"Jesus' Call For Change"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - May 4, 2003

Psalm 4; Luke 24:36b-48

     Our Gospel lesson today features another resurrection experience by the disciples.  Tradition holds that the author of Luke was a physician who also wrote the Book of Acts.  Not only did he describe the life and teachings of Jesus in his Gospel but he also contributed to our understanding of what life was like in the evolving community of Jesus' followers.

     During the Scripture that was read for us this morning, Jesus continued to teach his disciples.  As you may recall from last Sunday, Jesus said, "Just as the Father sent me, so now I send you."  In today's lesson, Jesus told his disciples what to do once they entered the world.  He said:

     This is what is written in the Scriptures:  The Messiah          must suffer and must rise from death three days later, and   in his name the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations beginning in Jerusalem. 

     Most of us have lived long enough to realize that one of our major difficulties is admitting to ourselves that we need to change. For many of us, repentance is not one of our favorite spiritual tools. For example, when we think that our values are being violated, we feel quite justified in drawing a line in the sand and in some fashion declaring war on others whom we believe are responsible for our pain.

     The world, however, is not filled with rights and wrongs as many of us suppose; it is filled with people who choose to perceive differently. Many of us have learned how to perceive without love. We know the Scripture, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself," yet until we change our methods of dealing with each other, the recognition of that reconciliation will remain delayed. One of the attitudes Jesus modeled for us was his ability to communicate to people on the level where they lived. (Luke 5:30)  We often find this difficult.

     Today we are going to consider the changes that will soon be happening to our 23 high school graduates.  Will each of them need to repent from their current attitudes and life-styles?  Absolutely! If they do not, they will succeed in one thing -- delay.  I am not singling out this age group as the only one that needs to change, because our need for altering our life-style values and goals is universal.  Repentance is one of the tools each of us should use every day.

     Many of us have lived through the stage in our lives when chemistry and hormones were our partners in crime as we navigated adolescence. Our highs were very high and our lows were so low.  We knew  that communication with Mom and Dad was strained at best.  We felt the urge to conform, to please and to find acceptance from our friends. It was a time when fitting in appeared more important than a 4.0 grade point average.  And we envied those of our friends who could do both. 

     When today's graduates enter the larger world, they will be dealing with a number of people whose values were not formed in an environment similar to their own.  People will come on to their stage and enter their drama from different cultures. There will no longer be the familiar voices of restraint to be home by midnight, to dress warmly, to eat moderately and to study intently.

     They will be with friends who may perceive life's events through eyes that know only the pleasures of the material world. Their definition of "the good weekend" may be plenty of wine, lots guys and dolls and loud music. A person not anchored well when they enter this world may find themselves ill-equipped to understand that "having fun" has more to do with instant gratification than how to make a lasting contribution.   

     The wise detach from such a goal and begin asking themselves, "Is this activity how I want to define myself?"  Repentance occurs when they have a change of mind.  Repentance comes when they learn, sometimes very painfully, that life is a series of adjustments. During such times of transition, the opportunity comes to reveal their faith, what they believe and the rock upon which they stand.

     Paul wrote, "When I was a child, my speech, feelings and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways." (I Corinth. 13:11) This came from a writer who lived repentance every day of his life. For most of his life, Paul perceived without love.  When he changed his point of view, his world changed. He lived an inspired life after that which  caused him to write:

The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control.  There is no law against such as these. (Galatians 5:22)

     Cream always rises to the top.  This happens in industry.  This happens in relationships.  This process has to do with repentance, not luck.  It has to do with changing, evolving and growing every day of our lives.  Heeding the call from any other voice will produce delay.

     Jesus sent his disciples into the world to teach repentance.  Clinging to values that "felt good" to us in our past may not work in the future.  For example, we now discover that Dad and Mom knew a lot more for which we never gave them credit.  We have learned that being popular could not replace having well-honed skills to use in the marketplace.  We learned that emotional relationships could not hold a candle to those  in which intimacy was based on quality communication, kindness and trust. We learned that trials were nothing more than opportunities which allowed our relationship to God to become visible.

     As we come to the table this morning, bring to mind something that you want to change, outgrow or resolve.  Remember what Jesus said we could do if we had faith the size of a mustard seed.  He reminded us that we can move mountains.  Is it time to repent?  If so, the overwhelming recognition of forgiveness awaits those of us who do.


    We come to you this morning, attuning our spirits to your presence.  We often wish we lived in a world where little was demanded of us, where compromises were few and where people are always kind.  We confess that often our patience is difficult to maintain.  There are moments when self-interest prevents us from perceiving with a loving spirit.  There are times when our spirits are held joyless when our experiences of being loved are too few.  As we receive the bread and the cup today, lead us to remember our discipleship.  In so remembering, may we choose to preserve our identity as Christians by becoming like Jesus in spirit, word and deed.  Amen.


    Thank you, God, for being the daily creative presence in our lives.  If only each of us could understand how to create in the midst of our many passing moments, life would, indeed, become an incredible adventurous journey.  Yet we confess that many of us are stopped by hurt feelings, power struggles in the office, uncertainty with our identity and self-worth, broken hearts and illness. We want the perky personalities.  We want to wear the smiles.  We want to radiate high energy, but there are times when we cannot perform as we would like. 

    We seek your understanding, love and guidance.  Help us to use our Sabbaths as days for rest as you intended.  Move us to take better care of ourselves.  Inspire us to saturate our minds with the words of thoughtful authors, walks among the beautiful azaleas and quality time spent with family and friends.  Help us learn that our spirits need nourishment every bit as much as all forms of life. 

    Today we pray for our graduates as they enter a significant period of transition in their lives.  May they carry themselves with hope and with an eagerness to learn more about their inner world.  May they become focused on contributing rather than receiving, on building bridges rather than barriers and on sowing seeds that will help the world to become a more wholesome place to live.  Help them to make their love of Christ visible each day.  We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, who taught us to say when we pray . . .