Bring someone to Christ
Sermon Preached by Pastor Wesley White
February 22-23, 2003
Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church
323 Fifth Avenue
West Bend, WI
One of the poems that has gone around our culture is that of "Footprints in the Sand." It reminds us that we have all had moments in which we needed to be carried along. Jesus and others who love us do support us at times when we simply are incapable of taking one more step.
This is a particularly apt poem for a culture that some have characterized as being of a depressive nature. Sometimes we get caught going in smaller and smaller circles and end up being immobilized.
There is another poem making the rounds, "Butt Prints in the Sand," that reminds us there is a time and season for everything. There was a time for being carried and a time for being put down. Use whichever poem you need to be comforted or challenged.
The scripture you have just heard is about being carried when we are paralyzed in our body or thinking or emotions or relationships. Our friends do what they can to get us to where help can be found. In turn, those of us who know about the intention of Jesus - that all might have life abundant - want to bring our loved ones to him to be re-enlivened.
This story is not just about individuals but also about churches and nations. Both get in ruts and get caught repeating behaviors and thinking-patterns until they get to be like bad habits that keep whole institutions stuck. Not only do we need to hear Jesus talk to us and to our friends and tell us to, "Get up, get back into real life," but Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church and America also need to hear that message at our stuck places.
There is a better place for us than being stuck not doing the ministry GOD wants us to do here because we hold back on our pledging and giving until things meet our individual standards. In a community of faith, not everything is going to be for our needs and we need to honor the diversity of spiritual stages people are in. In a community of laws, not every action is going to be available to us because the standards we want to hold others to are the standards we need to follow lest we become international hypocrites with one standard for ourselves and another for others.
Individuals need to be brought to Jesus' forgiving love. So do whole churches and nations, including our own church and nation.
As we gather together there are all sorts of needs that we know about that need to be brought to Jesus for forgiving and healing.
A question needs to be raised about how those needs are going to come to Jesus. It is traditional to say that we bring them in prayer. There is something to that. However I want you to note that the scripture today doesn't just talk about the friends of the paralyzed person sitting at home and praying. There is something important about getting up off our butts and participating in seeing that our prayers have some action to them.
I am going to invite you to come forward in just a moment to bring your prayer for someone or your church or your nation who is stuck in the past or some destructive behavior or is otherwise in need of healing, here to the altar rail.
Next week we will have communion and you will be invited to come forward to receive the gift of Jesus' strength and forgiveness. Today I am inviting you to come forward to offer someone or some system into the strong hands of Christ's peace.
For just a moment think about who you know that needs to be brought to Jesus' care? Is it a family member, is it a friend, is it an acquaintance, is it a business, a church, or a nation? Who needs to be set free to reenter life with a new perspective of hope and patience?
Having thought about this and decided who or what you will bring to Jesus, I invite you to come, to offer your prayer for this person or situation, and to return (in returning you can sit with someone else). I expect that some of you will stay longer than others. I expect there may even get to be folks in front of you if you want to get as close to the altar rail as you can. You may remember those who brought the paralyzed person had to be creative to get their friend to Jesus through the roof. I don't recommend that here, so be mindful that you don't need a five minute prayer at the altar and be mindful that it is alright to wait a moment for someone else to finish and make room for you.
You are welcome to come, bring someone to Jesus.
Thank you for bringing someone to Jesus in prayer. May you extend an invitation to people you meet this week and bring someone to worship with you next week.
Let us pray - Thank you, Jesus, for receiving our friend or situation in life. We trust things will be better and yet we know that there may be even more asked of us, as your sisters and brothers, to make this a better world. Carry us, when needed; drop us and help us come to our senses, when needed. Help us take the witness of our ancestors in faith seriously and act out the Bible story in our time and place. Amen.
FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND
One night I dreamed I was walking
Along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints.
Other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed that
During the low periods of my life when I was
Suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints,
So I said to the Lord, "You promised me,
Lord, that if I followed You,
You would walk with me always.
But I noticed that during the most trying periods
Of my life there have only been
One set of prints in the sand.
Why, When I have needed You most,
You have not been there for me?"
The Lord replied,
"The times when you have seen only one set of footprints
Is when I carried you."
BUTT PRINTS IN THE SAND
One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there were seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?
Those prints are large and round and neat,
But Lord, they are too big for feet."
"My child," He said in somber tones,
"For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait."
"You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt."
"Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand.