Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

Lenten Monologue-Blind Bartimaeus

Wednesday night’s Lenten monologue was the character of Blind Bartimeaus and came from Mark 10:46-52 and was based on the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

This is the fourth in Underwood Lutheran’s series of Lenten worship services held on Wednesday evenings through the season. The overarching theme for Lent is the questions of Jesus. Each week we will hear a reading by a different Biblical character who was questioned by Jesus in their encounter.

My name is Bartimeaus…which is Aramaic for Son of Timeaus, and this is the only clue I have to my past…just my father’s name. Since the time that I was born, I was blind…completely unable to see and therefore…completely unable to care for myself.

I don’t know anything about my parents or my family, other than the man that I was named after. Like many other’s like me, I was abandoned when I was very small…and the only thing that I could do was beg.

It was easier when I was small. People take pity on children, and so I could usually count on someone helping me every day…giving me a crust of bread or a drink of water…but as I grew older, that became less common…and so I had to get smarter about things.

I learned to use my ears since my eyes were worthless to me…I would listen…all the time…I’d listen for the sounds of water as I stumbled around…so that I could get a drink…I listened for the creaking of doors, so that I might be able to find shelter…but most importantly I listened for the sounds of people.

Because I was completely dependent on others…and so I had to be around others. If I could find a town, I had better chances…but often times I was driven out of the towns…because people didn’t really want me around…to them, I was a nuisance…an eye sore…and so I was never allowed to stay in one place very long.

But when I was driven out of a town, I did my best to stay close to the roads…and again, I did that with my ears…I listened…I listened for the sounds of footsteps walking by…or the sounds of animals pulling carts up and down the road…these were the sounds that I depended on…and when I would hear them, I would cry out…That’s what I had to do to get their attention.

“PLEASE…HAVE MERCY ON ME!!! PLEASE…GIVE A POOR MAN SOME FOOD…DO YOU HAVE AN OLD CLOAK, FOR I AM COLD…CAN YOU SPARE SOME WATER…WOULD YOU SHARE A COIN WITH A POOR MAN?”

All too often, I was ignored, though that’s not the worst thing that happened. Many times I was berated…screamed at by whoever was passing by…I’ve been called so many bad names I’ve lost track of the insults…or sometimes, if I stumbled into the road and blocked their way, they would strike me or push me…or they’d kick me as I laid along the road…so few cared.

In truth, I would rather hide my head and crawl away to safety when I heard the sounds of people coming by…but I had no choice…this was the only way for me to survive…to try over and over again to plead to complete strangers…to beg for my life…and eventually, someone would take pity on me and give me a scrap of food or a splash of water…that was how I survived, day after day.

And so I listened…using my ears to survive…and by listening I also heard conversation…people talked about different things…sometimes I’d hear something important, like people talking about the clouds building in the west, and I would know that I needed to try and find shelter from a coming storm…or other times I would hear of a battalion of Roman soldiers that were coming my way and I’d know to crawl off the road and hide myself from them…but one of the things that I remember hearing about was this holy man traveling around the countryside with a batch of followers…I’d heard rumors of him while people were passing by…how he was some sort of teacher…and that he was working miracles…and how some people thought he was the Son of David…one of the names that we Jews would call the coming Messiah…I heard these rumors a lot…and I’m glad I did.

Because one day, everything changed for me. I was laying alongside the road outside of Jericho. How I came to be there, I’ll never know, it was just where I ended up that day…and I thought this was a day like any other. I laid there along the road, listening like I always did…listening for the footsteps or the sounds of a cart being pulled.

As the day wore on, I did begin to hear footsteps…and not just an isolated person or two…but at one point I heard a large crowd stepping past me. As usual, I tried to appeal to the people as they walked by, but to no avail. After the first few in the group ignored me, and then one threw a kick at me, I just cowered…thinking that these people wouldn’t help me, and I would wait for the next group to come by on the road…but as I cowered there, I began to hear their voices…and my ears perked up when I heard someone say the name Jesus.

