Faith

“Playin’ ‘Possum” Matthew 28:1-10 Easter Sunday

Raise your hand if you are acquainted with the idea of “playin’ ‘possum?”  When I was a kid, occasionally my mom would ask me to do something, and if I didn’t want to do it, I would pretend to be asleep.  Or if I wanted to play a joke or prank on someone when they entered the room, I would pretend to be asleep and then startle them when they didn’t expect it.  This somewhat deceptive behavior is called “playin’ ‘possum.”  Essentially a person acts like they are asleep when they are actually awake.

“Called to Carry Jesus” Matthew 21:1-11

It was Palm Sunday, and Jesus was coming into Jerusalem.  He was riding on a blazing white stallion and kicking up a cloud of dust as he rode along.  He was looking for troublemakers.  The people that he passed on his way were in awe of such a beautiful animal, but they were even more awestruck by the man who was riding it.  As Jesus passed by, you could hear the people say, “Who was that masked man?”

“Being Thankful at Communion” Luke 22:14-16, 19-20

It’s hard to believe that Halloween was just three weeks ago.  Children came up to our front porch holding out bags expecting us to give them something.  It probably happened the same way at your house.  Kids, who for the most part you don’t know, come right up to your door and ask you for candy as if they deserved it.  They were so excited and so happy to get more candy as if they hadn’t gotten treats earlier in the evening.  At our house, we require the children to say, “Trick or treat!”  No candy until they say the magic words and then we drop candy into their bags, comment on their costumes, and off they go to the next house.  I realize that our participation is purely voluntary; no one makes us purchase candy or decorate or have a porch light burning to indicate that we are distributing candy.  And the children who come to our door and any other home have done nothing to deserve the candy.  Not one had raked my lawn, cleaned out my gutters, or washed my car.  They simply walked up, said “Trick or Treat,” and they got candy, which we had to purchase.  The return we receive from our investment into candy acquisitions is happy children and the remembrance that many gave our children candy when they were young. 

“The Faith Connection” II Timothy 1:1-7

In September, Payton took the class taught by Emily Harbin and me titled, “What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?”  We spent considerable time talking about the difference between becoming a Christian and being a Christian.  At the end of the third class, I asked Payton if she was interested in becoming a Christian.  Becoming a Christian means that you believe in Jesus; believe in Jesus means to trust Jesus.  Becoming a Christian means starting a relationship with Jesus.  That night, September 25, Payton became a Christian.  She and I went to Wendy’s the next week to get a Frosty and to talk about her decision.  I asked Payton questions, and she answered every one of them again.  The next Sunday, October 2, she made her public profession of faith and joined the church.  Today, Payton was baptized and will receive her first communion; and by the way, today is also Payton’s ninth birthday!

“When Your Worlds Come Crashing Down” Matthew 27:45-56

Fifteen years ago, I drove my kindergarten son and fourth grade daughter to school.  Upon re-entering our home, I heard a broadcaster on The Today Show say, “We’re getting reports that a prop plane has hit one of the World Trade Center towers.”  Jennifer was in another room with the dial-up internet, and I asked her to come hear about what was happening in New York City.   Watching live, we saw a jet enter the field of view on television and hit the second tower.  Like me, most of us can recall exactly what we were doing and where we were on September 11, 2001.

“Faith as a Source of Strength” Hebrews 11:1-3, 11:23-12:2

          Discouragement about the present ranks pretty high in America right now; presidential politics leave most of us wondering.  Some of you have shared your fears with me about the future of our country; others have recalled the by-gone days of when life was different.  That posture also gets reflected in other areas; some wonder about the future of our city and county.  Still others reflect on the future of our church and consider what is beyond the seeable horizon.  This series from Hebrews 11 speaks to all of us, because if God could help those Old Testament heroes and heroines, if God could sustain those First Century professing Christians in the Roman Empire, then God can also do the same for us. 

“Faith as Obedience” Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-22

Images abound.  If you have a Facebook page, you have to have a profile picture and a cover photo, which both can be changed with a few clicks.  An entire social media platform was created called “Instagram” whose purpose is to share pictures.  Snap-chat primarily shares photos and videos with friends.  Vine is a social media outlet which only shares video.  All these images are easily created with a smart phone, and with a little more effort, photos can be taken with a flip-phone.

“What Can Happen Because People Watch Us” Acts 16:25-34

The Book of Acts chronicles the history of the early Church.  From the time of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, through Pentecost and the conversion of a zealous Pharisee named Saul, Dr. Luke continued to record how the gospel was being spread, largely because of persecution. Saul/Paul was selected to become the missionary to the Gentiles, those who were not Jewish, which expanded the gospel to the known world.  Paul took three missionary journeys sharing God’s love and establishing churches.  Our New Testament Lesson this morning takes place while Paul and Silas were on the second missionary journey.  Paul wanted to visit those new converts to Christianity and see how they were doing.  Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy encountered some Jewish women who were worshiping God near a river in Philippi.  Paul told them about Jesus; a specific woman named Lydia was singled out as a seller of purple, meaning that she was a person of means.  Lydia and her husband were baptized.  They created such a strong, quick relationship that the four missionaries were invited to stay with them in Philippi.

“Experiencing the Unexpected” Luke 24:1-12

Ours is a world filled with the unexpected.  We don’t expect the weather to stay the same for extended periods of time.  We don’t expect presidential candidates to play nicely.  We don’t expect the Department of Transportation to have too few workers at any site.

We also have some expectations.  We expect the grounds at Augusta National to be beautiful every year during the first week of April.  We expect to encounter traffic if we go to Atlanta around 8:00 a.m. or 5:00 p.m.  I expect to enjoy chili dog, chili steak, onion rings, and Frosted Orange every time I go to The Varsity.  Maybe every person’s expectations are unique.

Unfortunately, because of some prior negative interactions, we also have some other expectations.  All of us have experienced difficulties, days when people don’t do what we expect them to do.  Conflicts or disagreements emerge.  Some expect to be disappointed.  Others expect governmental officials to be dishonest.  I expect there to be long lines when I renew my drivers’ license or have some computer snafu.  Side note:  I renewed my license last week and was grateful that the process was painless and efficient.  Again, a person’s expectations are connected to prior experiences.