Where are You?
January 27, 2005 a Los Angles Metrolink train wreck killed 11 people and injured 120 plus others. Fire Captain Bob Rosario won't forget it because he found the message that John Phipps had written while he lay trapped in an overturned train car. He wrote it in his own blood and it was a message of love to his wife Leslie and his kids. Captain Rosario, in a TV interview said, "The fact that this guy in this situation had the amount of love he had for his family, and for him to realize 'I'm possibly going to die here,' how could any words explain it?"
John Phipps own comments with Cooper Anderson are much more humble, "All I did was survive. I just laid there and let the fire department pull me out. I didn't do anything heroic or anything. I was lucky enough to survive." One thing John did know was the answer to the question, "where are you?"
Ever see a map in the mall with a red dot and arrow proclaiming, "You are here"? Well, Google maps do that for you globally. Type an address in and before you know it you get a link that will take you to a street level map of the area. In many areas, you can actually click and see a satellite photo of the address you're looking for. You can get directions to or from the place, you searched for and even search for nearby businesses.
And yet for all that technology, so few of us really knows where we are. The disciples are like many of us. They didn't really know where they were either. They could give you the direction to the upper room. They might be able to tell you the name of the owner of the house but in that deep place of life; where you are trapped under tons of wreckage, they were lost. Is it any wonder that Jesus' message to them was Peace? Their world had collapsed upon them and even though Jesus was alive, they were still lost.
This season of Easter we're in for the next 50 days is a season of Jesus constantly reinforcing, reaffirming, and renewing the relationship he had with those disciples. Thomas needed more convincing but he's not alone. They were given the Holy Spirit, told to wait for power and sent out again into the great-big world and all of it was so that they might answer the question, "Where are you?"
There are those in this room who can't answer that question. You have co-workers, friends, people at school, home or next door who can't answer that question. Some are confused because they don’t see any arrow pointing to a place. Their life is full of arrows pointing different directions. Confusing demands, self-inflicted misery, bad choices and the luck of the draw has sent them scrambling like roaches in a bright light.
There are others, like the survivor in that train wreck, who have been crushed by life. They couldn't see the arrow if it was right in front of them because they are too busy trying to survive. Tomorrow is not a certainty for them. For some, today may be a little hazy as well.
Let me share three promises from Jesus' life that may help us answer the question. They come out of Revelation 1.
First, Jesus loves us. He doesn't just like us he loves us. Jesus knows everything about us and he loves us. Jesus knows the lie we told this morning and he loves us. Jesus knows the porno we looked at yesterday and he loves us. Jesus knows the gossip we shared at the beauty parlor and he loves us. Jesus knows how we cut corners on our taxes and he loves us. Jesus knows every dirty, filthy, nasty, ornery, cutting, hateful, hurtful, disgusting one of our thoughts and actions. And He loves us.
Second, Jesus has freed us from those sins. When you tell yourself, "I can't help it" please realize that you are affirming a lie from Satan himself. In my significant experience of sin most of the time I could have stopped had I not listened to Satan and his word games. I could have stopped had I remembered Jesus' blood sets me free. I could have stopped if I not only remembered but also relied on Jesus' blood to set me free.
Actress Patricia Heaton who starred in Everyone Loves Raymond said, "I think Jesus is a scary subject. God you can make into anything you want. But confronted with [Jesus] you have to say, 'I believe that or I don't.' It's very powerful." Isn't that the choice we have when faced with the old patterns of behaviors? We can either chose to find ourselves in the old places where life sucks or we can believe and discover ourselves somewhere different—God's kingdom.
Third, we are not just saved from our sins but we are saved to serve God. We are loved, we're set free and "he made us to be". Listen to that phrase again, "he made us to be". Jesus, the one who John tells us was the creative agent for everything that exists made us to be. Jesus, the one who died on a cross when we deserved to die there made us to be.
Priesthood of all believers is one of the great truths rediscovered during the reformation. What it means is that you have the responsibility before God for your own spiritual life. My prayers aren't more powerful than the prayers of your deacon or your spouse. Priests come before God. Priests come into the Holy of Holy. Priests are responsible to speak on behalf of others, not just themselves. Consider that when it comes to prayer.
Our good looks didn't cause God to smile make us priests. Seventy years of Sunday school attendance, working in bazaars and attending political rallies didn't make us priests. Jesus did it. What's more, it is the natural outcome of His love and the freedom from our sins.
Where are you when it comes to Jesus' love? You wondering, making excuses, playing the age old victim game or are you in awe, overwhelmed that Jesus really gives a rip about you?
Where are you when it comes to Jesus' freedom? Presbyterians aren't big on blood talk and that's a shame because it's the answer to a lot of life's problems. Here are a couple of my favorite lines when it comes to this subject, and I know them firsthand because I've used them as well as have heard them. I'm not a slave, I like doing this. I'm not a slave, I can quit anytime I want. I just don't want to. God loves me so it really doesn't matter. You probably have your favorites as well.
Where are you when it comes to Jesus' making you into a kingdom of priests? Do you embrace that task of priesthood do you believe someone else is responsible for your spiritual life? Do you regularly carry other people before God's throne or is your concern for your own little kingdom first?
Where are you; locked in a room in fear, crying at a tomb, proclaiming you won't believe till God does things your way, burdened by life, scared of death, without hope and without a future? Or perhaps you are content, following Jesus, heading into the unknown with a sense of adventure as you head further up and further in.
Remember, you are here!