Jan 24th - In Person
Please pray with me. Lord God, Heavenly Father. We thank you for the snow. I give thanks personally that I arrived safely today. Ask your blessing and Your Spirit to be upon the brothers and sisters worshipping here today. That they would cherish the time they have in worship, that they would cherish the lives that you've given us, and would cherish the gospel enough to share it. In Your name, we pray. Amen.
So at Shanghai China, there's these cafes. And you know, it's like a lot of cafes. They they serve coffee they call what they call Chai, which is tea And they have these postcards that you can fill out and put in one of two things: one, you mail it out right there, or the other is this is 5 years from now and this is 10 years from now. So you can send a note to yourself to the future. I don't know whether the cafe still going to be there in 5 to 10 years that I don't know, right? But I thought about that idea and you know, we've had movies like It's a Wonderful Life and and Back to the Future Part 1 2 3 4 5 6 -well I don't know how many there are. There's a bunch, right? So this concept is kind of ... So just think for a minute if you had a postcard and you could send it to yourself in the future, what would be on that postcard?
Well, for me - and that's the title of my message today - would be cherish the moment. Cuz I think all too often we're either looking ahead and what we want to do or what we should do or maybe we're looking behind us, saying why did I do that? Or why didn't I do that? And then when we think about it. That's where we're talking about. And the first thing I wanted to tell you - is tell you a little story about - you all know who this is right? Denzel Washington. I think he's one of the most prolific actors we've had a long time. You do know he's the son of a minister, right? You know that? Well, you learned somethign new today.
Because of his notoriety, and well, if you didn't know if he was a minister, the next time you watch one of his movies, there's always something from his faith background in it. So just just think about it. Anyway, he was speaking to some graduates at a ceremony. This is a few years back, and he was quoting Les Brown, who is a person who is just a powerful speaker. And he quoted him in this. He said, "Picture yourself on your deathbed. You are surrounded by the ghosts of wasted potential. Gifts and talents and opportunities that you never acted on, and those ghosts around in your bed are very angry. They are disappointed because their presence has been wasted on you. All that potential wasted and they glare down at you and say we came to you because you have brought us to life. And now we go to the grave together." And after Denzel offered that he turned to the graduates and he said, "I don't want any ghosts at your bedside angry at you when your time comes."
So, if you think about cherishing the moment and what it means for us, the first thing I want to talk about is the fact that we're ambassadors for the Kingdom. In Our Gospel lesson today, what was happening? Jesus came along and he sees Andrew and Simon. He says come follow me and I will make you Fishers of Men and immediately, they leave. And a little further on, it's James and John, and they immediately follow Him.
My take on that, and most of the commentaries I read on that is that they've listened to Jesus before.
Not that Jesus had asked them, but they've been listening, they've been hearing about this Rabbi. The crowds have been coming. They probably - when they weren't doing their fishing. Not like Tara's fishing. But commercially fishing. But they had followed. They heard Him.
And what's Jesus talking about? The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel. And that call to those four disciples is the same call we have. I imagine those disciples cuz they immediately... Ethos is the Greek, which means... Boom.
And I think they cherish that. They weren't looking ahead. They weren't looking behind. It was right now, and this is what we're going to do, and this is what we're going to do about it.
And I think the reason that is, is they already understood that idea about repent. They were understanding that the kingdom of God was near. For three years in a row, the Finns in Finland, not the UP, have been voted the happiest people of the world.
So much so, that when they voted this, they decided they're going to make use of it. So, what they did was, they encouraged people to rent a Finn. In other words, as you go to Finland have one be your tour guide, so you get all the ambience, all the culture about why they're the happiest people in the world. It 2020, by the way, they did it virtually. I haven't read how it worked out. I just read that they did it. I'm thinking, okay, I could see Finland from my computer screen. Not bad. But I would put to you the Finns may be the happiest people in the world, but we as Christians are the most hope-filled people in the world.
And that is what we cherish. In John 10:10, we read that the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. And I read that and you know, there's the old the old thing where it says is your glass half-full or half-empty? I read this and I see my cup overflowing.
I'm overflowing with hope. I'm overflowing with grace. I'm overflowing with His love, and I cherish that.
Secondly, cherish the moment. When you change from goal- driven to purpose driven. I have nothing against goals. I mean, we had friends and then we drove through it in October, when they want to go to the Appalachian Mountains and go hiking in that. Or, you know, the goal to be the smartest kid in your class, be the valedictorian. Or the goal that at your work you want to be the best you can be, and maybe through that, you go up the ladder. And those are all great, but they're all external in some way.
Purpose driven is internal. It has to do with our values. Has to do with who we are.
A few decades ago, Rick Warren, who I've met and talked to, he's this amazing man, but he wrote The Purpose Driven Life. And the first line in the book is "it's not about you."
And purpose is that way. When we think about purpose -driven, what's Immanuel's purpose? Immanuel Lutheran Church.
I'm not going to ask you to say it out loud, but think about it for a minute. Last Sunday, Ted got up and you touched 327? At Ruby's Pantry? 323.
I praise God.
But sometimes, the little things get in your way. Let's say some of those people you gave wanted to come Ash Wednesday, February 17th.
It's dark out. You don't have a lighted sign.
I came here Thanksgiving Eve, and I drove by your church twice, because I didn't know it was your church. That's just a little thing, and it's an outside thing, but remember when you're being salt when you're being light. Like that Saturday, you were seen by 300 and some families because you gave them a gift of food. So think: what's your purpose?
And what's yours?
In Acts 1:8, Jesus said you all - he was being Southern - and y'all will be my Witnesses. In Judea. Or in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. You all will be witnesses here at Immanuel, and Wisconsin Rapids and Wood County, Wisconsin to the uttermost parts of the Earth. This is our moment, if we want to look at it that way. Who we are and what God has created us to be.
See, when Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you become Fishers of Men. And women. That's us, too. And He's giving us His Word. And you know, when you say you'll be Witnesses, sometimes, you even talk. Don't have to, to be a witness. But sometimes, you even talk.
The third thing is we cherish the moment because you are loved by God. This past Thursday, my youngest granddaughter, Gretchen, was 19 months old. And when she was born, we were in Haydom, Tanzania. And, in fact, we were teaching, and my wife kept leaving to go back to the houses, because the houses where were the doctors were, and that's where the internet actually worked. And so she was doing FaceTime with my daughter as she is in the delivery room. Technology is amazing. But we got done, we had supper, we were praying ... and finally, I said I have to go to bed, cuz we were getting up at 8:00 the next morning to drive back to Arusha and Kilimanjaro airport, which is 8 and 1/2 hours in a Land Rover and I'm praying, Lord, let the baby be born before we leave, because otherwise, that ride's gonna be... phew. At 1:30 she comes into our bedroom. "Hi Papa."
She was so excited. She hardly slept. We got our Land Rover. We drove the 8 and 1/2 hours to Arusha, and then we had to wait 3 hours by the airport. And then we flew to ... and we were on the tarmac for an hour and a half, and then we flew the 9 hours to Amsterdam. We are 5 hours in Amsterdam, and then we flew to Chicago, and then after going through customs which took two hours, we drove the 4 and 1/2 hours. And do you think my wife want to go to our house? No way. We went right past our house to 10 miles down the road where my daughter lives in the country, so she can hold her new grandbaby. That is only, only a little bit of what I call our love of God to us.
Yes, my wife - didn't matter if it wa 44 hours. She was going to see that grandbaby.
Well, you think about how we're loved by God. It's not a superficial love. It's a sacrificial love.
It's not something where we come to Him. He comes to us.
And He says basically, here's the gift. Open it. Cherish it.
But in that process, He also says to us to be salt and light. Just before He went up and assended into Heaven, He said to the disciples, He says to us: All authority of heaven and earth was given to Me, therefore go and make disciples." Now, my wife was an English teacher: "make disciples" is an imperative, a command. Imperatives have -ing following participles. Ask Nan, she'll tell you. And that's why it says "make disciples." How? By baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have command you. And then the promise: "and lo, I am with you always to the very end of the age."
The promise is for you. The promise is for me. Because we are the salt and the light for Him.
Come, and He will make us Fishers of Men. In His name, Amen.