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Worship Theme: Why do we need to remain attached to Jesus?
Sermon Theme: Stay Attached to Jesus
“An attachment, a connection. Anything, something. I don’t want to be alone.” Not many of us would sign up for loneliness. Built into all of us from the start is this pull, this desire, this gut sense, “I need to be attached, connected to others.” But there’s a lion roaming about the earth, looking to pull people apart, tamping wedges between us, plotting and planning so that he can giggle from his hellish lair when he sees people trembling at being alone.
It’s painful enough when we feel the emptiness of being detached from other people, but what if we were detached from God? That’s really the devil’s ultimate goal. He was banned from God’s loving presence when he tried to push God off his throne and take over the universe God had created, and he got super jealous that human beings, lumps of clay of all things, still had a connection to God and his love and care, an attachment which he lost and would never, ever get back. So, he put on his thinking cap, tapped his fingers on his desk, consulted with his demon buddies, and came up with a plan, “If I can’t get God away from people, I’m going to try to get people away from God.” It worked, and now we’ve got a problem.
Why do you think there are temples and shrines built in honor of the gods and the spirits of ancestors in Japan? Why do you think there are millions who make pilgrimages to Mecca each year? Why do you think there are millions who bathe in the slime of the Ganges River in India? It’s because sooner or later every human being comes to grips with the feeling that gnaws away inside, “I know there is something out there bigger than I am. I want to be connected to that being, that power, but how can that happen?” Answers are offered by meditation masters, imams, and witch doctors, but they’re farther from the truth than the east is from the west. The result is that millions of people live in fear and ignorance or just give up and stop searching for spiritual truth. We see it here in our own country. How many people do you know who are completely fixated and focused only on their search for earthly success, status, and sustenance, ignoring their spiritual and eternal needs?
That’s the kind of people Jesus faced in a fishing town hard by the Sea of Galilee the day after he had miraculously fed a crowd of over five thousand people. They wanted more free fish sandwiches. Jesus redirected their attention toward spiritual matters. That sermon proved to be a turning point in his ministry. The crowds who had been following him unfriended him on Facebook and walked away. But his closest followers stayed attached to him. Don’t you want that, too? Stay Attached to Jesus.
Because His Words Are Living
My high school had a curriculum designed to funnel students to our Lutheran church body’s college of ministry, preparing pastors or teachers. Latin was required as a basis for further language studies and as a discipline for developing analytical thinking. At the time my friends and I didn’t realize the benefits. Instead, we circulated a saying, “Latin is a dead language. It killed the Roman civilization, and now it’s killing us.” None of us died from studying Latin, but it is true that Latin is a dead language. No one uses it as a spoken language any more, and few can read and understand it. For the general population Latin books have little value. But Latin isn’t the only language that has produced books which are of little use to people. There are thousands of books and writings in any number of languages that have no lasting value. The words of those books are lifeless, eventually only collecting dust on somebody’s shelf or getting tossed. OK! There are some ancient documents like the Magna Carta that have an enduring value. Written in A.D. 1215, the Magna Carta laid down some basic principles for democracy. Its spirit lives on in our United States Constitution.
But even the most important documents and most widely read classical books can’t compare with the words of Jesus. Only the words of Jesus can help us get attached to him and help us cope with sin and guilt. Jesus stood head and shoulders above the Israelite rabbis, not because he was taller (the Bible does not give us his height), but because he spoke with divine authority. After all, he is God. The religious teachers of the Israelites made up their own rules for living a godly life. The priestly group told myths and legends about heroes of the past. But when Jesus spoke, God was speaking, “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven.” Some of the people listening refused to believe it. They muttered and sputtered, “He’s crazy!” But Jesus said, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. My words are Holy Spirit-filled. My words are living.”
That means his words have power. When he shouted at demons, “Get out of the man you possess,” they obeyed. When he called to the wind and waves of a storm, “Be quiet!” the storm stopped instantly. When he mentioned his name to the policemen who came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane, they all fell over. His words are living, powerful!
The only reason food nourishes our bodies is because God says so. The only reason our bodies heal when ill or injured is because he says so. The only reason we are still alive and taking nourishment is because God says, “Live!” If he would say, “Be sick!” we would be sick. If he would say, “Die!” we would die. So, if you want to know how to get attached to Jesus so you are not alone, go to Jesus, and listen. He will give you the truth. He will tell you where you came from and why you are still here. Even more importantly, he will tell you where you are going – forever!
Because His Words Are Life-Giving.
Where do you go when your inner naughty guy or naughty gal says, “OK! Just one more time. No one will find out about this sin”? Where do you go when you are scared that you’ll always be alone, and the empty spot in your heart will never be filled? Where do you go when you feel like blaming the schedule for making your life spin out of control, and you realize it’s your own fault for filling up the calendar or for procrastinating? Where do you go when the traumas and tragedies of the past come back to haunt you, and you are tempted to shake your fist and blame God for being a bully? Where do you go when every fiber of your being says, “There’s no way God can forgive what I’ve done”?
This business about two cells popping to life on their own after billions of years from a star explosion is too much for me to accept. How can anyone buy into such illogical baloney? God alone creates life. You can go to a hospital and marvel at the machinery that can sustain life. You can marvel at the equipment that can measure every possible bodily function. But none of that can create life, nor can any of those machines bring someone back to life who is completely brain and heart dead.
But Jesus brought people back from death to life with his life-giving words. Remember the young man of Nain? His mom never forgot what Jesus did for her son. Remember Jairus’ daughter? Her folks never forgot what Jesus did for their daughter. Remember Lazarus? His sisters and a ton of other folks never forgot what Jesus did for him. Jesus’ life-giving words restored physical life. And here’s even better news. His life-giving words can accomplish greater miracles than that. Creating physical life is a drop in the bucket compared to the awesome miracle of creating spiritual life where there had been only spiritual death by turning a sinner into a saint. A Pharisee named Nicodemus once snuck out in the dark to visit Jesus, curious about this new Teacher. Nicodemus didn’t expect anything but a brief conversation. Little did he know that Jesus’ life-giving words would penetrate his heart. But they did, and sure enough! He was one of the two who boldly asked Pontius Pilate for permission to take the body of Jesus down from the cross and bury it.
Where do you go when your inner naughty guy or naughty gal pulls you once more into the back alley of that same old sin? Go to Jesus! Where do you go when feeling all alone? Go to Jesus! Where do you go when your life seems to spin out of control? Go to Jesus! Where do you go when the past haunts you? Go to Jesus! Where do you go when you wonder if you can ever be forgiven? Go to Jesus! He will tell you again and again that the LORD is the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin (Exodus 34:6-7).
We could talk all day about the Olympics, the weather, political wrangling, COVID-backlash on rising cost of goods like lumber, wiring, appliances, civilians hanging on a plane to escape the Taliban. But when you come right down to it, none of those things will affect our eternal destiny. Why search for answers to detachment and loneliness anywhere else? Why follow just anyone who comes along? ... Like the young kids who were allowed to go with their older siblings to the Deer District to witness the final game of the NBA championship but in the mayhem and excitement got separated from them. They knew where the car was parked, but as the event wound down and traffic picked up, they didn’t know how to get across the street safely. Some fans were dodging this way and that between cars as brakes screeched and horns blared. But then a police officer came alongside “I’ll help you get where you want to go,” and taking them by the hand, led them safely to their car. Why search for answers to an eternal attachment with God by following any Tom, Dick, or Mary? Go to Jesus! By his life-giving words we stay attached to him and will forever.
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. Jesus knew it would happen. He had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. Jesus’ heart was aching as many turned away. He asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave, too, do you?” Simon Peter piped up and said what we want to say for an attachment to God and the solution to our fears and loneliness. Every morning when you wake up and every evening when you put your head on your pillow, join with him and state with confidence, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Amen.
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