Ever Since Easter: New Days for Old Ways – The Saving Way in the Saving Work

Graduations! School’s almost out. You passed! Summer Vacation!

I’ve got one thing to say. YAHOO!!! Congratulations, all. For me, Annual Conference marks another full year served and another new year… beginning today. Taken together, O such joy! So much to be thankful for! But I come here today so very aware of two other souls and an entirely other kind of passing. Chris Catron, 15, gone. Together we baptized him. We confirmed him just 2 years ago. I was the one who held his round face in my hands, looked him in the eye and with the anointing oil told him, “Christopher Allen, you are hereby sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism, and marked as Christ’s own forever.” Just two weeks ago, we preached the last sermon he ever heard. Then there’s Elwood… Myers. 87! The official NBUMC Eveready Bunny! He’d help with anything! Tote CAP Food. Shovel snow. (+6”, please, “That’s when it’s really fun.” He’d be the 1st one here!) 6 guys under 60 staring at the postholes to dig to put up the NB Manger. Quick as a wink, ELWOOD-our-elder ahead of us, digger-in-hand. I loved him. I just loved him. 10 minutes before 11 last Sunday, the call: Elwood has passed. I preached the last sermon he ever heard. Passings, joyful and mournful alike, remind us, as the sweet song sings,

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;

In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity.

Our richest ritual is right, “We know not what a day may hold, but only that the time for serving God is always near at hand.” So today, when worship-time seems a little short, and the joy of the Celebration-Table-of-all-Celebration-Tables is so very near where we sit or stand, I have this thought. Waste not. Want not. Say the most important things. Time’s a passin’. Souls ‘a waitin’. (To use an old tradition, what would you say if you had to say it all, standin’ on ONE FOOT?!) Here goes:

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself…

So we urge you, be reconciled to God. II Cor. 5: 19, 20

God has done his work for us on the cross.

God does his work in us by the Spirit.

Taken together, by these two we are saved,

Beginning TODAY on earth, and in heaven TOMORROW.

The saved life looks like this. (Shift feet.)

God gifts us with amazing love.

God assigns us to tell what we’ve received.

God waits for all of us to say “Yes” to God’s “Yes” to us.

Now, at last and forever, we can be who we are!

If I can say it on ONE foot, surely we can say it with one voice.

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself…

So we urge you, be reconciled to God. II Cor.  5: 19, 20

God has done his work for us on the cross.

God does his work in us by the Spirit.

Taken together, by these two we are saved,

Beginning TODAY on earth, and in heaven TOMORROW.

This what the saved life looks like.

God gifts us with amazing love.

God assigns us to tell what we’ve received.

God waits for all of us to say “Yes” to God’s “Yes” to us.

Now, at last and forever, we can be who we are!

Be it your 1st or last,

that’s the message we have received

and give with joy… to you.

We might not take our PB & J sandwich up the hill and wait for the world to end, like a few folks did just days ago. But we do look at the crazy from Capital Hill to Conway St., Balto. and wonder, how much longer can all of this go on? We look at our ends that just won’t meet in our accounts. ‘At our relationships that don’t seem to satisfy like they used to, or aren’t quite what we expected. (Cf. Jacob w/Leah/Rachel) ALL our kids really aren’t “Above average”, grades notwithstanding, and sometimes our kids can’t stand us, and shouldn’t have to settle for us. (You know who you are!) So, like the believers long ago, we too ask the Risen Jesus, "Lord, is now the time the kingdom’s comin’?" And still, he says, "It’s not for you to know. But you’re gonna get all the power-for-livin-and-servin’ you need when the Spirit comes; and it’ll be up to you to tell your neighbors, your neighborhood, your state (in whatever state it’s in), your nation, even the whole world what I’ve done for you and am doing for them in Jesus Christ It’s your mission… and your reason for being!" and God will still lift him up, right before our very eyes, just as way back when. That way we’ll know Jesus time is fulfilled and our time under heaven is NOW! Oh, I know. We too will be prone to wanna stand around. ‘Have a committee meeting or a discussion group about it. That’s a Methodist thing, you know. But thank God, the lord always provides a couple of angels to ask (as in that ancient day), “Why are you standin’ around, gazing into heaven? He’ll be back. And he’s comin’ for you and everyone you’ve called in his name. So get to it. It’s time for grazin’ not for gazin’. ‘Time to bring everyone you possibly can to His table to feast on the Bread of Heaven. "

It’s confirmation season. We ask folks to be interviewed by our kids and respond to the questions, “Why Jesus, for you? Why the church/this church? Why will it matter for me, in my youth, to be a part?” We expect you to tell the kids good stuff. But I can relate to the adult who answers [II Willimon, Who Will Be Saved?], “Sometimes Church is a bummer! I was doin’ fine. Happy. Then the Church took me to ____, and had me stand next to people who [Don’t know Jesus/hunger/suffer/are dirt poor/etc.]. Yet, some have more hope, more faith, more kindness than I and mine, despite all we have. They’re family to me. Now I can’t get those folks out of my mind, outta my life. I’ve got the church to thank for that!”  Mmph!

Not a year, not a month, sometimes not a week goes by somebody doesn’t ask me, “Who on earth will be saved?” In the Fall, I’d like us to spend some considerable time together with this question. But these last few days, between graduation celebrations and funeral preparations, the thing has been especially keenly on my heart. This is what I want to ask and say. “Well, in Christ, God is working at reconciling the world to himself… so I ask you, are you at peace with God… in the name of Jesus? The crosswork was for you. And you are still the homework of the Holy Spirit. Whom have you welcomed with the welcome God in Christ has given you? By no other name will they be saved than Jesus name. And with no other voice than yours may some be welcomed! TODAY on earth. And in heaven TOMORROW. This what the saved life looks like. God’s amazing love. Ours: to show and tell. God’s “Yes” seeking ours. Ours seeking others’.  It’s who/whose we are!

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