Archives for June 2015

We cannot escape the love of Christ: A Sermon Dedicated to our High School Seniors

1 John 5:9 – 13 & John 17:6 – 19

Listen on youTube here

(This sermon dedicated to our two high school seniors: Kathryn and Samantha)

As I was doing some research for this morning’s sermon, I discovered there has been tremendous advancement in gaining academic knowledge. Students no longer have to pull all nighters and pray they pass an exam the next morning. All they have to do now is have enough money to pay for knowledge pills at the local pharmacy. I was reading the people’s testimony about this new breakthrough. One student, needing some learning, heard about this new breakthrough and goes to the pharmacy and asks what kind of knowledge pills are available.

The pharmacist says: “Here’s a pill for English literature.” The student takes the pill and swallows it, goes to her English exam and passes it with flying colors. The student goes back to the pharmacy the next day and asks the pharmacist, “do you have pills for art history, biology, and world history?” The pharmacist replies “yes, of course” and she buys those pills. She had the same results for those exams. The young lady realizes she for got to ask for the math pill, so she goes back to the pharmacy before her last exam. She asks, “Do you have a pill for math?” The pharmacist says, “Wait just a moment,” goes back to the storeroom, brings back a whopper of a pill, and dropss it on the counter. “I have to take that huge pill for math?” inquires the student. The pharmacist replies, “Well you know math always was a large pill to swallow.”

Here’s another math question for you: What did one math book say to the other math book. Answer: Don’t bother me, I have my own problems. How about this one: A student walks across the platform at graduation when she falls through a large gap in the floor. The mother turns to those around her and says, “don’t worry, its just a stage she is going through”.

(Disclaimer, this information was taken from the internet…)

Samantha and Kathryn, this is a new stage you are going through, a new page in the chapter of your life. As a community who has prayed for you and watched your journey to adulthood, we now offer you our prayers and support as you begin the next chapter in your life known as college. There are a few things we want you to know as you accept your diplomas at the end of this week. I ask that you pay close attention to the scriptures we read this morning as we share with you a few of our hopes for you.

In the first letter of John: The greatest testimony of God is the testimony to His Son. The word testimony is central to being Christian. Testimony begins with your belief that Jesus is the Son of God and that by receiving Jesus you have eternal life and the promise of living a more wonderful and fulfilling life because the Spirit of God truly lives in you forever. No thing, nor no one, can ever or will ever take this gift away from you. Remember the testimony that has been laid upon your body, mind and soul as you leave this place. Be reminded of the prayers that have been offered for you throughout your life.

Before we move on to the Gospel of John, there is one more thing to watch out for. Many people profess Christ as Lord, believing Jesus is the Son of God, accept the gift of eternal life; lots of times they are young, maybe even teenagers, like you. And then later when they get smarter, they turn away from their belief, change their mind for lots of reasons. It typically isn’t for logical reasons but because as one grows in greater knowledge, some people come to the point that they are no longer able to suspend belief in the things that cannot be reduced to some empirical formula. They come to the conclusion that God cannot exist, Jesus is a myth or a trick and this idea of eternal and abundant life is simply a pipe dream.

There are lots of reasons why this happens: disappointment in how our parents did or did not raise us, lack of clarity about what we actually learned about God or Jesus when we were younger, or being horrified by the manner in which some groups of Christians act in public (and in private) and not wanting to be identified with them and there are other reasons as well. But this strange transformation is typically rooted in our human desire to be independent, to believe that in order to be our most authentic selves, that we must have our own mind and our own thoughts and create our own beliefs beyond God to the point that we create our own religion beyond being a Christian.

In John’s letter, we learn the truth about this: if we end up denying Jesus, he says we make God a liar, and we claim that God isn’t real any more. The problem with drawing this conclusion is that we cannot make Jesus go away so easily. Jesus still has a recorded past as experienced in the Gospels, he was crucified and buried and no one to this day can disprove his resurrection on the third day as hard as they might try. So be careful about making God a liar, explore but please don’t stray so far as to make up your own religion. Otherwise, your church will become very very small. Remember the words that we read this morning, as you embark out into the world: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son, does not have life.” Faith is at once complicated and yet simple. Just have the Son in your life and you will be fine.

The Gospel reading is part of what is known as Jesus’ high priestly prayer. This is the moment when Jesus prays before he meets his demise on the cross. He knows what is coming; he can’t stop it and he won’t. For those of us who read these words, we realize that the Son God is praying for us. Jesus reveals his greatest intention for all of us, that we be protected from all evil, and that his joy may be made complete in us, and that we understand that he sends you and me out into the world to be his witnesses of love and grace. Jesus does not expect us to live separately from the world around us. Nor does Jesus promise that life in the world is or will be easy, but Jesus wants you to know that he is with you.

No matter how far you might feel you are away from God at any point in time in your life, God is still with you. No matter how much you feel you are on your own, your Lord and Savior knows each and every challenge that you face and he not only stands with you, he bears your burdens if you allow him in. You are not alone.

You will also deal with the word “hate” in a more demonstrative way than you ever imagined as you deal with fresh personalities, people from less homogenous cultures than Greenville Alabama, and people with opinions that are in complete opposition to your own about all sorts of things. You will be tested to see the face of Jesus in these people and if you practice this regularly, you will not be able to hate anyone. I pray and we pray that hate will never be a word in your dictionary.

You might even experience (but we hope you don’t) outright evil like you never imagined could exist. Evil could come in the form of something you learned, a roommate that doesn’t work out, a boyfriend, a classmate, a lab partner, and maybe even one of those tough professors. Remember in these times that you are a child of God and just as Jesus prays against all evil in the garden, he also prays for you and provides you with the protection and guidance that you cannot find on your own. Remember, Jesus’ prayer is for you before he dies; that prayer protects you from all evil.

Lastly, you will likely explore the word “love” in new and different ways. As you try to find and receive love with and from new people you meet, remind yourself of the letter from 1 John this morning and remember the greatest love that exists is the love of God for you. Both of you are children of God, you have received the gift of eternal life when you claimed Jesus as your Lord and Savior. We cannot run from the eternal love of God that we have been given through Jesus Christ. We can run hard and as fast as we want but we can never escape from the love that he has. As much as human love can be a great experience, nothing compares to the love that Jesus has for you.

And we join Jesus in our pledge of love to you this morning. As a community of faith, we lift you up and offer you our heart, your mind and your soul for his continued protection and love. You are God’s child just as you are ours and we are thankful for you. Our Lord desires that your joy may be made complete and that joy will only be found in him. May God bless you both. AMEN.