Could it be? Could this really be the one that so many had spoken of? I had nothing to lose so when I heard the name one more time…Jesus of Nazareth…I cried out in a loud voice “JESUS, SON OF DAVID…HAVE MERCY ON ME!!!” Now, it wasn’t surprising that many in the crowd hushed me, their voices gruff and mean. “QUIET YOU FOOL…DON’T DISTURB THE TEACHER!!!”

But I wasn’t going to be cast aside this time…if this really was Jesus, and the rumors were true, then I had to get his attention and I cried out again “SON OF DAVID…HAVE MERCY ON ME.” After this second time of calling out…I heard the crowd get quiet…and suddenly I heard a calm kind voice say “Call him here.” Footsteps came towards me, and the gruff voice said, a little kinder, “Get up, he is calling you.”

I jumped to my feet and stumbled in the direction of the kind voice I had heard. I was afraid…but I was determined…if this was Jesus, perhaps he would have mercy…when I finally came close to him, I heard his kind voice speak again…and this time, he was speaking directly to me. “What do you want me to do for you?”

I have to admit, I didn’t know. What did I want? I could have asked for anything in that moment. I was hungry and thirsty…I could have asked for bread or water. Or I could have asked him to bring me along with his group…perhaps they would have cared for me…or I could have asked for clothes…what I was wearing was tattered and ragged…but somehow, that didn’t seem like the thing to do. Something in his voice told me that this was no simple act of annoyed mercy towards yet another beggar alongside the road.

And so, rather than ask for any of those things, I asked for the one thing that could solve all of my problems…that could end my time as a beggar…I asked him for my sight…something I had never had. “Teacher…let me see.”

I don’t know what made me ask this…perhaps his question had stirred up in my awareness that it was not simple mercy from others that I needed, but that my entire existence could be changed by him. This wasn’t just about receiving care from a stranger…the kindness in his voice as he asked me that simple question helped me realize the truth in the rumors I had heard about him. Jesus was no simple teacher…this was the Son of God standing before me…the miracles that I had heard about were true, because of the power that he possessed.

And I knew that not only could he give me my sight back, but that the mercy that I had asked for…the mercy that I had cried out seeking, was the mercy of God himself…and that this encounter would change me forever. I believed that he could do this for me…I believed it with every atom of my being simply because of the power in his voice.

And then he said the words that I will never forget. “Go, your faith has made you well.” And the instant he said those words, my eyes were opened for the first time and I could see. I could see the world in all its beauty…but more importantly I was looking in the face of the man that had saved me…the man that offered me the mercy of God himself…the man that was God himself.

And so, rather than simply going on my way…I joined the crowd following Jesus. He had given me everything, even when I didn’t know what I was seeking. And so today, if you encounter Jesus and you find yourself crying out to him for mercy, he may just ask you the same question…and help you realize that what he offers goes far beyond what we could ever dream of.

Lenten Monologue-Apostle Andrew

On Wednesday March 26th,  we heard a reading from the perspective of the Apostle Andrew. This reading was based on John 1:35-42 and was based on the question “What are you looking for?” asked by Jesus.

This is the third in Underwood Lutheran’s series of Lenten worship services held on Wednesday evenings through the season. The overarching theme for Lent is the questions of Jesus. Each week we will hear a reading by a different Biblical character who was questioned by Jesus in their encounter.

To those that knew me, my name is Andrew, son of John…although for the most part, history simply remembers me as Peter’s brother. Throughout the ages, Peter has been better remembered. Name the first pope, people tell you Peter. Talk about miracles that happened with the disciples, they’ll tell you Peter walking on the water…its safe to say that history tends to remember my brother way more than me.
You could go a little farther along than that too. Ask anyone to name the disciples, and I’ll bet you money that the first three they call off will be Peter and James and John. The way the history books are written, you’d think they were the 3 most important.
But I’m not bitter about it. Really I’m not…because my worth is not found in the history books…or in being over shadowed by my more famous brother…I find my worth in Christ…though it wasn’t always like that.
My life, like those of my family and those I knew growing up, was quite simple. Like my brother Peter and our father John…and like our partners James and John the sons of Zebedee, I was a simple fisherman. I’d go out at night with my nets and try to catch as many fish as I could. In the morning, we’d haul those fish up on shore…keep what we needed for our own table…and then sell the rest…it got repetitive, day after day, night after night…but that was life in my time.
But you know, there were moments when things did go a little differently. For instance…for a time, I was a disciple of John the Baptist. I watched as he would preach out in the wilderness along the Jordan river…ranting and raving about repentance from sin. He told me about the amazing thing that happened when his cousin Jesus of Nazareth came to the river to be baptized…the heavens were torn open and the voice of God came booming out of the clouds exclaiming that this was His one and only Son.
John said that Jesus was the messiah…the one that would take away the sin of the world…One day, I was standing along with John when he pointed out a man and exclaimed “Look, here is the Lamb of God.” I knew right away that this was the incredible man that John had told me about…and so I followed him.
John had taught me much in the time I was his disciple. He taught me the importance of recognizing our sinfulness…and of repenting from it. He helped me realize that, try as I might, I would fail in my attempts to follow the law given to Moses, but that God would recognize and forgive a repented heart…but most importantly, John taught me that there was another coming that was far more important than he was…and now I had seen him…now I was following him…eager to know whatever he would share with me…simply eager to continue learning.
In my time, very few people were educated…the religious leaders and the scribes were, but for us common people, the most we could learn was at the feet of the traveling Rabbis…the teachers that would go from place to place. And so we learned very quickly as young men, that when we had the opportunity to learn, whether in the synagogues on the Sabbath day or in simple passing with a rabbi, we needed to take advantage of it…and this is why I followed Jesus when John pointed him out…because I wanted to learn…I wanted to find out all that I could from him about our Lord and His ways.
Its almost funny to me, as I think back on it now, how little I realized of the truth…the truth of who Jesus was. I thought he was just an important holy man…perhaps a prophet of greater significance than John…I failed to remember what John had said about his baptism, and that he was truly God’s son. But the reality of Jesus was so much simpler…and yet so much more complex than I could ever imagine.
As I followed him that day, he turned around and looked at me…and I have never experienced a gaze with as much love and caring as I did from Jesus. He asked me a very simple question…but one that would change my life forever. “What are you looking for?”
As I thought about it, I found I didn’t know. I couldn’t put into words all the questions I had…the truths that I was looking for. To be honest, I don’t even think I knew I was looking for them at that time, so I simply asked him “Teacher…where are you staying?” I asked him this, because I wanted to stay with him…to have as much time with him as I could.
The amazing thing about Jesus, he could make simple statement, or ask a simple question and reveal so much truth about a person. In his first question to me, he revealed my longing for understanding…but he did it in a way that allowed us the time together for me to begin to understand my own longing…my longing for something more…for more meaning in my life…for truth in my life.
And in that moment, he invited me to come and see…not just to see where he was staying…but to begin to see the truth of what I was seeking in my life…the truth of God’s love for me and for all people…and the truth that through Christ we could be forgiven…truly forgiven of our sinfulness.
After I spent the day with him…amazed at everything I had already learned…I knew that I needed to share this amazing experience with others. Just as John had shared the truth of Jesus with me, I needed to pass along that knowledge…I needed to point others towards Christ.
And who better for me to bring than my brother. I spent every day with him, and I loved him as all brothers do. How could I not care enough about him to pass up the chance to bring him to meet the Messiah…and so I ran and found him and told him what had happened…and I brought Peter to Jesus…perhaps this is why history remembers me as Andrew the bringer.
From that day forward, my brother and I, along with James and John and 8 other men, not to mention countless others…followed Jesus…we listened to him preach the truth of the kingdom of Heaven. We saw the miracles…we heard the parables. Jesus gave us power over unclean spirits and the ability to heal diseases. The experiences that I had over the three years that I followed Jesus are amazing and words cannot express the joy I experienced. But along with the joys, there were troubles as well. Sometimes Jesus’ teaching was difficult. Sometimes we failed to understand what he was telling us…and so, throughout that time, I was always looking for more answers…I would question Jesus, ask him to explain the truths of God…because I was always looking for more understanding.
Sometimes Jesus asks us a question that reveals more about us than we realize. For me, Jesus very first words to me fell in this category. “What are you looking for?” To this day, I still have not found everything I’m looking for, because I am always seeking more and more truth about God and the kingdom of Heaven…but I do know this much…the truth can be found through Jesus, for he is the way, the truth, and the life…No one comes to the Father except through him. And as he showed me that first day when I met him, if we are seeking, he will invite us…to come and see.

