Gospel According to Luke

I must admit I wasn’t overly excited about attending Sunrise Service and Worship Service on Easter Sunday two weeks ago, simply because I was trudging along on four hours of sleep with the cloud of another upcoming 12 hour shift hanging over my head.  Like Peter, James, and John in the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus my physical needs had a stronger hold on me at the time than my spiritual needs did.  Unlike the disciples, I had my mother calling me several times on the phone to make sure I got up.    God had a specific message for me that day and He was going to make sure I didn’t miss it.

With all due respect to Reverend Andrews that message was not delivered during the Sunrise Service.  He did deliver a very meaningful and emotional message in the form of a letter he had received from his own son, who is himself a living testimonial to the saving grace of Jesus.  It was truly appropriate, inspiring and no doubt touched many hearts that morning – mine included.  But it wasn’t the hand-picked message that God had planned for me.

That message instead came during the regular Worship service later that morning.  Again with respect to our minister, it did not come directly from his sermon.  It did originate there, but God instead decided to divert it through another vessel before it reached me.  Pastor Andrews was talking about the events that occured after Jesus’ Resurrection, specifically the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Jesus appears among them and they don’t recognize Him for who he is.  Pastor Andrews related that to the assembled people before him, stating that there were people here who most likely won’t recognize Jesus when He returns and will not be ready to go with Him.

I can relate this because, yes, I was listening to the sermon.  However, I must admit there was a part of me – probably like many others in the congregation – that was somewhere else.  In my case I was trying to calculate what time it was and figure out how much of a nap I could squeeze in before going to work.  It was because of this half-hearted attention that I heard those words but I didn’t really react to them.  That’s when God stepped in and I did react to another’s reaction to them.

I was in the choir so my head was turned to the left to see the preacher.  This gave me a view out of the corner of my eye of the back row where the basses sit.  (The guys who sing low – not the fish, just in case there’s some confusion there.)  Because of this, I could see Luke Johnson sitting there with his dad.  Just like years ago when I taught him in Sunday School he was spending part of the time writing or drawing on either the bulletin or a piece of paper he held in his hand.  However, I know from experience not to mistake his busyness as distractedness.  No matter how occupied he seemed in Sunday School he was always ready to discuss the lesson and answer the discussion questions.  In fact, often to my chagrin he sometimes asked a follow-up that I wasn’t prepared to explain.  Oh yeah, did I mention this was the 2nd and 3rd grade class?

So, returning to that Easter morning. As soon as the pastor made the statement about some people present that wouldn’t know Jesus, I heard Luke utter a sound of surprise and then immediately bowed his head low into his lap, quietly moving his lips.  Luke hadn’t been listening half-heartedly and he understood instantly the ramifications for those people the preacher was talking about.  More importantly, it shook him to the core.  He was visibly bothered by the thought and concerned enough that he felt a conviction to stop right there and pray for those people.  No, I didn’t hear a word he spoke, but from his reactions there was no doubt as to what what he said.  It was at that point that I felt a pang of guilt that I had not reacted in the same manner.  God had used this young man to force me to recognize how selfish and self-centered I could be.  I was more concerned with planning a nap than I was with the fate of the people around me.

Any one who has been privileged to spend any significant time with Luke knows what a special and blessed young man he is.  His participation in the adult choir has been a ministry itself over the years.  From the beginning at a very young age, he sang without shame and with gusto.  Amazingly, he has a wonderful ear for music and sings right on key.  Yet, that isn’t what matters to him, it is the message and the purpose of the song.  On key or not, he would no doubt belt it out anyway.  Even when I know I’m singing in tune, I don’t have the courage to give it my all.

Easter was not the first time I’ve seen Jesus in Luke’s actions or words.  And I dare say it won’t be the last.

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Seeing is Not Always Believing

Several months ago after I got off work at 1:00 in the morning, I went by my parent’s house to pick up Rusty, my dog.  He stays with his grandparents while I’m at work so he won’t be lonely.  As I approached the porch, I looked up and around to gaze at the night-time sky.  Rising from the horizon in all areas except from the west was a thick layer of clouds that obscured any view of the stars.  The small clear point on the western horizon stretched upward and outward creating a pie-shaped area in the sky where everything was clear.  The full moon was situated right above my head and slightly to the edge of the pie shining through a thin wispy layer of clouds.  As I craned my neck backwards and stared straight at the moon I experienced an odd and disorienting experience.  The moon appeared to be racing across the sky at an incredible rate of speed. This optical illusion seemed so real that for a second I even began to lose my balance.  Everything within me knew that the moon was not moving that it was in fact the clouds.  But I had to forcefully remind myself to rely on what I knew and not what I thought I was seeing.  I had to depend on the knowledge I had acquired over the years to stay grounded.

In these times of economic, social, and political turmoil it is easy to lose our grounding in our faith.  Many look around and wonder if God is still around and still in control.  There are many valid reasons one could think this.  But, just like my experience that night we have to rely on our years of knowledge and experience and not be fooled by what we see around us.  We have to reach deep within and depend on the promises and the reassurances that God has given us over time.  In my case looking up to the sky caused my dis-orientation.  Yet, in regards to our spiritual needs not looking heavenward will cause our dis-orientation.

I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.