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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

Whom Are You Looking For

Whom Are You Looking For?

John 20:1-18

Acts 10:34-43

In today’s lesson from Acts, Peter is teaching Cornelius, a non Jew, about salvation, about who Jesus is.  Here we find the crux of the gospel message.  (Read Acts 10:34-43)

 

Most of us have heard the phrase, “If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it!”  Here is another version of those words, “If I hadn’t believed it; I wouldn’t have seen it with my own eyes!”  Several years ago, my husband and daughter took off for Florida.  Ordinarily this would have been a much needed get away, one filled with peace and relaxation.  The trouble was that they were taking 15 teenagers, friends of our daughter, with them.  Joe was at the mercy of those teenagers, but then again they were at his mercy.  I wasn’t sure who was bound to get into more trouble, those teenagers or my husband.  The night before they left, my daughter was beside herself worrying about whether they would all show up on time to make the flight.  She was afraid, knowing some of her friends that a couple of them might be late and miss the flight.  Joe and I kept reassuring her that, because they had purchased the tickets, and because they were so excited about the trip, they were guaranteed to be there.  Sur enough all 15 of them showed up at the airport, some a little early, some a little late, but all in time to catch the flight.  My husband and I had believed in the power of the thought of “spring break getaway” to motivate those kids and we saw them there.

I remember the time we believed in the ability of our military to accomplish incredible things, and we saw the rescue of Jessica Lynch and 7 other POW’s.  We experienced an unusual winter, but because we believe that Spring follows winter, we see the emerging green and colors of hyacinth, tulips, magnolia, crocus and others.  We believed that there is much to learn about space, we see up close shots of Jupiter and Saturn and beyond.  We believe in our ability to conquer diseases and see the power of emerging medical procedures, seeing modern miracles of healing and seeing tiny babies given heart transplants and living. 

John believed that Jesus was who he claimed to be, and he was the first to see the empty tomb and experience resurrection.  Who was John?  What do we know about him?  We know that he was one of Jesus’ disciples and that he was loved by Jesus.  We know that he loved Jesus.  We know that he reclined beside Jesus at the table that last evening and that others prodded him to ask who it was that would betray Jesus.  We know that he stood at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother, Mary, watching Jesus die and taking Mary into his home.  We know that he was faster than Peter in running to the tomb.  And we know that he was the first one to understand that Jesus had risen. 

Out of all the disciples, John was probably the one who committed Jesus words to the center of his being.  John probably planted Jesus’ words deep in his heart, deep enough for his heart to be open enough to understand when he beheld the empty tomb, and saw the clothes lying there, and put it all together.  Because he believed Jesus, he was able to believe that Jesus had risen.  Many of Jesus’ followers were probably more like Thomas who said, “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, I will not believe.”  And now because we believe we see those marks in the emptiness of the cross.  Because we believe, we see the risen Christ in the music of praise and the power of prayer and the fellowship of this community of faith and all others like it.  Because we believe, we see the power of Christ working among us and with us as we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, encourage the downhearted, and breathe new life into those who have lost hope.  Because we believe, we see things of faith, and we believe even more.

Easter Sunday, celebration of the event that changes lives to this day, is just the starting point.  We believe that Christ is risen, and out of that belief, we see, time and time again the power of the risen Christ to work in our lives.  And when we witness to the many times the living Christ has brought us peace or comfort or direction or purpose, we come into fuller understanding and trust.  Our lives are transformed and the more we follow Jesus and do what he command, “Love one another”, the more we want to follow and love.  The more we tune our hearts and our minds to the voice of Jesus within us, the more we become what God truly meant for us to be.  The things we worry about and fret about, and expend much energy dealing with become less important as we see an alternative way of living life.  The more we are able and willing to let go of our own desire to create security in the things we accumulate, and the self centered  activity that consumes us, and the more we turn to Christ for guidance and direction, the more we are able to find the security and peace and the love we seek.

The resurrection matters.  The resurrection shows us the power of God to overcome death.  When we truly believe that Christ is living, then we will see the power of Christ.  Jesus becomes more than just a man who died on a cross.  He gave and gives us messages of love and peace.  In his resurrection we become more than just men and women randomly traveling through life from womb to the grave.  Sometimes we feel worthless and other times we feel important.  We compare ourselves to others and judge our own character through the eyes of others.  But when the living Christ touches our hearts and transforms our lives, we come to know our true worth.  Mary Welch offers us this poem to demonstrate something like that:

 

Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer

Thought it scarcely worth his while

To waste much time on the old violin,

But held it up with a smile.

“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,

“Who’ll start the bidding for me?”

“A dollar, a dollar,” then, two!  Only two?

“Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?

“Three dollars, once; three dollars twice;

“Going for three….”  But no,

From the room, far back, a grey haired man

Came forward and picked up the bow;

Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,

And tightening the loose strings,

He played a melody pure and sweet

As a caroling angel sings.

 

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,

With a voice that was quiet and low,

Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?”

And he held it up with the bow,

“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it three?

Three thousand, once; three thousand twice;

And going and gone,” said he

The people cheered, but some of them cried,

“We do not quite understand

“What changed its worth?”  Swift came the reply:

“The touch of a master’s hand.”

 

And many a man with life out of tune,

And battered and scarred with sin,

Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,

Much like the old violin.

A “mess of potage,” a glass of wine;

A game—and he travels on.

He’s “going” once, and “going” twice,

He’s “going” and almost “gone.”

But the Master comes and foolish crowd

Never can quite understand

The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought

By the touch of the Master’s hand.

 

Resurrection tells us not only how worthy we are capable of becoming, but that we will live on in the presence of God because of the touch of the Master’s hand.  The Reverend Gilkey, on hearing that he had an incurable disease tells this story:  “I walked out to my home five miles from the center of the city.  There I looked at the river and the mountains that I love, and then—as the twilight deepened—at the stars glimmering in the sky.  Then I said to them, ‘I may not see you many times more.  But River, I shall be alive when you have ceased running to the sea.  Mountain, I shall be alive when you have sunk down into the plain.  Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen in the ultimate disintegration of the universe.”

Believing that Christ has liven really matters.  We are named and formed in that belief.  We are able to overcome the most difficult of obstacles in that belief.  We are able to find purpose for our lives in that belief.  We are able to know ourselves as loved and of inestimable worth in that belief.  We are able to stand in the very presence of God in that belief.  Hallelujah!  Christ is risen!

 

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