Lenten Monologue-Woman Caught in Adultry

On Wednesday March 19th,  we heard a reading from the perspective of the woman caught in adultery that is brought before Jesus. This reading was based on John 7:53-8:11 and was based on the question “Has no one condemned you?” asked by Jesus.

This is the second in Underwood Lutheran’s series of Lenten worship services held on Wednesday evenings through the season. The overarching theme for Lent is the questions of Jesus. Each week we will hear a reading by a different Biblical character who was questioned by Jesus in their encounter.

History does not remember my name. Like countless others who have lived and died throughout the ages, the details of my life have been lost, and the history books do little to tell you who I am.
My name is not important, though rest assured that God knows my name. Like many others, I am very simply a Jewish woman. I lived my life as best I could. I knew the rules. I knew the law, everyone did. God gave it to Moses, and Moses gave it to the people.
Throughout our history, the history of the Jews, we have clung to the law to help us remember our identity as the chosen people of God. We have experienced countless years of heartache and enslavement. First my people were slaves in Egypt. Then we wandered in the wilderness for an entire generation. We could not maintain the promised land given to us by God, and we were invaded, carried off into exile around the world, first by the Assyrians, and then by the Babylonians. In my time, the Romans were in command, controlling our lives and overshadowing our way of life.
Through these trials, my people have been spread throughout the known world, never knowing where we could call home, or what would happen next. But the one thing that we clung to was the knowledge that God had given us the law, it was a blessing to help us honor God and one another. We all know it, and we all cling to it.
But sometimes life takes control away from us, and try as we might, we fail. That is what history remembers of me. When the Jewish leaders found out about my transgressions, they used me. Not out of any concern for me or for the law, but because they wanted to trap the man that they considered a threat. The man called Jesus of Nazareth. I had heard the name, but I knew nothing about him. Only that he was some sort of teacher and he was speaking out against the old ways.
I am not perfect. I have never claimed to be perfect. I have made mistakes. I have let myself get carried away, and I know that I have broken the law. I know that one of the 10 commandments is against adultery…and I also know that the expanded law states that anyone caught in adultery should be stoned to death. I do not deny it, and I do not deny what I did. I was guilty of what they said I did.
But what was strange was how the leaders handled the situation. Honestly, I don’t think they really cared about what happened…all they really wanted to do was trap Jesus. To discredit him so that people would stop listening to what he was saying; what he was teaching. If they really cared about the law, they would have brought the man along to. He was equally guilty, but they left him, and brought only me. Perhaps its because I couldn’t resist them, and I had no rights, I don’t know why. But that was the first clue that they really didn’t care what I had done.
