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May 24, 2020

Message for May 24, 2020-“Jesus-My Hero”

(Based on Lesson: Luke 24:44-53)

 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’”  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

 

Memorial Weekend greetings Peninsula United Methodist Church family!  This is the weekend that we traditionally remember and celebrate those service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for our freedom.  We hold parades, gather for graveside services and wave American Flags in honor of and with gratitude for the heroes who served to protect us and our freedom from harm.

This year, we will have a different kind of Memorial Day.  No parades, no services, and only privately with close family will we wave our flags—for we are each wrestling against a new foe that is threatening our well-being.  Perhaps in these past weeks, amid the harsh realities of suffering and loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many eyes have been opened anew to understand the deeper meaning of sacrificial giving to others.  Sacrifice is the substance, the “stuff,” we proudly celebrate in our American war-heroes on Memorial Day.  Perhaps, in these days we are living, we have found a new cause that will define a new heroism.  It is heroism as it applies the sacrifices of our present time, drawing in the many men and women who have selflessly given their lives in service of the needs of others above their own.

I have often heard it said that heroes are those brave individuals who fearlessly run into the places of danger that others fear to tread.  They are spoken of as though they do not possess the “fear-gene,” as if fear is a part of their DNA.  I suspect that there is another truth at play within those we name as heroes.  Fear is a protective instinct that God has created for our protection.  It is that “fight-or-flight,” heart racing, face flushing, adrenaline pumping sense that something, or someone, is threatening us; and, that we should poise ourselves to run, or, to face the impending threat with all the inner and external power at our disposal.  In other words, heroes are those who, experiencing a biological fear of threatening circumstances, choose to move forward in spite of the very real potential for personal harm.

And so, as we celebrate the fallen heroes of the many foreign and domestic conflicts this weekend, let us also remember all of our brothers and sisters lost battling for our sake against COVID-19.  Let us continue to pray for those answering the call to serve and care for others during these most difficult and challenging times.

As we think about and celebrate heroes this Memorial Weekend, it is fitting that we also celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus into heaven.  This occurred after his resurrection from death and his appearance among his Disciples and many of his faithful followers.  I have often been asked why Jesus’ resurrection and ascension are so important to us as Christians.  Isn’t all of the mercy, healing, hope and love that Jesus gave during his lifetime enough?  The answer is… our awesome God planned even more than this for us!

The incredible love of God for us caused God to give us Jesus, that through believing in him, we might receive salvation—the gift of eternal life.  God had a plan for us and our salvation, and Jesus was God’s fulfillment of that plan.

Jesus opened the Holy Scriptures to his Disciples and followers after his death and resurrection.  He told them what the scriptures foretold about the Messiah, and how he fulfilled all that the law and prophets had spoken about him.  And, the scriptures tell us that they then understood and believed in Jesus.  In their believing, they received eternal life in his name. There have been many great heroes and martyrs of faith, who throughout history, sacrificed their lives for the God in whom they trusted.  But, dear church family, only Jesus died for us to fulfill God’s plan for our eternal salvation.  He rose to life again to prove the power and sovereignty of God’s love for us—for it conquered once and for all our sin and death.

Even as we live in these perilous days of COVID-19, even as we face an uncertain future where the old ways will need to give way to a new “normal,” we need not give in to either fear or our “flight” response.  There is nothing that can separate us from God’s love, as shown to us in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus.  As Paul shares with us in Romans Chapter 8- “In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Now, that’s a hero in whom we can place our trust, our future, and our very lives.

This unusual Memorial Weekend, may you rest safely in this blessed assurance of God’s love for us, as it has been revealed to us by Christ Jesus.  And, may the peace that passes understanding be with you, guard and protect you, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.