some people stop to help people in need.  Others walk right by, not willing to share a dime or five minutes to help someone else!

The folks who questioned Jesus in today’s scripture lesson, they wanted to be feed food and only remembered ‘the sign’ when Jesus did just that!  They did not take note of the generosity of the young lad who offered up the five loaves and two fish.  His actions which came from his character, as a loving person, did not parish like yesterday’s food.  No, he went home filled with the knowledge that he was able to help others, he went home with something which brought him closer to God and the essence of true life.  “The challenge here is to see which things perish, and which things endure, and to embed ourselves – to abide in, to focus our living on – the things that endure.  Because only the things that endure truly satisfy, and only the things that endure bring true life.” /David Ewart/

Jesus is our ‘life line!’  If we can connect with who the man Jesus truly was, as described in so many special ways in scripture, then we shall connect with the true signs which shall direct us to eternal life in the kingdom of God.

Amen.