The crowd brought me before this man Jesus as he sat in the temple one day. I was afraid. I knew I was guilty and if they followed the proper channels, I could be killed. They’d have to clear it with the other religious leaders first, and then with the Roman officials, but no one would stop them. I was a woman, I was unmarried with no one to speak for me, and I was guilty. Surely this would end with my death. Of course I was scared…and I was scared of this Jesus.
I only knew that he was a teacher…surely he would know the law and he would agree with the crowd. I was so afraid, I can hardly remember what they said, but I heard them address him. “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery. The law says we should stone her. What do you say?”
I stood there, humiliated and afraid. I had my eyes cast to the ground and didn’t dare try to meet the eyes of this man that would surly judge me as guilty…I just waited to hear him say it…but I didn’t hear anything. After a moment, I glanced his direction, and saw him bending over, writing in the dust on the ground. Why would he be doing that?
I never knew what he was writing, I was standing too far away, but that is all he did. He just sat there writing for a moment…and then finally he stood up.
That was the moment…the moment I was dreading, when this holy man, this great teacher from God would condemn me, but when he spoke, his voice was kind and calm…and he wasn’t speaking to me. “Let anyone among you who is without sin cast the first stone.”
I braced myself…for surely among this crowd of religious leaders would be sinless men. I knew, any second, the stones would start to fly and I would feel the agony of them biting into my flesh, pounding on my body. I tried to cover my head with my arms, fearing the worst was about to happen…and then I heard it.
First it was isolated. The sound of a stone being dropped, not thrown at me, but dropped on the courtyard floor, clattering on the stones below…and then footsteps. I glanced that direction and saw one old man walking away…and then another dropped his stone…and then another…soon they all dropped their stones and left…they just left me there…alone with this man Jesus.
And when I looked at him, he was writing in the dust again…and then he looked at me…there was no anger in his eyes…no hatred…there was only love and compassion. I stood up before him…and then he walked over to me and asked me, very gently “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
I was so shocked…and still so afraid…I barely whispered… “No one sir.” And then he looked at me with such love…such acceptance…and with a smile on his face he said “Neither then do I condemn you.”
In that moment, looking in his face, I knew…I knew that he was no mere holy man…this was the true Son of God…and he had forgiven me…he had every right to judge me guilty…to let them stone me…to agree with the crowd and follow the law…but he didn’t.
In that moment, I knew that God was not an angry judge waiting to strike us down when we failed to follow his law. Rather, he is a God that loves all people enough to offer them his perfect forgiveness.
Jesus told me then, to go forth and sin no more…and while I know that my life is still not perfect, I know now that my past…that my actions do not define me. Instead, I know that I am defined by how God sees me…as his beloved child. And that is how God sees you. No one on earth can condemn you, because your sins are already forgiven, just as mine were that day.

