5/2/99, E5A

“... and Still You Do Not Know Me?”
John 14: 1-14

ots of times we preachers end our sermons with a poem, at least the old guys did their three points and a poem; however, today let me begin with a poem. It is a poem that I have read and reread this week. It is written in some kind of modern free verse style that we were not taught in English 101. It was written by a young woman who had, like a lot of today’s kids, experimented in witchcraft and the darker side of life; some call it the dead side of life: But, she wrote this expression from her heart; a heart that had recently been touched by the Power that raised Jesus from the dead--- Let us listen to her:

“Now I have given up on everything else
I have found it to be the only way
To really know Christ and to experience
The mighty power that brought
Him back to life again, and to find
Out what it means to suffer and to
Die with him. So, whatever it takes
I will be one who lives in the fresh
Newness of life of those who are
Alive from the dead.”

According to the Boston Globe, Cassie Bernall’s brother found this poem she had written just two days prior to her death. She died at age 17 in the library of Columbine High School in suburban Denver. As she was reading her Bible two fellow students, dressed in the much too familiar devil/nazi costumes so many young people are choosing, pointed a shotgun at her and asked, “Do you believe in God?” she paused briefly and responded, “Yes I believe in God!” Then the possible onetime cohort in witchcraft, asked, “Why?” and pulled the trigger before she could respond. Her picture was on the cover of TIME magazine this week, and her poem lives in our hearts. Her smiling angelic face stares out at us and asks, “Are you, Alive from the Dead? Or, is your soul already dead?”

“Alive from the dead,” that’s a phrase taught by Alcoholic’s Anonymous, and many other 12 Step programs. I have heard it quoted so many times by the hundreds of recovering folks in my churches. Many of them have been people that were indeed the “Walking Dead,” but were made alive in Christ. Forgiveness, New Life, New Living, or as Cassie spoke out of her own experience, “I will be one who lives in the fresh newness of life.”

You know its possible to hang around church for years and never come into the land of the living. My beloved predecessor in this pulpit, Pierce Harris, caught it just right in his famous saying: “Sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than sitting in a garage makes you a car!”

Jesus asked his friend Philip, toward the end of a three year touring ministry, much of which was spend camping out together under the stars and sitting around campfires, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?”

In the light of all that is going sour in our world: Wars, violence, corruption in high places; we need to be reminded that there exists an eternal result of our decisions and actions. We all deep down know that folks need an ethos, a system of values to live by in our families, schools, and in our hearts. The expression of our collective ethos, civilization, stands or falls upon individual and family values.

When my grown daughters were elementary students their public school system passed a ruling that no teacher could express any value judgments about anything. This was a kind of taking the ban on public prayer in schools to the next level down the ladder of hopelessness. It has worked for in that school system, they now have guards at every school. No pupil, or teacher is safe from thugs in black lipstick, nail polish, and earrings pierced in all sorts of places (and those are the boys.) Today, there are crazy ideas, held by many in schools, that are totally antithetical to Christianity, and to any other high moral system.

For years, couples have migrated to secular parts of the nation as a way to escape: pollution, high taxes and church steeples. A preacher friend told a story about a family who was moving out of his Georgia neighborhood to a remote western state. He asked them why they were moving so far off. The husband answered, “We heard that only 5% of the population are Christians, and we want to escape the steeples.” The preacher said without thinking, “Well, why don’t you move to hell, there are not any Christians there!” If you decide to give up your value system you had better find another one or you will soon have no values, or value either.

Dylan and Eric are also pictured several times in TIME. The pictures that sadden me is of them in their Little League uniforms. I wish they could have played for Clarence Smith. He took many boys out of ungodly homes and turned them into gentlemen and baseball players. Or, if Klebold and Harris could have played high school football under Lee J. Stone. If any one of us had appeared to be in “Trenchcoat Mafia” attire; or even with too long a haircut, he would have straighten us out. I was 18 years old, Co-Captain of the Blue Comets, and proud owner of my own 1953 Dodge with a “gyromatic transmission,” and Coach Stone found out that I was out past curfew before gameday. He made me bend over in front of the entire football team, and some cheerleaders too, and he spanked me with a planed down baseball bat, and I am now grateful for it.

And here we offer Jesus. He will let you off the hook if you will only ask. But some have followed him along the way for a long time, and still do not know him. The Great News is that you can know Him here and now!

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

5/2/99, E5A