given on Sunday, May 18, 2014
Are there times in your life you begin to question your own faith? Here you are Sunday morning and you are at church like you are almost every Sunday, so why would you even ask whether or not you need Jesus? This is a question no one can answer for you, except you.
The words “Lord help me Jesus” started echoing through my reading and thoughts. I had no idea why so I turned to the hymnals to find the song—it was not there. I simply could not get past those four words, so I googled them. Yes there they were: “Lord help me, Jesus I’ve wasted it. . . “
But how could those words have shown up in the middle of reading the week’s lectionary? Where was the connection? The first scripture in this week’s lectionary was the story of Stephen’s stoning: not the entire speech he made to the Sanhedrin, just the stoning and his final words: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
The second scripture reading was from Psalm 31 which was the connection to the last breath statements from Jesus on the cross and Stephen as he was stoned: “Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth. (v. 5) All three statements are clearly connected, but how does it develop an answer to why we need Jesus.
The third scripture from I Peter 2 does not connect as clearly, but to summarize, verse 9 provides some clarity:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Clearly the pressure is on to understand the need we have for Jesus in our lives. By the time I read through the fourth scripture from the Gospel of John 14:4-7, the emphasis on needing Jesus in our lives is complete:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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.. . . I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
If we do not know Jesus, if we do not realize we need Jesus, then we are left outside of our Father’s house—eternally.
Trying to understand how Jesus effects our daily lives is difficult, sometimes completely unexplainable. It is not easy to share our confusing thoughts, our need for Jesus, our relationship with the triune God, or how faith works in our daily lives. Yet, some how we hear God talking to us.
In looking up those four words, “Lord help me Jesus. . .” I found three different artists who are known for their performances of a song titled “Why Me Lord”: Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Pressley. I started with listening to Johnny Cash, then Elvis Pressley. But then I decided to look up who wrote the lyrics—it was Kris Kristofferson!
That sent me back to YouTube where I found an interview and performance by Kris Kristofferson. In his own words Kristofferson described a “profound religious experience.”
[Play the YouTube interview.]
Kristofferson nailed the mystery of faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—“I felt forgiveness I didn’t even know I needed. Maybe I need Jesus and did not realize it, either. Maybe you need Jesus, too.
The lyrics Kristofferson wrote are an appeal, a prayer, and even a thank you to God for his unconditional love, for the gift of his son, for the Holy Spirit that resides with us daily when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
[Play Kristofferson’s version of Why Me Lord.]
The words sum up the unbelievable expanse of God’s love for us. We may not understand all of the story, but if we need God and we are here in church this morning, what do we need to be doing to make sure we do not waste this never-ending relationship with God.
This summer, make a commitment to learn more about God, about our faith, and about sharing our understanding of the blessing God gives us even when we do not believe we deserve it. Maybe we can write our own verse for Kristofferson’s prayer.
[Johnny Cash’s version of Why Me Lord.]
How can we do this? Attend church weekly. One recommendation the conference has is to make a commitment to attend church at least all but four Sundays a year. When we go on vacation, do we make a habit of attending church while on the road?
Another practice is to read. Read the Bible. Read a daily devotional or books that discuss the various books and stories of the Bible. Try following the lectionary. Find someone who can read along with you and talk about the reading.
Finally, talk with God. Over the summer, practice talking with God. There is no need for a fancy prayer format, not even a greeting and salutation. Prayer is conversation with God. Remember, he knows already what is in your mind, so why not think of sharing them in an open, on-going conversation—just you and God.
And at summer’s end, let’s see what verses we have written.
[Elvis Pressley’s version of Why Me Lord.]
Closing scripture and prayer
I Peter 2:1-3 from the NIV: Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Dear All-knowing, All-present God,
We do not know what we need,
but you do.
We do not even know how to talk with you,
but you do.
We do not understand the mysteries of faith,
but you do.
Guide us to open up our lives to you.
Guide us in conversation with you.
Guide us in discovering the miracles you provide.
Thank you for words written and sung.
Thank you for the sharing of your faithful.
Thank you for assuring us we do need you.