Lenten Monologue-Peter

On Wednesday March 12th, I performed a reading from the perspective of the Apostle Peter. This reading was based on John 21:15-19 and was based on the question “Do you love me?” asked by Jesus.

This is the first in Underwood Lutheran’s series of Lenten worship services held on Wednesday evenings through the season. The overarching theme for Lent is the questions of Jesus. Each week we will hear a reading by a different Biblical character who was questioned by Jesus in their encounter.

While the monologue/reading was not recorded, I will plan on posting the readings themselves on a weekly basis, so you can keep looking for them.

Note that about half way through the monologue, there was a video shown that features the Skit Guys in a humorous but meaningful look at the scene featured in the scripture lesson. There is a link to the video at the correct time.

My name is Simon…at least that’s what my parents called me when I was born…and I guess everyone still called me that as I was growing up…all the people that would come to the seashore in the morning to buy the fish that I would catch with my brother Andrew called me Simon…you know what, as I think about it…everyone called me Simon…at least for a while.
But that all changed one day…it changed the day that I met Jesus…let me tell you…that was some day. I was just sitting there along the shore that day…a day like any other…and there he came. I’d heard about him already…some holy man that was doing some pretty amazing things…but I never expected to meet him…and I certainly didn’t expect him to change my life like he did.
Jesus just came walking up to me…and he said “follow me” And I had to…I couldn’t resist…there was just something about him…but what was really amazing about that day was the change that came over me…Jesus looked at me and said “You are called Simon…but I will call you Peter.” Now, you should know that the name Simon means shifting sand…and I suppose that’s fitting. I’ve been known to be a little impulsive…and not just that…I guess I’ve been pretty shaky at times…and just like the sand swirling around when a wave comes rolling in, my life was pretty swirly too…but Jesus said he would call me Peter…and Peter mean the Rock…solid, unmoving…and he said that he was going to build his church on that rock.
How could he do that? How could he even think that I’d be worthy of anything like that? I couldn’t believe it…but then Jesus was always doing things, or saying things that just didn’t make much sense…there were a lot of us that followed him…Me and Andrew…our friends James and John…we were just 4…there were 12 of us…not to mention all the other people that followed him around those three years.
Now let me tell you something…Jesus…he knew his stuff…and he should…I mean, come on…he’s the son of God…but the great thing about it was that he always wanted us to understand…we asked him questions all the time…constantly trying to wrap our simple minds around the amazing truths about God and Heaven and sin and forgiveness…all that stuff…but its tough you know…it wasn’t easy…and I think out of all us…I asked the most…I had to…I mean…he was gonna build his church on me…I guess I felt like I was responsible to know all the answers…so I ask him…and asked him…and asked…over and over again. I thought if I covered all the basis, then I’d be capable of being in charge…and all I’d have to do is put on a brave face and just keep following him.
But what Jesus had in mind went way beyond my abilities…beyond my ability to understand…and beyond my capability to handle.  You see…I always thought that Jesus was going to stick around…and I would be in charge of the followers…but really…we’d all still be following him…Jesus talked about being sacrificed…about being killed…but I didn’t believe him…I thought maybe he was just talking about it as a possibility…but I never thought it would actually happen…but then it did…Judas…he was supposed our friend…he betrayed Jesus…had him arrested…and we knew what that was going to lead to.
We’ve all seen the crucifixions…the dead bodies…we know what the Romans do…but I had said that I would follow him…even to death…but when it got right down to it…I failed…and not only did I fail to help him…I denied him…that was the worst mistake I ever made.
But you know what…after he died…after a couple more days…something amazing happened…and he came back to life…we saw him many times after his resurrection…and just the fact that he was alive again made us so happy…it was so amazing…
But then…one early morning…we encountered him again…and he asked me a question…a very simple question…at least I thought it was simple…until he asked me again…and then a third time…it went like this.

(skit guys video Note..there’s likely a short ad that will play at the beginning of the video…you can skip it after a few seconds)

It hurt so bad that Jesus had to keep asking me over and over again if I loved him. Of course I loved him…but I messed up…I denied it…but you know what…Jesus gave me a second change. He asked me…three times Do you love me…just like I had denied it 3 times.
Because Jesus came to forgive our mistakes…I know that now, even if I didn’t know then…that’s the grace of God…the gift of God. We don’t earn it…we don’t deserve it…and even though my mistake was unforgivable…Jesus forgave me…just like he forgives us all…and then, one more time…Jesus repeated the same thing he’d said to me on the seashore that first day I met him…Follow me.
God’s gift to us is forgiveness, each and every day…and each and every time, he’ll extend the invitation to follow…just as if those past mistakes had never happened. So if he ever calls you by name and asks “Do you love me.” He’s not condemning you for your sins…because he’s already forgiven you…He’s just asking you to follow him.

All rights to the video belong to the Skit Guys.

Remember That You Are Dust 3-5-14

The sermon for Ash Wednesday comes from 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10. In this sermon I tackle the subject of death, a common theme on Ash Wednesday.

You can listen to the sermon here.
http://soundcloud.com/revdalen/remember-you-are-dust-3-5-14

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here. As usual, disregard the indications to pause and the odd punctuation.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…Amen.
Remember that you are dust…and to dust you shall return. We are all familiar with these words aren’t we? We hear them at least once a year on Ash Wednesday and as expected…we’ll each hear those same words spoken directly to us as individuals in a few minutes.
Have you ever wondered exactly where that phrase came from? I’ve heard various people try to explain it over the years, each focusing on the same central theme. God made Adam from the dust of the earth, forming him into a human being and then breathed life into him. Okay…fair enough I suppose.
But for a long time, that basic explanation just didn’t quite sit right with me. But then, in my early seminary days, I made a bit of an astonishing connection in one of my classes. It happened about week or so into my study of the Hebrew language. No admittedly, I don’t remember a lot of Hebrew. I’ve kidded around with the confirmation students as well as the high school students that Hebrew pretty much looks like chicken scratches and sounds like you are clearing your throat and that’s about all I recall from it…but in truth I do remember a few words and one of them stems from this realization that I had a few years back.
One of the vocabulary terms from that first week was the word ah-dam. Sounds familiar right?  As well it should. Ah-dam is the Hebrew pronunciation of Adam. But the important thing to note here is the root of the word. Ah-dam is taken from the Hebrew word ah-da-mah. Any idea what the translation of that word is? (pause…) That’s right. It means ground or land.
YES!!! Humanity was literally formed from the dust of the ground. So much that God named the first man…“Ground.” Certainly this was a light bulb moment for me. So students, remember that if you are ever grumbling about homework. It does pay off.
So, now we know where the first part of the phrase comes from. “Remember that you are dust…”  What about the second part? “And to dust you shall return.” I would think that it is quite obvious. If the first part of the statement refers our origin or birth if you prefer…then clearly the second part must refer to death.
Now is it just me, or is death a bit of a taboo subject? Something that people shy away from talking about? I know I’ve had times in my life when I shied away from the conversation. But I wonder why we avoid it. I’ve known people that don’t even like to say the word, preferring to say that a loved one is “gone” or has “passed away.” Maybe we’re hesitant to talk about it, because in the end, we are all afraid of it. Have you noticed that often in life, people will hesitate to talk about those things that scare them? They’d rather keep the conversation away from the scary stuff…because that way they don’t have to really think about it.
Tonight, I’m going to invite you to think about it. I’m going to invite you to come face to face with it. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes, and I’m going to tell you a story. I want you to picture this in your mind.
Imagine that it is a bright sunny day, 85 degrees and wonderful. You are standing on the shoreline of a lake. It’s the 4th of July. As you look around, what do you see? Boats everywhere, people everywhere. There is a family playing in the water. One of many groups of people on this beach. They are having a good time. As you watch this family, you notice one of the men looking out from the shoreline, out into the lake. He is looking out to the buoys floating a hundred yards off shore, boats floating nearby. That’s not so far out right? It wasn’t so long ago that he would could swim out and back twice over…no problem. Or so he thinks. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the man dives into the water and starts swimming out towards one of the buoys. He didn’t notice from the shoreline, but with all the boat traffic on the water, it’s choppy. He’s fighting the waves as he’s swimming. He’s doing okay, but is starting to strain much sooner than he expected. By the time he makes it to out the buoy, he is exhausted. Treading water isn’t an option…he grabs a hold of the buoy, pulls it down, drapes over it and floats there…thinking that he’ll rest for a bit before swimming back into shore.
The water has a different idea.
A big wave knocks him off the buoy after a few seconds…far too short of a time for him to get the rest that he needs, but he begins swimming back towards shore…he’s moving slowly, fighting the waves. He rolls over on his back, trying to float and rest his arms and legs, but the waves keep rolling over him. He’s fighting to stay on top of the water…just barely succeeding…he can’t swim anymore…panic sets in…he looks to the shore, but it seems to be miles away…he looks around at the boats moored nearby…he starts crying for help, but the people on the boats can’t hear him…panic is really setting in now…he’s totally exhausted. The man see’s death staring him in the face…and he is terrified. (pause)
I’m going to stop at that point. Go ahead and open your eyes.
