“Once Heaven Gets Our Attention”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – February 18, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

     Psalm 25:1-10; Mark 1:9-13


    Last Sunday's sermon discussed what happened once Heaven reached out to a number of people and got their attention. As you may recall, Mark's Gospel described the events that took place on Mount Herman, traditionally known as The Mount of Transfiguration.  This is where Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus having a discussion with two deceased icons of his faith, Moses and Elijah.

    We discussed what happens to people in our generation when their experiences reflect those of the disciples.  The physical evidence that life continues awakens them.  The only way that we have developed such an understanding is from centuries of storytelling, a tradition that has largely been lost to many of today's young people. Once experienced, however, a person's life is impacted enormously.

    You may recall the thoughts of our first Scripture lesson last week from Paul's second letter to the followers of Jesus living in Corinth.

If our message is obscure to anyone, it is not because we are holding back on what we are teaching.  No, it is because many of our listeners are looking at the wrong things and are going in the wrong direction. They are taking their cues for living by what they find in the external world. They believe that the world offers them everything they want and need. Thus, they are not giving our message any serious consideration. As a result, they remain as blind as stones to matters of spirit. (II Corinthians 4:3f)

    Paul was accurately describing what happens to people in every generation. Fewer and fewer people even know about the necessity of nourishing their spiritual search engine.  Such neglect is a natural response to living in our world because in most cases, people only experience what their senses are telling them.

    Today, countless people are devoted to their cell phones. They cannot stop looking at them with a sense of urgency in spite of where they are.

    Lois and I attended a worship service here in Bermuda some years ago.  As we were listening to a young girl read a Scripture lesson, her pastor was standing fifteen feet from the lectern looking down at his right hand that held a cell phone.  He was texting someone with his thumb in plain view of the congregation.  

    Cell phone usage had become so addictive among his employees that the CEO of a major company last week told several news-anchors that he has banned all cell phones from coming into the company's building.  He ruled that employees will use the telephones on their desks for all communication.

    There are other deities dominating our lives i.e., medications for pain, new high-tech gadgets, streaming movie-content into our homes, and cars that effortlessly park themselves.  You would think that people today enjoy one mesmerizing narcotic after another. They call these deities the next big thing.  Is there anything that can rescue people from worshipping at the idols that such objects and experiences represent?

    In our lesson this morning, we have Mark's version of what happened to Jesus at his baptism.  Like everyone else in his day, Jesus was highly attentive to his duties as a carpenter and attending to the needs of his family.  He was not anticipating any encounter with God.  Heaven, however, had other plans.  

    A voice spoke to him that caused many life-changes.  Mark told his readers that Jesus was driven to go into the wilderness where an entire parallel universe began to reveal itself. (Mark 1:12) He became transformed during that period by a complete change of his mind. (Romans 12:2) What happened to Jesus is what happens to people once Heaven gets their attention.

    There is a curious verse at the end of our lesson that is often overlooked by readers. We have no description of what was happening. Here is that verse:  "Wild animals were there also, but angels came and helped him." (Mark 9:13b) There was another occasion when Jesus was guided by an angel as he prayed in the Mount of Olives.  (Luke 22:43) Is this what happens after Heaven gets our attention?  Do angels become available as a resource during our living?

    Many of the wild animals that surround us have already been discussed earlier in my message.  The cell phone today is the lead-player in the drama of our many distractions.  Why do we need constant entertainment?  Why do we need instant and constant contact with others? 

    We are also aware of how we are slowly being brain washed by the news media, politicians, our future financial needs, flu epidemics, immigration issues, racism, and women who are finally learning to say "no" when dealing with aggressive men.   However, when it comes to matters of the spirit there is little or no hunger by countless people eager to learn more.  

    Once Heaven gets our attention, however, the angels can enter our lives and provide guidance when we recognize their presence.  It is almost like when the student is ready, the teacher will come.  How do these angels work with us?  Once Heaven has gotten our attention, a door opens showing us the existence of a parallel universe.

    Many years ago, when Lois and I had a church in Washington, D.C, one Saturday night I could not sleep.  An urgency settled in my mind for a need to write a new sermon to deliver the next morning.  I said to Lois, "I have to write another sermon for tomorrow."  She said, "What? We are in bed and it's 11:00 p.m.!"  Nevertheless, I got up and walked to my office at the church which was at the other end of the block.

    Once seated at my desk, I said out loud, "Okay, what do you guys want me to do?"  I had to make a commitment to tear up the sermon that I had worked on all week.   I tore my message into little pieces and tossed it into the trash can. At that point I was totally committed to wherever this experience was taking me.

    Next, I turned toward my typewriter and said, "Okay, what do you guys think I need to say tomorrow?"  You heard correctly, my typewriter.  Computers had not yet entered my life. There was no retrieving my sermon if what I was experiencing did not work out.

    A flood of thoughts began forming in my head as I began typing.  A new sermon poured through my fingers and I was back in bed by 1:00 a.m.  Never in my life had I created a sermon in such a short period of time.  I had to trust completely what I could not see or understand.

    The next morning happened to be Easter Sunday when the church would be packed with people.  To this day, I have no idea why writing a new sermon was such a necessity.   Perhaps it was a test of my trust in what I could not understand. To my knowledge, nothing miraculously happened during that Easter service as a result of the message I delivered.  BUT, as has happened on other occasions, Heaven had gotten my attention.

