Scripture: Psalm 67 and John 14: 23-19
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Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make out home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.”
I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of everything that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you love me, you will rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks Be To God.
Just when I had finally come down from my news media addiction after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I received a post on Wednesday that three more individuals had been taken under custody. On went my feed into the New York Times on line news service. I have been following it again ever since.
However important these news blasts are to us, one of the things that makes me sad is the stories about the marathon that were to be the headline news and will not make our news media this year. One was about a father and son who did not finish the race. They were about a mile from the finish line when the bombs went off and they had run the marathon together for the past 30 years. They call themselves Team Hoyt and a bronze statue of them was dedicated in their honor and the start of the Boston Marathon a few days before the marathon. I am sure that their story would have been in all the news stories around the world in the bombings had not occurred.
The father and son team is made up of Rick and Dick Hoyt who are now 51 and 73 years old. They began running when Rick was 13 and was inspired by an article about running that he saw in a magazine and he asked his father if they could do a race together. Although the father, Dick, had never run a race in his life he signed them up. Since 1977 they have competed in 1077 endurance events including 70 marathons, 6 ironman triathlons, and they have run and biked across the whole United States completing the full 3,735 miles in 45 days.
The video you are about to see shows them competing in an ironman triathlon. These are the toughest of the competitions involving elite athletes. The participants swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then complete and full 26.2 mile run.
What I have not told you about Rick and Dick is that their faith has carried them through these events. They have a strong belief that with the power of God you can do anything. They are what we call an ‘Easter People’ with a faith that Christ is alive in their lives. They believe in God’s blessings! This is a video depicting love, dedication, and God’s power. You see, Rick was born with MS and has never walked, run, swam, or spoken on his own. His method of communicating is through a computer which he controls with his eye movement. Watch now as you witness love and dedication of this father and son triathlon team (and so much more of a team) that can only come from our God.
Please watch what should have been the big news at the Boston Marathon this year!
The Scripture passages we read this morning, the Psalm in the Call to Worship and the Passage from John are both are from the lectionary readings assigned this sixth Sunday in Eastertide. At first glance they might not seem to have much in common with each other but if you think about what is in them, they both contain blessings that tell a lot about our relationship with God…. Our relationship with a living close God.
Psalm 67, which was our Call to Worship, is an expression of Joy. It opens with echoes of what is called the ‘Priestly Benediction’ which is found in Numbers 6: 24 -26. It is thought to be the oldest prayer in the Bible.
The message of the Psalm is that we are blessed. These blessings are a gift from God. They are not just meant for us, not restricted to one type of people, one nation, or one socio-economic bracket; but are meant for God’s whole creation. There is a wideness in God’s sovereignty and love which tell us that God’s blessings are for everyone.
It’s easy to sing this Psalm on weeks like the one we have just had. The blue skies, the warm weather, the beautiful trees in bloom, and the colorful spring flowers sing to how the earth has yielded its increase and God has indeed blessed us. Weeks like these make you feel upbeat, hopeful, and faith-filled! The Psalmist too must have had a week in which all the earth sparked in God’s creative power. The line in the Psalm which commentaries all point to as the important one is that these wonderful blessings are not just for us but for all the peoples. We are ALL meant to praise God because of the blessings we have received. One commentator on the Psalm says that the intension to the Psalmist is for us to see the large vision of God. We are to ask the question, ‘How big is your God?’
Can we believe in a God who blesses all the earth? Can we believe in a God who shares no favorites but is for the nations? Belief in a God like that means God shines on all the earth like the rays of the sun. God’s sun-like radiance is for everyone. Belief in a God who cares for all is hard. Part of us wants God to have favorites. We want God to be in covenant with us and perhaps not with them. But the Psalm says that God blesses us all, even us at the ends of the earth.
The Passage from John is familiar to many because it is often read at memorial services. The context in the Bible is towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. Judas has just asked him, ‘How is it Lord that you will reveal yourself to us?’ Jesus tells him in the answer about the Holy Spirit, or the Advocate, who will come when he has gone.
But the message that Jesus tells him is not really an answer to his question. Like any good communicator, he gets his message across, no matter what the question is that is thrown at him. His message here is about the Peace that Jesus gives that is a kind of Peace that cannot be taken away from you. Jesus is confronted with anxious and fearful people and he offers them peace. He offers the antidote to fear, the peace that he gives, which is the consequence of being in the presence of God.
And Jesus describes that as love. And, in the absence of a physically present Jesus, we must experience God through the Holy Spirit. We must make real the living presence and love of God our ministry and work. And we will experience the peace that God gives when we experience love in action. Through our passionate loving we come closest to our experiencing the peace of God.
This brings me back to the story about Dick and Rick Hoyt. Theirs is a love story and a story where God is physically present. You see, after that first race in 1977 when Rick was 13 and his dad was 37, Rick told his father that he wanted to keep on running in races. The race was the first time in his life that he did not feel handicapped. Racing became the blessing they needed to experience the joy in life and the peace that is meant for all. They are faithful people that tell an Easter message in their daily life. They experience the power of a resurrected God. They don’t let Rick’s handicap be the final message. If you go on their web page you find out that their slogan is “Yes! You Can!”
And many people have given testimonials how Team Hoyt has helped them in their trials. Their story is an illustration that the blessings of God are meant for all. Rick did not let what we see as his severe handicaps prevent him from starting a ministry which helps others. The love that they share and the joy that they get from working together have inspired many people who have faced terrible situations. To me the stories are all Easter Stories. From the testimonials of veterans who are living to live with handicaps due to war injuries to small children who understand the sacrificial love between the father and the son, many have learned of blessings that they could not have otherwise seen. If they CAN, so CAN others. As we live out the blessings that we have been given, the blessings and promise of God’s peace and love, let us do it knowing that in the ways in which we model that peace and love we too are illustrating God’s relationship with us. Sometimes real life stories are the best illustrations we have of all that God has given us. Amen!