In 2004, feeling a possible call into some form of ministry – perhaps a pastor, perhaps an evangelist, I decided I would go back to college and earn my bachelor’s degree. My rationale was that even if I wasn’t being called into ministry, a bachelor’s degree would be something beneficial. And I remember thinking then at the age of 42, that in three years I would be 45 years old with a bachelor’s degree or 45 years old without a bachelor’s degree. Three years went fast. And in the fall of 2007 I graduated from WVUP with a bachelor’s degree.
In 2007 I began seminary. It was a three year program if I was willing to take some summer courses, which I did. And in 2010 I graduated from United Theological Seminary, just outside of Dayton, Ohio, with a masters degree, which was required to become ordained in the UMC. Three years went fast.
Diane and I are coming to the end of our third year here in Short Gap. And in some ways it feels like along time and in other ways, it’s gone very fast.
- I remember looking up Wesley Chapel, with the Ridgeley address and telling Diane how wonderful it was going to be for her to be able to run across this blue bridge into Cumberland.
- I remember Diane and I meeting the PPRC at Gehauff’s before we moved here. I remember telling one of the PPRC members that I preach the Bible and once in a while my sermons, preaching the Word, shakes people up. And I remember her saying that she thought Wesley Chapel needed shaken up.
- I remember driving 25 mph up the mountains in a Uhaul pulling my car behind and being passed by 18 wheelers. I remember not knowing which Uhaul place to ask to take it back to and I took it to the one by the Martin’s in downtown Cumberland.
- I remember how many people came to help us unload the Uhaul.
- I remember having to use a GPS to get to the mall.
- I remember not being able to get across the tracks to the mission when a train blocked Baltimore Street.
- Before I really knew anyone’s name, I remember Charles Gough coming in and sitting in my office telling me a little about himself and then only weeks later I was standing in the field with Betty and the family when Chuck’s body fell in the field and his soul rose to be with Jesus.
- I rememebr hearing you made 23,000 eggs and Diane and I thought you must have meant 2,300.
- I remember starting the Wednesday night dinners.
- I remember trying to get some people to go on a mission trip 3 weeks after we arrived and nobody would go.
- I remember 10 people going on a mission trip to Oklahoma.
- I remember 17 people going on a mission trip to Haiti.
- I remember being called in to talk to the DS because someone had called him to complain I talk too much about Haiti.
- I remember starting 9:30 worship with 7 people.
- I remember talking to the Oriole’s before their first game a couple of years ago.
- I remember someone accepting Jesus at the altar one Sunday morning – yelling out that they knew that’s why Satan didn’t want them to come to church that Sunday.
- I remember doing Benji and Robbie’s wedding, that was already on the schedule when I got here, trying to remember which one was Benji and which one was Robbie.
And while this sounds like an, “It’s been nice and it’s time for me to go” sermon, that’s not the case. I don’t anticipate leaving any time soon because I think the most difficult part of what God is doing here is behind us and He has great things in the future of this, His church.
But as I was prayerfully trying to figure out what to say this week, what kept coming to my mind was how fast three years goes. Jesus’ ministry while he walked on earth lasted 3 years. The ministry of Jesus begins with his baptism in the countryside of Judea in the Jordan, and ends in Jerusalem, following the Last Supper with his disciples. Luke 3:23 tells us that Jesus was “about 30 years of age” at the start of his ministry. He spent about three years training the disciples, performing miracles, evading people who wanted to kill him, eating with the wrong people, and getting on the wrong side of the right people.
And I can imagine that He reflected on how fast three years went. He would have remembered
- arguing with John to baptize him.
- hearing the Father in heaven say, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.
- not eating for 40 days and then having Satan tempt Him in the dessert
- His mother Mary telling him at the wedding in Cana of Galilee that they were out of wine – and changing the water into wine as his first miracle.
- Walking by the seashore and calling out to fishermen Peter and Andrew – “Follow Me and I will have you fishing for people”
He would have remembered
- admiring the faith of the four people who lowered their friend through the roof and telling the man his sins are forgiven and to take up his mat and walk.
- defending the disciples who were accused of blasphemy because they picked and ate grain from a field on the sabbath
- his cousin John being beheaded by Herod
- walking on the water and calling out to Peter – and Peter looking away and sinking
- the disciples arguing over who was the greatest disciple
- feeding five thousand people with a little bit of fish and bread
- when he took Peter, James, and John up the mountain and appeared with Moses and Elijah
- Nocodemus, the woman at the well, Lazarus, Mary, Martha, Zacchaeus, Blind Bartimaeus, the leper, the woman who touched the hem of his robe, the rich young ruler, and all the children.
It seems like only a couple of months ago that He preached the sermon on the mount. And now here He is, two weeks from the cross. A parade into town next week, and then a week he’s probably been dreading for three years and man, did those three years go fast. He’ll have a last supper with the disciples, he will teach them about his upcoming sacrifice by telling them to take the bread and remember his body that would hang on the cross, and the wine to remember his blood shed on the cross. He will tell Judas to go do what he has to do. He will pray in the garden with such anguish that drops of blood will come out of his pores as the disciples keep falling asleep praying just a little ways away. He will hear the sound of soldiers coming. He will see the light of the torches in the night. He will tell Peter to put the sword away and them will perform possibly his last miracle before his death on the cross when he puts the soldiers ear, that Peter cut off, back on.
He will take the most unjust punishment that has ever been doled out to any person who’s ever walked on the earth, as he is whipped, has a crown of thorns not just placed on his head, but pushed into his head. The energy he has left will not be enough to carry the cross to Mount Calvary. They will have to pull someone out of the crowd to help him carry his cross. And he will die on that cross. On that cross, the wrath of God will be poured out on Jesus.
And the entire reason he left heaven, where he reigned, and instead came to earth where he was disrespected, and eventually spat upon and killed, the entire reason he did what he did was for you and me and the rest of humanity. And I have no doubt that when He reflected on his last three years, and looked at what was to shortly take place, that you and I were on his mind. But for the sake of this closing, let me just say you. You were on his mind. You were the reason he was obedient to death, even death on the cross as it says in Philippians
We were destined for hell, separated from God. And it’s not necessarily even that you’re that bad a person. You can live a relatively good life, but because you and I are born into sin, and each of us has at least some small sin against the perfect and holy God who created us, we were and are eternally separated from him – but for Jesus. Yet, because he is merciful, and because of His great love for you, whom he created, instead of punishing you, he punished his son.
And it’s a take it or leave it option. You can accept this, be saved, and follow Him. You can reject this and worship a false God like Allah or Buddha or one of a million Hindu gods who can do nothing to save you, or reject it by telling yourself you’re good person and God would never send you to hell – and today I pray you realize this is not His wish for you and He has provided a way of escape.