4/27/03, E2B

“The Purpose Driven Life”
John 20: 1-18; Philippians 1: 21

  plaque hangs on the wall of my home Study, and a duplicate in my Church Office, that was given to my mother in 1939 by my Father's brother George, who later became a Navy pilot, who flew over 100 missions in the Pacific Theater of World War II. He was killed testing a new airplane in 1944. George packed a lot of living into a short life. He felt called to preach and was planning to attend seminary after the war. He had become something of a popular tenor and had ministered across America and in the Navy. George's widow, my Aunt Frances, lives nearby and she remembers George as if were yesterday.

The Plaque contains words, of an unknown author, that I memorized as a child:

"Only one life
Twill soon be past,
Only what's done
For Christ will last"

"For me to live is Christ" (Phil 1: 21, KJV)

On Easter we focused on the brief thirty something life of Christ, his death and resurrection. We learned that it is not only how long we live that matters, but more importantly it is how faithful we live for Christ for as long as we happen to live.

Conner Peterson never got to breathe one breath but his name is etched in the minds of millions who have recently come to deal with the sacredness of unborn life. Only one wee life has past, but what Conner has meant to life itself will hopefully last.

On the evening of that first Easter Jesus walked into a locked room and challenged the remaining Apostles to begin a new phase of their lives. He gave them a new purpose for living: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." (John 20: 21, NRSV)

Many of us grew up in homes with a plaque on our walls that constantly reminded us that this high calling of Christ is on our lives whether we would be called into the ministry, or share the equally high calling to be committed laypersons in His Church. Thankfully, we are not all called to be preachers: It would be a wearisome worded world if we were. My brother has always said that God called him to sell brick, and later insurance, and now in his retirement I think he has some ministry to perform for Christ every day. He takes his turn sleeping in the homeless shelter, he has chaired a multi-million dollar capital funds campaign, and he led in building a new office building for the Lexington District of the Western North Carolina Conference. You see, he was also reared in the home with the plaque on the wall. Were not most of us taught from childhood that we are all called to fulfill a higher purpose in life? Is it not wonderful that God has given us a Savior to love and a purpose to fulfill?

John also records that our Resurrected Lord then did an unusual thing for the ten Apostles present: "he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit." (v.24). As synagogue school graduates they would have recognized that "breath" was one of the physical emanations associated with God's efforts at drawing closer to humans in the Old Testament. Often, the voice of God spoke, the hand of God reached out, the breath of God, the Hebrew word "Ruah," was felt as a precious presence of the Father in times of special needs. Now, the Son of God was promising to breathe His own power into human hearts to give them spiritual strength to fulfill His purpose in building His Kingdom. Indeed, John realized that this imputed power would share divine abilities in fulfilling their purpose driven lives. Every adult believer is called to go out and find some way to minister in a world full of pain. We do not need to wait on His call. He already called us from the Upper Room.

God has given us someone to love, something to do and something to look forward too. Easter is not only about Jesus' Resurrection, but ours too. Because He lives we can live. In fact, as we live for Him, we claim that we are living the resurrected life already.

Does that sound strange, or not? What we mean when we say that is that we live daily with the awareness that this one life is not all that there is.

We learned in Psychology-101 that the human mind cannot think of itself as non existent. Eternal life was installed in our souls at the factory and it cannot be short circuited by the consumer. It's not like modifying your new environmental friendly automobile anti-pollution system. Our inner self is aware of the immortal existence of the soul. The Bible is a kind of owner's manual instructing us how to get the most out of it. Even the hardest hearted veteran of denial knows deep down that they were created with the capacity of living as eternal creatures. Fortunately, most of us were reared by families that enhanced our awareness of immortality. Chesterton points out that all things of the soul are a part of the poetical side of humans. Since there are more who are open to the poetical world, and do not have to have every detail analytically proven in a formula or test tube, most of us who have voluntarily positioned ourselves in the pew are aware of our immortal nature: We are believers; and we within the circle of these stained glass biographies of Christ are indeed creatures longing for heaven.

Jesus' Resurrection did not come to inform us of what we already had known, but rather to tell us how to live with a higher purpose in this life as preparation for eternal life. In our story from John's Gospel we hear Jesus giving marching orders to these new leaders in His Mighty Army. These standing orders are applicable today. We are sent to create a bit of heaven on earth. By loving God's Son and living for others we are already enjoying the benefits of the glory that we are looking forward to.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

4/27/03, E2B