Never Let Go!

John 20:19-23
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          A pastor made an investment in an old farm which he planned to enjoy in his retirement years. While still leading a very active congregation, he would take one day off each week from ministry to work on his property. But what a job! He soon realized that the farm he bought was nothing more than several acres of weeds, gopher holes and run-down buildings. By any measure, it was a mess, but the pastor was sure it had potential.

         So every week he would go out to his land, crank up the old tractor and plow through the seemingly endless weeds and brush. Then he'd concentrate on much-needed repairs to the buildings. He'd mix cement, cut lumber, replace broken windows and patch up the plumbing. It was hard work for sure, but after several months things began to take shape. And every time the pastor completed a project he would beam with pride. Indeed, his hard work was beginning to pay off.

         One day the minister received a friendly visit from a neighbor who lived a few miles down the road. Familiar with the old place, the man took a long look around. And though there was still much work to be done, the neighbor was impressed. Nodding his approval he said, "Well preacher, it sure looks like you and God have been busy out here."

         The pastor, wiping sweat from his face, replied, "That's nice of you to say but I've got to tell you something. You should have seen this place when God had it all to himself!"

         In each of our lives, as Christians, there is a mighty work to be done. But with God's help, we can conquer life's biggest challenges. In today's Gospel, Jesus is calling his disciples to proclaim the Good News of a loving, merciful God. And so, Jesus is also calling us to a gracious God who wants us for himself.

         “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you" Jesus said to his Disciples on the first Pentecost Sunday. "After saying this he breathed on them, and said 'receive the Holy Spirit.’"

         Jesus was not sending out spiritual slackers. No! The Apostles were ready to receive the breath of the Spirit through Jesus because they had learned that the Spirit of God was in him. Jesus had prepared them for the great spiritual event in which their minds and hearts would be opened to the true meaning of his own life of sacrificial self-giving. Jesus had prepared them to accept the hard work of a ministry of loving service -- the only inspired path to fulfillment.

         There is work to be done! And the work of Christian witness, the work of love, is always an unfinished business. We must work to achieve our salvation. We must work to experience eternal life with God in the here and now! We must work to build up the Body of Christ -- for as long as there is even one sheep without a shepherd, there is a mighty work to be done.

         The quality of the spirit that we take out into the world is the secret of making it possible for us to name the name of Jesus before others. What we are talking about is an evangelistic spreading out of the love of Jesus Christ -- the love that flows out to people like a great wave of compassion. Because he loves them so much, we feel love flowing through us, and we realize that the gift we are empowered to give, in our families and neighborhoods and places of work, is the most priceless gift available to mankind!

         God is sending us out in the world to give genuine witness. "You shall be my witnesses," Jesus is saying to us now, "to the ends of the earth." God is sending us out to share his presence with the world. That is why he calls us together like this: to prepare us to go out. We go out speaking about him. We go out to minister in love and to bind up the wounds of those who are hurt. We go out to protest against social injustice wherever people are being exploited and victimized. And our final, ultimate form of genuine witness is to go out and be a sign of unity to all mankind. Into a broken world where people are estranged from one another -- married couples, families, nations, races, churches -- God is sending us out as a sign of what he is doing through the Lord Jesus to harmonize all mankind in peace, brotherhood, and love.

         The story is told of a bricklayer who had tried to move nearly five hundred pounds of bricks from the top of a four-story building to the sidewalk below. The problem was he tried to do it alone. In his own words, submitted on the insurance company's worker's compensation claim form, he wrote:

         It would have taken too long to carry the bricks down by hand, so I decided to put them in a barrel and lower them by a pulley which I had fastened to the top of the building.

         First, after tying the rope securely at the ground level, I then went up to the top of the building, fastened the rope around the barrel, loaded it with the bricks and swung it out over the sidewalk for the descent.

         Next, I went down to the sidewalk and untied the rope, holding it securely to guide the barrel down slowly. But, since I weigh only one hundred and forty pounds, the five-hundred-pound load jerked me from the ground so fast that I didn’t have time to think of letting go of the rope. And as I passed between the second and third floors, I met the barrel coming down. This accounts for the bruises and lacerations on my upper body.

         Then, I held tightly to the rope until I reached the top, where my hand became jammed in the pulley. This accounts for my broken thumb. At the same time, however, the barrel hit the sidewalk with a bang and the bottom fell out. With the weight of the bricks gone, the barrel weighed only about forty pounds. Thus my one-hundred-forty-pound body began a swift descent, and I met the empty barrel coming up. This accounts for my broken ankle.

         Slowed only slightly, I continued the descent and landed on the pile of bricks. This accounts for my sprained back and broken collar bone.

         At this point, I lost my presence of mind completely and let go of the rope. And the empty barrel came crashing down on me. This accounts for my head injuries.

         As for the last question on the form "What would you do if the same situation arose again?" Please be advised that in the future, I will never, ever go it alone!

         For us, there is a mighty work to be done because as Christians, the work of love is always an unfinished business. But as Christians, we never go it alone. With the help of the Lord, the mighty work of Christian witness is our only inspired path to fulfillment.

         Listen to the word of the Lord who tells us, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me, will do the works that I do."

         As so, we must . . .

         Work to experience eternal life with God in the here and the now!

         Work in building up the Body of Christ.

         Work to be a sign of unity to all mankind.

         Let us leave this place, holding fast to the promise of the coming Kingdom of God -- and may we never let go!

         Amen.


Pentecost Sunday 2017
Pastor Douglas P. DeVos
First Christian Church of Tiffin, Ohio

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