FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
2ND SUNDAY IN LENT
SUNDAY MARCH 17TH 2019
TEXTS: LUKE 23: 39 – 43; LAMENTATION 3: 19 – 26
THEME: SALVATION: SECOND-MILE MIRACLE
This year’s Lent season we will be working on uncovering Seven-mile Miracle which are the Seven word that Jesus taught us before he died. The seven miles also reminds us of the disciples who were going home from Jerusalem to Emmaus and Jesus joined them. They invited Jesus to their home thinking he was a stranger who needed a place to sleep overnight before he would continue with his journey the following day. But when this stranger broke bread with them their eyes were opened and the stranger was Jesus. Jesus disappeared but they took off to Jerusalem to break the News to the disciples and the distance from their home to Jerusalem was seven Miles. Seven is a perfect number (holy) in the bible (7 days of creation, 7 days of the week, 7 deacons….) We will be guided by a Lenten study by Steven Furtick: Seven -Mile Miracle: Experiencing the Last Words of Christ as Never Before. Published by Multnomah Books 178, Colorado Springs CO.
Last week we discussed the importance of forgiveness. We shared why we need to forgive and we had three thought the we discussed under this: First, we forgive because it is the right thing to do. Second, we forgive to set ourselves free. Without forgiving we become prisoners. Third, we forgive because Jesus forgave us on the cross.
Let us turn to our focus for today Second-Mile which is Salvation. The purpose of Jesus death was to save humanity and give us hope and new beginning.
This second-mile start what has been known as Via Dolorosa or The Way of Suffering or The Way of Sorrow. This is where Jesus was handed over the cross to carry. This cross was to be used to crucify him. From this point we see a innocent man who had already been beaten and blood coming out of the many parts of the body being handed the cross to carry. He was already very weak. Jesus does not talk or resist but accepted his cross even though later they had to get somebody (Simeon of Cyrene) to carry for him. Here is what we learn from Jesus at this mile.
- Remember Me: This takes us back to the Old Testament story of Joseph sold to Egypt by his brothers and after false accusations by his master’s wife he finds himself in prison where he met the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. Both had dreams and Joseph offered to interpret for them. When Joseph interpreted the dream of the chief cupbearer of the (3 vines and him pouring juice to the King) which meant that he would be restored to his position in three days (it would be the Kings birthday) Joseph only favor to the chief cupbearer was to remember him to the Pharaoh. For the chief baker his dream (3 basket of bread with the birds eating) was that in three days he would be beheaded and it happened as Joseph interpreted. But this is what we read in Genesis 40:23 “The chief Cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” Jesus happened to be crucified between two thieves. The two criminals must have heard or known about Jesus given the conversation that took place at the cross that day. One of the thieves did not have kind words for Jesus for he said to him, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39b). This tells us this criminal knew who Jesus was, that he was the Christ what he may not have known was Jesus did not come to the world to save himself but to die so that we might live. The criminal was asking one thing that Jesus would not do which was to save himself. The second criminal rebuked the other criminal with these words, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:40b-41). He knew that Jesus was innocent and did not deserve the cross. All he wanted from Jesus was for him to remember him when he gets to his kingdom. He said to Jesus, “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42). He knew his mistake had led him to the cross and his only hope was salvation from the one who is able to save not only from physical death but also spiritual death. He knew Jesus was able to give him back life even after physical death. Remembering is an important phenomenal in life. When people remember you and especially in a good way it means a lot. Jesus remembers you, God remember you too. Remember these words of prophet Isaiah when he wrote, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget yet I will not forget you. Behold I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49: 15-16).
- You will be with me: Jesus response to the criminal who sought Jesus at the very end of his life comes with the word of assurance. All the criminal was asking was for Jesus to remember him when he got to his Kingdom. Jesus response was, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” When we invite Jesus in our life his welcome takes effects right away. We don’t have to wait. His cleansing power and forgiveness are now they are instant. What takes long is for us to approach his throne and seek forgiveness. The thief was never asked by Jesus to go a apologize to all those he had wronged before he would be welcomed to the Kingdom but rather was invited to the Kingdom right there. When we turn our heart to God and seek his forgiveness, it does not matter how long we have been on the wrong path, Jesus accept us there and then. That why Paul say the time of salvation is now. “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” “I tell you, now is the time of God favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Our sharing this morning is all around salvation and I do believe many of us have different interpretations of how and when Salvation takes place. Salvation simply means our human surrender to the working of God in our lives. To some they had a turning point in their adult life when they have been in church all these years. That what happened to John Wesley. He was already an established minister of the Gospel in the Church of England, he was third generation minister in the family with the church of England. After coming to America to evangelize he goes back home feeling as though he was a failure. But one afternoon (8:45 PM) at Aldersgate (May 24 1738) he reluctantly went to evening service. As he heard a reading from Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he felt “his heart strangely warmed” “I felt that God Loved me” “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sin even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.” . To others like Paul it was a dramatic encounter with God on the Damascus road that his life was turned around and he was never the same. He took a different direction. Others take another path where they have experienced gradual change from the time, they went to children Sunday school and they have continued to grow in their faith without having a specific time when things changed in their lives, and that is okay too. They have grown up in the church and they feel spiritually connected to Jesus. Yet today there might be those in this worship today who have never come to that moment when they have said “Yes” to Jesus you are not late today is the day. Don’t take my words for it but listen to the word of God what it says to you. “Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your heart as your as you did in Meribah” (Psalms 95: 7-8). The day of salvation is now. We used to think this can only happen in convention and big crusade like those done by late Billy Graham. That not true God can touch your life right now in this worship service. Today is the day of salvation. (allow people to make decision where they are).(If you like to invite Jesus in your life you can tap the right toes on the floor and I will pray with you).
- New Mercies Everyday: The best part of being a Christian is to know God’s mercies are new every day. We don’t have to carry the sins of our ancestors our children not even our spouses. God gives us a new beginning everyday day. Steven Furtick uses the word “New 24.” New 24 is the seconds given to basketball player to shoot the ball and if they don’t within that time they have a clock time violation and they have to give the ball to the other team. Therefore, when we experience God’s salvation is like receiving new 24. God gives us a new beginning in life. We receive new mercies everyday. Jesus is willing to offer us a new beginning with no bias of all our yesterday mess. Every morning you wake remember is a fresh opportunity to be a better Christian, father, mother, husband, wife even better citizen. Every morning God gives us a fresh opportunity to be a blessing to others, to respond in a better way, impact the world in a new way, celebrate your family in a new way, bless your church in a new way.
- Question to meditate for the week: Steven Furtick challenges to deal with the following questions this week:
- What does Salvation mean to you?
- Describe the new mercies you want to experience today?
- How can you share the perspective of receiving a “new 24”?