Dead or Alive
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 25, 2023
Psalm 69:13-18
Romans 6:1b-11
Jane Shelton, CRE

We all experience times when we feel our prayers go unanswered.  We get discouraged and our faith begins to slip, we say to ourselves, how am I ever going to figure this out?  How am I going to get through this?  How much more do I need to get through this, whatever that need may be, whether it is love, companionship, health, money, skills, food, sadness, grief….whatever the need is….we wonder how much more?

We’re reminded by the Psalmist that we allow ourselves to sink into the mire to the point we feel we are drowning.

The Psalmist is sinking, but then starts to remember his faith, the wonderful steadfast love that is offered to us by our Lord, and he calls upon the Lord, draw me near, redeem me, set me free, and make haste to answer me.

The more we allow ourselves to drift away from the love of Jesus and the presence of God, the easier it becomes to sink into the mire.  Paul understood what it was to live in darkness and be deep in the mire of hatred and filled with acts of evil persecution; however, once he came to know the light of Christ, there was no going back.  He realized a new life, a life filled with love and goodness and mercy. 

Like Paul, once we have tasted the baptism of our Lord, and felt the Holy Spirit within our souls, we are forever changed to a life worth living.  We are forever in relationship with God as the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and how high the flame burns within us depends on our mindset.

Having experienced the love and companionship of our Lord, the truth of the baptism shines forth as we are raised from the mire to the bright light of grace, we become alive to a new reality of more than can ever be provided by all that is offered in the world.  We become aware of a deeper meaning to life.

We make a choice if we wish to remain dead or be alive, and being alive gives us the opportunity to share God’s love with others.  We often hear, we need to live into the fullness of a relationship with God.  So what does that mean exactly?

Baptism is a radical change in identity that opens up new possibilities and creates a definite before and after.  The after gives us the opportunity to truly live and be alive to God in Jesus Christ.

The question becomes how do we live a life that is alive in God?  How do we live in the fullness of God?  Like Jesus, we have the opportunity to share God’s love with others, and to be in constant relationship with God every day, not just on Sunday morning.

I think back to the Celtic mindset where they prayed themselves through the day.  They woke up in the morning praising God for the morning, the sunshine or rain, their surroundings, their family.  Then they moved into prayers of thanksgiving for the chores they had to do for the day, praying through each one.  They recognized blessings in every chore of their day regardless of how grueling the chore may be, even when it was one they did not enjoy, they prayed for the grace of God to get them through the chore and to find a blessing in it.  They prayed over their meals, their travels, and the people they met along their journeys.  Then when they were ready to lay down at night, they prayed thanksgiving for the day they had lived, and the night that was coming, for their safety through the night, and their rest through the night to be awakened to another blessed day provided by God.

This is truly living in fullness to God.  When we are in a constant relationship with God, living in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to have that relationship with God.  It’s the very thing that kept Jesus going and the reason he would escape to pray to his Abba Father.

Someone told me this week, they just try to be kind to people.  It’s such a novel idea, isn’t it?  Can we be kind without the love of Jesus in our hearts?  Can we be kind if we are not living into the fullness, or at least leaning into the fullness of a relationship with God?

I think the more good, more acts of kindness one does, the more joy it brings to their life, and the more good they want to do.  It brings joy into our lives that diverts our attention from the mire that our humanness wants to keep us in.

This is a congregation of giving and sharing and kindness.  I see the love of Jesus in your smiles and the glow of your faces, the way you greet one another with love and affection.  The way you share with one another, and the way you care for one another.

If you ever wonder about the life of this church, come down to the Centennial Building any Monday – Friday (unless it is a holiday), and watch what happens between 10 a.m. and noon.  Or look at the pictures on Facebook of the Bun Run.  You will see the mission in action.

If you ever wonder about the life of this church, ask one of your Session members how many times a month they are meeting, and how many emails they get from me or their committee chair person each month. 

If you ever wonder about the life of this church, look around to those who are here this morning, and how you were greeted this morning.  Maybe you had an opportunity to stop in for fellowship and coffee before worship or attended Pub Theology to learn more about fellow members and what is going on in their lives that you did not know.

If you ever wonder about the life of this church, let me share with you how this is a praying congregation, and the stories that I could share of how you pray for each other, and the prayers that I witness during our First Friday Contemplative service.

If you ever wonder if this church is alive, let me tell you about the music that we hear each Sunday, and the way it touches your very soul.  The music that touches us, that lifts us, and moves us into action.

If you ever wonder about the life of this church, let me assure you, IT IS ALIVE!  And it is alive in the fullness of a relationship with God.  And I am grateful for each and every one of you and what you bring to God, to each other and to our community on our spiritual journey together.

So maybe you are thinking, well, why then is she preaching to the choir?  Because I want all of you to know how important each one of you are to this church, and when I say church, I’m speaking of the church family that we have become, that we are united living in the fullness of God.

Our day to day lives only change when we embrace our new identity that we have been claimed by God through Jesus, and we are no longer dead or unaware, and are truly alive.  God loves us and accepts us for who he made us to be with all the skill sets that each of us are provided to do God’s work in the world.  Once we accept this new identity that we are Christ-like and put into action the skills we have been gifted by God, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and are driven to move forward into right actions for the good of all.

When we are united with Christ’s way of life, there are repeated actions of love and goodness.  How do we call ourselves God’s own, if love is not in us?  How do we not give of our time and possessions to help others we see in need?  To help build them up and show them the grace and mercy that we, too have been shown?

If you are thinking, maybe there is more that I can be doing, maybe I’m not too young to participate, or maybe I’m not too old to participate, or maybe I want to do more than just show up on Sunday mornings, then please reach out to me, and I assure you, there is more that we can do together.  The possibilities are endless!

When Jesus and his disciples were speaking to the people they met, the people wanted to know more about them, they wanted to hear what was going on, and so they moved closer toward them.  There were many times they wanted to get close enough to touch Jesus.  They wanted to touch him because there was something different they recognized about Jesus.  There was power coming from him, a healing they had never experienced.  A healing they longed to be a part of.

What a wonderful fellowship it is to be in the presence of other like-minded people that may be so different in their thoughts and beliefs, but are alive in Christ.  Together you can agree on the goodness to see beyond the differences to build something together so wonderful that it becomes a blessing to others.

When we recognize Christ in others, is it not easy to reach out to those persons and have a relationship with them to be family with them?  It makes us feel alive inside when there is love and laughter, and even when tears are shared together in burdens and grief.  Even though there are differences and sadness, there is joy in knowing there are others there to help you share in the pain of growth, to carry some of the burden.

Jesus shared this very thing with the disciples, and now you are those disciples helping each other, and helping our community and beyond.  What a wonderful blessing it is that we choose to be alive together and united in the fullness of God.  Amen?  Amen!

*Cover Art by StushieArt, used with a subscription