Monday, February 12, 2007

A Matter of Life or Death: Epiphany 6 .Year C Sermon, Dubay+ @ St. Philip's, Charleston.

The Reverend David M. Dubay
St. Philip’s Church
Epiphany 6 Year C
February 9, 2007

A Matter of Life or Death.
Click here for Audio

I remember, very clearly when I was 15

I went for an eye check up by myself.

It was the first time I had driven myself somewhere to undergo a medical procedure without my parents….

The doctor dilated my eyes and then sent me out into the waiting room to finish dilating. He told me that I might experience some discomfort but I don’t think he knew just how much discomfort.
There I sat, reading field and stream magazine and sitting next to a tiny little old lady who was being very quiet. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that she was looking at me. Then I realized that she was staring at me… I rubbed the tears out of my eyes and read about hunting bears…

Then I felt a tug on my t shirt sleeve. "‘Scuse me son."

"Yes Ma’am", I said…thinking that I was going to reach something for her or help her by imparting some of the wisdom of the 15 well lived years…

"Son…do you go to church?"

"Yes Ma’am", I said…knowing what was coming next.

"Which church?" She asked…"1st Baptist or Alice Drive Baptist?"

"Holy Comforter", I replied, "across from Tony’s Pizza."

She paused…a long while….searching, I suppose, for someone that she could remember coming from that church and being a Christian. She started to open her mouth again but just then the Lord sent someone to call me back into the examining chair…

I will remember that short interchange all of my life. But it’s meaning, and my feelings for that little old woman have changed quite a bit over the years. Up into my early 30’s I remembered that day as the day when some judgmental Southern Baptist Woman wanted to convert me to her way of thinking…

Later…as my self importance wore down a little, I realized that the woman in that waiting room wanted nothing more than to save my life. She had chosen that moment, when I was weak and almost a captive audience, to ask a terribly difficult question. Which would have been…if I hadn’t been called away to the examining chair… Do you know Jesus?

Did I know Jesus? No I did not. Not fully anyway. But the message of the Gospel that finally broke through my barriers was the same one that had broken into her life. It was the same message known by the church for 2000 years.

And we say it over and over again, every day, hour by hour… on the television, on the radio, in print, on Compact Disc, and by word of mouth…

We need God, we need to be redeemed.
God has a plan for us and Jesus is the plan.

Even if you think of all the innovation…think of the many, many ways we try and tell the same story.

Monastic Chant, Pilgrimages, Written prayer, spontaneous prayer, Tent Revivals, Public baptisms, confirmation classes, WWJD bracelets. Cursillo, Kairos, Happening, Faith Alive, Road to Emmaus, Knowing God, Alpha, Alpha 2, Son of Alpha.. in the 90’s we started getting exclusive versions of the Bible trying to reach special interest groups, the Men’s Bible, the Women’s Bible, the Collegiate Bible, the Student Bible, the African American Bible, Spirit Filled Bible, King James, the New King James, NIV, ASV, NASV, Good News, The Message and on and on and on….and there is still only one message.

God way is the only way to life, and Jesus is the answer the question.

Many of us hear today, returned to church after our children were born, hoping that somehow the message that was just sinking in with us would permeate the minds and souls of our children.
I’ve noticed an urgency in those parents…

the same sort of urgency as found in the words of the Prophet Jeremiah.
Listen to the urgency in the voice of the prophet

Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the LORD.

Blessed are those who trust in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream

Those are the words of our Savior God. There is certainly urgency…our lives are short without Him.

When I hear the challenging, somewhat stern, and valuable words of Jeremiah;
I find it helpful to picture him as a lifeguard…next to a pool of drowning swimmers…what he holds in his hands and in his heart is the only way to save the lives of the people in his care…Jeremiah is telling his listeners…from the embattle chosen tribes of God all the way to us here today….a sure way to find life and escape death.

With that in mind, these hard words become not a message of condemnation but of compassion and salvation….Jeremiah knew that The God of his people wanted to save their lives and not leave them to their own devices…which would only lead to eternal death. Jeremiah was not a kook on the street corner with a big sigh. Jeremiah was one of the good guys. He was man of God.

The only way he knew how to get God’s message across to the people of God’s covenant was to tell them. Tell them the truth, tell them often tell them to get the message of life from the Father to the child.

In his letter to the Church in Corinth Paul has the same urgency…. “Of course Jesus is raised….he tells them….if he hasn’t [been raised] you and I have NO HOPE. If he isn’t resurrected…than nothing you and I can do or say can connected us to God.” Our hope is in the Lord…and only the Lord.

And as Bishop Allison told us last week it was so important to Paul to get this message to those people that they received a second letter to back up the first one. To save their lives….to bring them into the Joy of the Resurrected Lord…

We, the church, respond to this call to feed God’s sheep. Sometimes we call it ministry….sometimes we call it teaching….sometimes we call it programming….but whatever we call it… it’s not new. But it’s Good.

Whole industries and companies have sprung up in the name of reaching our youth with the Gospel of Christ, of connecting their roots to the river, as Jeremiah said.

When I came to St. Philip’s a year and a half ago I was well aware of your long history ministering to the youth of this community and parish. There was a time when, Tim Surratt (who was here at St. Philip’s) Ted Melnyk of Pawley’s Island, Ken Weldon of Florence, and David Dubay of St. Andrew’s Mt. Pleasant were the only youth ministers in the diocese. And we didn’t like each other. Imagine that.

Now days you can’t swing a stick in the diocese without hitting a youth minister or a Christian Education specialist…. All walking around with the very same message on their hearts: God wants you back… God has life for you… Here let me tell you about Jesus.

If you know, David Gilbert, or Renee, or Riley or Angela, or any of our many, many volunteers in their ministries…than you have seen the work of the prophet Jeremiah, and of St. Paul, and of Jesus himself at work here in our midst.

(to the assembled Boy Scouts) And what is really special for me is to see these fellow’s here. Reading from the Holy Scriptures in Uniform. A uniform that all of my Uncles wore to their Eagle scout ceremonies, A uniform that has always stood for the finest aspirations of citizenship and faith. Do you know that you have continued the work of Jesus Christ by reading from the Bible today. have… pretty cool huh?
Thank you for it….
That same Jesus who, after coming down from on high ….right down to sea level with the fishermen…Looks us in the heart and says…. If you live your life for me, even if you suffer for it….you will see God. Even if you are persecuted for that life of faith in me you will know peace and you will be redeemed.

But if you live a life that replaces me with the wealth of the world, the treasure you worship will pile up so high in front of you that God will lose sight of you….

If you come to confirmation class, or youth group, or Sunday school and sit around with the leaders, You may know and urgency in their voices. For they are lifeguards who own lives have been saved by ancient words uttered by someone with whom they had a relationship. I wonder is that same sense of urgency in your relationships with children. Are you dying for them to know Jesus…even if you embarrass them.

My prayer for you all is that when you sit down with a scout to help him with his God and Country badge, or when you struggle to answer questions from your 4 year old like…how can Jesus be Jesus and God at the same time, or when you sit with your grandchild and watch television and realize that not many in the media want your child to know Jesus…I pray that that same urgency will be in your voice. The urgency that says…Listen up, I love you, but more importantly God loves you. This is how He saves our lives.

If you need prayer, encouragement, or the words to say. Our number is 722-7734. It’s why we’re here. It’s why you called us.

Remaining seated, let us pray.

Gracious Lord, On this Scout Sunday I give thanks for the Scouts who do their best to be
Trustworthy. Loyal. Helpful. Friendly. Courteous. Kind. Obedient. Cheerful. Thrifty. Brave. Clean. And Reverent.
May they also, along with all our children, meet Jesus in the adults in their lives as we meet Him in them. And when they meet Jesus and Jesus asks will you follow me….may their answer be….
Yes sir. Amen

[2] This is my interpretation of the beatitudes and woes found in the Gospel of Luke.

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