"Christ is Always With Us" - April 18th, 2021
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Message of Stewardship
from Herb Gore
Recently, because I hadn't gained enough weight over the last few months,I went out to dinner with friends and had a tiramisu dessert.
This met the standard by which you measure all other desserts. It was the best ever made. It was the lightest, the fluffiest, you would order it again and again. You would name your firstborn after it! Tiramisu.
One of the people at the table who was a chef proceeded to tell us what goes to make a tiramisu. And yes, there is a scientific principle behind it. You know, I can tell you the recipe that he told us. I can tell you what he talked about. Ovens, what type of oven you need to have, the cooling process, everything that goes to make a tiramisu. But which would you rather know? The scientific fact of what goes to make a tiramisu taste good or actually taste it? There is no comparison.
I can tell you why I want to come back to worship in person. I have a lot of friends that I've missed. I need the inspiration that comes from being here. I need to see the work that has been done around our facility and to commune with my friends. To learn and to be inspired. But nothing can take the place of being here when we are in person worship. The experience trumps the knowledge.
I hope you will contribute over the next few weeks to making sure that our worship experience and ongoing ministerial experience will be able to continue at Church of the Valley and Little Brown Church.
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Pastor Michael's Sermon - April 18th, 2021
Researchers have created something called the door study. And the way it goes is this, someone involved in this study approaches someone else on the street. They have a map, they pretend to be lost, and they ask the person on the street for directions. Well, while the two are standing closely together looking at the map,
two people approach carrying a door kind of long ways and they carry that door directly between the two people looking at the map. And as the door goes between them, the person asking for directions actually switches places with one of the people who are carrying the door. So after the door passes, a different person is now asking for directions and yet in most cases the unsuspecting person giving the directions remains unaware that they are speaking to a different person.
There's also another study and I've seen footage of this study many times, but now I see it very differently than I did the first time. This one is called the Gorilla study and some of you have seen it because we had a guest speaker here a few years ago on a Saturday seminar and she showed this clip in the video.
We see six people three of them are wearing white t-shirts and three of them are wearing black t-shirts. And one in white is holding a ball and one in black is holding a ball and we are told to count the number of times those wearing white pass the ball and then all the participants begin moving around within the space.
Weaving in and out of one another and as they do, those in black passed the ball to those in black and those in white pass the ball to those in white.
And as the viewers we are very focused on those in white and counting each time that ball is passed and after about 30 seconds or so, they stopped and we are asked did you get the right answer? Then we are told the correct times a number of times those in white pass the ball is 16. Well, of course as the viewer we are proud of ourselves that we got it, right, if we got it right.
But then we're asked another question.
Did you see the gorilla?
Well, this seems like a strange question because the clip had nothing to do with the gorillas. But then the clip is shown again, but this time we are not asked to count the number of passes, and what we see now is that midway through the time that the ball was being passed and the people were moving all around one another, a person in a gorilla suit walked into frame, stops in the middle of all the action, beats on his or her chest, and walks off the other side while the participants are still passing the ball.
Well, of course as the viewers we insist this must be a different clip, but in reality, it's not. It's the same clip. Researchers say that one half of viewers miss the gorilla
because their attention is elsewhere. By the way, I didn't see the gorilla for the first time either. And also by the way, did you know that once you know the gorilla is there, you can't not see it?
Sometimes we don't see things that are right in front of us.
Today's scripture is a reminder of that.
If you remember last Sunday, we looked at the story of Doubting Thomas and we saw how after Christ had risen, Thomas wouldn't believe unless he could see Christ and touch the wounds on his side and his hands. This happened on the evening of Christ's resurrection.
Well, today's scripture takes place shortly after that on the same evening. And in this story Jesus is empowering his disciples and their power comes, as he says,
because they are witnesses to all that he has done including the resurrection.
He's recognizing that they now have authority he seems to be passing a torch of his ministry to his disciples.
We're also told that he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, which is very interesting because Christ has told his disciples many times about the scriptures and how the Messiah must suffer but now this feels different. It finally feels like Christ has made them understand and honestly, it isn't really clear whether he physically allowed their minds to finally be opened or whether it was just all that was happening that allowed their minds to be open.
But what is clear is that they finally fully understood Christ and his ministry. They could finally see what had been right in front of them all the time.
As followers of Christ, we are like his disciples. We have been empowered through Christ and our power comes because we too are witnesses of Christ's life and his ministry and his message. Not in the same way as that his disciples who physically walked with him. We have a walk of a different kind. But our walk with Christ equally empowers us and allows us to have our minds equally opened.
But that empowerment, that understanding can only remain with us when we stay aware of what is right in front of us and that is the presence of Jesus Christ.
We must have a constant awareness and acknowledge the truth that Christ is with us always and there is evidence of this all around us.
I was reading about a 13 year old girl who was asked where she saw Jesus in her life, and she said that she had seen Jesus when the marshmallows on the top of her cocoa floated into the shape of a cross. She also said that she once saw Jesus in two rubber bands lying on the ground that had themselves form the shape of cross.
A man at Little Brown Church once told me that he saw Jesus in the doors of the windows of our church because of the way the square patterns are divided by cross shapes.
Well, whether these are actually the presence of Christ is up for discussion, but certainly they are useful reminders of his presence. For me, especially lately one way that I can feel and see the presence of Christ right in front of me is through healing. When we can go from a place of deep despair, a place of sadness that has left us unable to ever imagine that any sort of healing is possible, and yet we are slowly moved to a lighter place, a place from which feels like we are able to move on.
When that occurs, it is clear that we have been carried, embraced, and led by the presence of Christ. There are so many areas where Christ removes us from one place to another. At times when we feel lost, the light of Christ guides us back to a place where we can be found. If we have done wrong, the grace of Christ leads us to a way to make our path straight again. If the world leaves us hopeless, Christ's promise of new life restores our expectation and provides a hope like no other.
This idea of Christ moving us from one place to another reminds us that he truly is our shepherd. Of course, there was also evidence of Christ's presence in everyday life. We can see him and acts of kindness that are as big as building a home in Tijuana. Or something as small as conveying a smile to someone who looks like they need it. Christ can be seen in those working hard to provide for others, but it can also be seen in the hope that it takes for some just to get out of bed. But just because Christ can be seen all throughout our world and our lives, that doesn't mean that we're always seeing him or always feeling him.
It's up to us to remain aware of his presence. Our minds have been opened. Let us keep them open. We have been made witnesses through the power of our walk through Christ, with Christ. Let us continue to witness.
Jesus has done so much for us. Let us in turn acknowledge each and every day his grace, his work, and his ever-present love.
Holy God, we thank you for your son who is with us always. Focus our minds and our hearts upon him and his ways. It's in your son's holy name we pray.