    One of my seminary professors was Dr. L. Harold DeWolf who referred to such experiences as special revelation.  Dr. DeWolf had become the Dean of Wesley Seminary where I was attending.  He came from Boston University School of Theology, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been one of his students.

    Special revelation is when guidance comes that is highly personalized and finely tuned to our awareness.  Others who have had similar experiences will attest to the presence of unseen hands from this universe of spirit that parallels the one in which we live and know all too well.

    Where do we think Jesus got his courage and inspiration to walk away from the religion of his heritage, from the war-god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and from living solely by remaining obedient to the teachings of the Torah?  His desert experience opened the door to this parallel universe of spiritual symbols.  This is what angels used to guide him to live in both worlds radiating his loving energy.

    Realizing this, we can understand why Jesus described this change as being born a second time. This was the change that Jesus experienced in his own life.  He was a carpenter in the material world, engaged in the role of the eldest son by providing for his family. After the forty-day period in the wilderness, Jesus became a spirit-being who had chosen to live in the Kingdom of God.

    From his awakened state-of-mind, Jesus gave to humanity a new interpretation concerning the loving nature of God's spirit.  Jesus taught a new understanding of loving energy that featured instant forgiveness to everyone that has hurt us. He taught compassion for those who walk in darkness because they are spiritually blind.  His listeners were directed to love their enemies.

    Most of humanity has never learned how to understand or navigate in a world that glitters because of the presence of the most intriguing objects. A learning curve for all people is that we do not know what it is that we do not know.

    Most of us effortlessly succumb to the world's bidding.  Jesus came to teach people how to live in our world. One of the realities is that God cannot hold a candle to the importance that people have given to their cell phones.   Nothing has any meaning to our lives until we assign one. We do so by choice as well as the amount of energy that we give to the object of our desire. 

    Most people make the claim that they believe in God, but to what end?  There are far more satisfying distractions that are instantly gratifying to look at, use or to own,  This is the way it is with all material objects.

    Through a slow process our world incrementally causes our blindness to see concepts that lack visibility. However, we have learned to respect a number of energies that we cannot see such as gravity, wind, magnetism, and electricity because we understand what they can do.

    Our spirit-guides (our guardian angels) remain invisible to us, but they will make a remarkable difference in our lives once Heaven gets our attention.  Once the parallel universe of spirit opens to us, we are guided through the maze of living in the material world with symbols that only we can recognize.  We cannot teach what works for us. We can only respect what the energy provided by our guides can do with and for us.

    Historically, most people that write or speak in these terms are called mystics.  However, there is nothing mystical or mysterious at all about what happens to us once Heaven gets our attention. Our understanding of life is turned upside down because we learn to understand everything our senses tell us in symbolic terms rather than matters of concrete facts.     

    Jesus told his listeners that he had overcome the world. This means that external influences no longer controlled his emotions, judgments, and the spirit by which he lived. (John 16:33) The truth is that we can do the same thing once Heaven gets our complete and undivided attention.

    This is not another concept that needs to be studied, nor is it to be thought of as something that lies beyond our reach. Jesus would never have taught us to live in the Kingdom of God if doing so was an impossibility. 

    While they remain invisible to our senses, our spirit guides remain poised to lead us into the future unafraid and confident.  Try talking to your spirit guides during Lent.  Get to know and trust them.   We do not need to ask them for what we want.  The best results come from trusting them completely to help us to discover our own inner resources.  

    To recognize what I am talking about this morning, we first have to experience the presence of our angels.  They will show us doors that were present all the time but were never visible to us. These openings to our future were filtered by our neediness to feel secure in the material world by relying on the props of wealth, physical attractiveness, and our enthusiastic personality.  

    We might get a fresh start on how to interpret our life-experiences.  This can easily happen once Heaven gets our attention.  Once we are tuned into this remarkable support system, our fears leave us and our confidence soars because we, too, have learned how to overcome the world.



Merciful God, we cannot experience the Lenten season without reflecting on the number of times we take for granted what comes to us without our asking.  When we are eager to learn, understanding comes.  When we extend ourselves in love, we are never without receiving it.  Yet, we are also mindful of our mistakes, our hasty judgments, and our need to cast blame. Kindle in us, O God, our desire to stretch in the areas of our weaknesses.  Help us to learn that our finest moments are when we find ourselves walking on the road less- traveled because we are following the Master.  Amen.



Loving God, we thank you this morning that Jesus came into our midst so that we might learn how to become more loving, patient, and peaceful men and women.  There is no message more needed than this one.  It seems that every week, more news comes to us of the results created by people who still walk in darkness. They are angry about so many things in their lives and they have no idea how to fix their pain other than through violence.  In spite of the truth that Jesus taught, it was you, O God, who granted us free-will to choose how each of us wishes to order our lives. 

In the drama that life represents, you have allowed distractions to enter our lives with the potential to block the path set by your son.  As many tantalizing alternatives parade in front of us, it is we who must choose between the pearl of great price from among the countless, useless idols. It is we who must select between what will enhance our skills of spirit and the temptations that encourage us to imagine how life has failed us.

Thank you, God, for remaining confident in us.  We do have awkward moments.  There are times when our regrets and our lack of using good judgment take the spotlight away from the moments when we truly love our neighbors. Help us during these days of Lent to construct our lives on the rock of our loving attitudes and desires. Help us to learn that most other responses are dead-end streets.  With grateful hearts for all that you have given us, we pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray . . .