Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of April 5, 2020

From Sunday’s Worship for
Palm Sunday - April 5, 2020:

Link to Worship Video for 4/5/20 – HERE
*If unable to open link copy/paste this into your browser: http://www.bethanylutheran.org/worship-service-resources/
*Direct link to Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/403800462

Link for printing Sunday’s Bulletin for 4/5/20 – HERE
*If unable to open link copy/paste this into your browser:  


Call to Worship: Mark 11:1-11
2nd Scripture Reading: John 12:20-32

Message: “Safe at Home”

We are living through some strange times.  Things that were once certain are up in the air.  End of the year school trips have been cancelled; community events postponed, obviously you are not here in worship with us. This time of year the NBA and NHL playoff races usually heat up.  The NASCAR season takes off and Major League Baseball is engaged in the annual tradition of spring training.  Founding father Benjamin Franklin once wrote in a letter to a friend, “But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Baseball has always been there.  I can remember my first trip to watch the Angels play in Anaheim.  I was with my dad and it was just the two of us.  We headed to our seats along the first baseline and as my dad went to get something to eat he told me to go up and watch batting practice. 

I was about 7 or 8 years old and as I walked up the tunnel I was greeted with a glorious view of green grass, the crack of the bat echoed in the stadium.  The smell of hot dogs and popcorn wafted in the air and on the field I saw what would soon become my heroes.  I must have had a look on my face with my jaw on the floor as the usher greeted me by saying, “Pretty cool, isn’t it!”  In my brain I thought, “Is this heaven?  Am I dreaming?”  Take a moment and think about what heaven is going to be like.

When people have asked me this question I usually say something like, “I hope that heaven is a cross between Spring Training baseball and Oktoberfest!”  Two of my favorite things. 

In the movie Field of Dreams, we see a novice farmer named Ray who, because of a vision built a baseball field in the middle of his farm in Iowa.  Others, including family members, think it’s a terrible idea.  Ray has sought out the assistance of a man named Terrance and facing mounting pressure to sell the farm and the possibility of giving up on a dream and the prospect of peace and connection with something lost we witness one of the greatest soliloquies about baseball.  Here is the transcript of that part of the movie:

Mann: Ray, people will come, Ray.  They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.  Of course, we won't mind if you look around," you'll say. "It's only twenty dollars per person." They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and peace they lack.

Mark: Ray, just sign the papers.

Mann: And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

Mark: Ray, when the bank opens in the morning, they'll foreclose.

Mann: People will come, Ray.

Mark: You're broke, Ray. You sell now or you lose everything.

Mann: The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.
America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game -- it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.  Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

And people did come.  They came to find peace, to remember the past, to fellowship with one another and to connect with something bigger than themselves.  One of my favorite lines in the movie is when Shoeless Joe Jackson asks Ray, “Is this heaven?”  To which Ray responds, “No, It’s Iowa!” Now I know that baseball is not heaven…neither is Oktoberfest but in these days many of the constants in life are on hold including Major League Baseball. 

Instead of the hope that springs eternal with the start of a new season, many feel despair, anxiety, fear, or depression.  Perhaps this describes you or members of your family gathered with you, or coworkers you are connected to, concerned about the next paycheck or loved one who faces illness. The corona virus has given uncertainty a prominent seat at the table for each and every one of us. 

On this Palm Sunday, one certainty of the past was that as you arrived to worship you were given some palms.  Now unless you got some from your yard today you probably don't have them in your hand. Perhaps you have fond memories of waving the palm in the air, or spending time in the service fashioning it into the shape of a cross.

For many of us, the one constant has been worship.  Week after week you have come into God’s house to hear the Word, to find peace and to witness the work of Christ for you.  But today we are not gathered together in this place as we act as good citizens and follow the directions of our elected leaders who say we should be “Safe at Home.” Now, I’m not sure our elected leaders intended to make baseball reference but it was not lost on me as I heard the news from our Governor and Mayor.  Today you are worshiping at home as that is the safe place to be.

Palm Sunday is usually a time of great anticipation for what is to come.  That first Palm Sunday the hope was palpable; the excitement in the air at the coming of the Messiah, the loud shouts of “Hosanna!” that rang through the streets created excitement, wonder and awe.  I wonder if there was a little kid who witnessed that event and wondered, “Is this heaven?”

But Jesus didn’t seek safety for himself as the crowd shouted “Hosanna” on Sunday, he sought shelter for the whole world as the crowd shouted “Crucify Him” on Friday. The message that Christ brings is one of safety.  In Christ we are safe at home, but it came at a price.  The joy and hopeful expectation of Palm Sunday soon crashed into the dark perplexing days of betrayal and scorn. 

Soon enough Jesus would stand trial.  Condemned of a crime He didn’t commit. What the people said on Sunday was true, He was the Messiah, but He was not to wear a crown of gold, for His head was to be crowned with thorns before the week was over.   Jesus gave up the safety of His heavenly home to provide one for you.  In the midst of your sin and shame, your anxiety and pain, Jesus gave up everything for you, stretched out His arms, gave up His life so that you can be safe at home, forgiven of all your sins, resting with Him in eternity.  

“‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’  Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:1-6)

One day we will be back in this physical place of worship and some of you might say, “Is this heaven?”   “No, it’s just Long Beach”, this is not truly our home.  Our home is in heaven.  If you feel like Ray in the movie Field of Dreams, if you feel broke and about to lose everything, if you are afraid that the world is about to foreclose on your life, and that there is no peace, know that Christ has come and in Him you are safe at home.

War and pestilence abound, sin and sadness reign, but Christ has come, His wounds have healed you, His death is our death and His life is our life and He has prepared a place for you; a place of perfect peace with reserved seats along the baselines. For we too have been dipped in magic waters that claimed us as a child of the King.  Our memories of this place are thick, but our place in heaven is beyond comprehension.  People will come, they will come to this place once again but this is not our home.  For the one constant through all the years, my friends has been Jesus.  Humanity has rolled by like an army of steamrollers.  It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again.

But Jesus has been marked for all time. This place, this space, it’s part of our past.  It reminds us of all that once was and will be again. Ohhhh, people will come back my friends people will most definitely come, but this is not our home.  In Christ we are safe at home…His home.  Amen

-Pr. Seth Moorman

Holy Week Worship Resources:

As we reach the end of our Lenten journey, our path takes us to the cross.  While you may be feeling isolated at home we see that on the cross Jesus was rejected and forsaken by the Father.  He did this so that we might never be forsaken by the Father.  

A special Good Friday video will be available on the Website by midday on Friday, April 10th.  There will NOT be a printed bulletin for this Good Friday video. 

We also know that the journey does not end at the cross or in a tomb, but has its culmination in the Resurrection and Life.  An online Easter celebration will be available by midday on Saturday, April 11th as we celebrate the truth that Christ is Risen!  Make sure you print out a bulletin for Easter worship. 
He is Risen Indeed!

The link to our Worship Service Resource page click HERE.
*If unable to open link copy/paste this into your browser: http://www.bethanylutheran.org/worship-service-resources/


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