Death has entered this story hasn’t it?  That word that scares us so much. That word that we are often too scared to say out load. Well I’m going to say it again.
DEATH.
It’s real isn’t it?
Yes my friends, death is a reality that we must all face. At one time or another. From the moment that we enter this life as a baby, kicking and screaming we owe the universe 1 death. It’s unavoidable.  Death and taxes…the only two things that are sure in this world. My grandfather was fond of saying that very thing before his own death a few years ago.
So if it is a reality for each and every person…WHY ARE WE ALL SO AFRAID OF IT?
A few years ago, Max Lucado published a book called “Fearless.” In the book he shares a few quotations aimed at this very question. I’d like to share a few of them with you…Aristotle called death the thing to be feared most because it appears to be the end of everything. Jean-Paul Sartre asserted that death removes all meaning from life. Robert Green Ingersoll, an outspoken agnostic said life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities.
Certainly this paints a very bleak picture of the end of life doesn’t it. Unfortunately, in our scripture lesson for tonight the Apostle Paul doesn’t exactly paint an optimistic picture of life either. He discusses his life serving God as filled with afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, sleepless nights, and hunger.
However, Paul goes on. He doesn’t stop there. Listen to these words.  We are treated as imposters…AND YET ARE TRUE. As unknown…AND YET ARE WELL KNOWN. As dying…AND SEE WE ARE ALIVE.  As punished…AND YET NOT KILLED. As poor…YET MAKING MANY RICH. As having nothing…AND YET…POCESSESING EVERYTHING.
Yes, Paul speaks of hardships in life. He is even known to speak of death within the many books of the Bible that he is responsible for writing. But the difference between Paul and the “scholars” that Lucado quoted in his book is the eternal. Those men, each considered to be brilliant thinkers, failed to wrap their heads around one simple fact about death.
IT ISN’T THE END!
This life is not the only thing that is in store for you. Death…is not the stopping point of your existence. Paul knew it. He not only knew it he believed in it with every atom of his being…and he preached it everywhere he went. He said “Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.”
Jesus was born…just like us…Jesus died…just as each and every one of us will one day do. BUT JESUS…CAME…BACK.
Where oh death, is your victory…Where, oh death, is your sting?
These are famous words, also written by Paul, highlight a crucial fact. Death is real…he doesn’t deny it. But he does tell us that we have nothing to fear in it.
When Jesus defeated death, He created the bridge for us. Jesus reaches across the void which we cannot cross, takes us by the hand, and brings us into eternity.
When we realize that Jesus lived and died for this purpose, we begin to understand the journey of Lent that we embark on tonight. Lent is a season of preparation.  Preparation for the death of Jesus. 40 days from now, it happens. But three days later…HE COMES BACK. Jesus…comes…back…for…us.
I’d like to return to the story that I began a few minutes ago. There was another character that I didn’t mention before. A second man swam out to the buoy as well. He was in better shape and had no trouble swimming out. When the wave knocked them both off the bouy, he swam back towards the shoreline unhindered. But when the first man began to flounder, he was still nearby.
If you’re wondering, this actually happened. I was the first man…the man that was floundering. But my brother in law was there too. When I was in trouble, I cried out, and he was there. He came back for me. He took me by the hand and brought me where I could not go alone…He brought me back to the shoreline and I was still alive.
I cannot think of this story without thinking of the story of Peter walking on the water. Do you remember that story. Everything was going fine for awhile, but then Peter started sinking. In his fear…in his panic…he did the only thing he could think to do. He cried out “LORD SAVE ME.” And at that moment, Jesus reached down, took him by the hand, and raised him up where he could not go alone.
It is true, that Peter was afraid. I was afraid too. In the Fearless book Lucado talks about accepting death without fear. He says that we can do so because we are assured in our salvation and eternal life in Jesus Christ. He knows that Jesus comes back for us.
As we travel through this season of Lent, remember that you are all swimming in the lake of sinfulness. At some point, the waves are going to start crashing over you and your arms and legs will be too tired to keep your head above water. You can cry out to Jesus. “Lord save me…save me from sin and eternal death.” This is the simple act of repentance. Crying out “I can’t do this on my own…Lord I need you to save me.”
Then know this…Jesus will take you by the hand, raise you up, and will bring you where you cannot go.
Remember that you are dust…and to dust you shall return…but remember…Jesus…comes…back…for you. Amen.