Let There Be Light, Part 3
Connected to Christ
July 25, 2010
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
6 I am the vine, and you are the branches…abide in me, and you will bear much fruit
For the last few weeks we have been talking about a brand new addition to our church: the Marion Housten Memorial stained glass windows. Today we will share the closing message of this series called, “Let there be Light!”
For those of you who haven’t been here, let me just briefly say that the theme of these windows is a calendar, a calendar of the church year. The first window symbolized Advent, the promise of the coming of Christ. The second window symbolizes two seasons, Christmas and Epiphany, the visit of the three kings. The third window symbolizes Lent and Holy Week. The fourth window, the central window, symbolizes Easter, the rising of Jesus from the dead after Good Friday. Pentecost is symbolized in the next window, the blessing of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Disciples locked in the upper room. The doors flew open and the Disciples came forth with joy and heralded the good news of Jesus Christ. The final window symbolizes the season of Kingdomtide. Kingdomtide begins around the first Sunday of September and continues on to Advent where we are back to the beginning.
Today I want to talk about what I think is the most powerful message in our stained glass windows. Appropriately, it is right in the central window. This central window is a picture of connection to Christ. This is the most powerful message we have to offer as a church. It represents the bedrock, the foundation, the very center of our faith: connection to Christ.
In this window you see the cross upon which Jesus died on Good Friday, surrounded by the rays of glory. He was placed in a tomb (symbolized by the rock structure behind the figure of the Lord in the Easter window), and a stone was rolled in front of the tomb. On Sunday morning when several women went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, they found that the stone had been rolled away and the body of Jesus was not there - the tomb was empty.
The women ran back to tell the Disciples, but Mary Magdalen stayed behind in heart-rending grief. As she wept, she heard a voice saying, Woman, whom do you seek? She told the questioner that she was seeking Jesus, and if he knew where Jesus’s body was, she would go and get it herself. She then heard the sound of her own name: “Mary!”
She turned, and the curtain of her tears was parted and she looked and beheld Jesus. She stretched out her hands and said, My teacher! This is the moment we have frozen in this stained glass picture, this is the moment of connection to Christ. This is the scene that I want to lift up for you today. I think it is the most important one of all. It represents each of us being connected to Christ.
Each and every one of us has to make a decision. We have to make a decision about Jesus Christ. Do we accept Him? Do we just let Him go? Do we avoid the question? For many of us, the question keeps coming up. It keeps churning around inside of us. How will we decide?
It seems to me, that for many of us, the religious process, the faith journey, has three important steps.
The first step is the call.
The second step is the decision.
The third step is the joyful journey.
The entire process seems to begin with the call. What has the call been like for you? Are you in the midst of the call? The call is the very voice of God, calling your name, and saying “I am here.” “Will you have Me in your life?”
What is the call like for you? Sometimes it is an internal argument. Sometimes it comes in the form of a doubt or a period of struggle. Sometimes it comes from something you read in a book. Sometimes it comes from the invitation of a friend or a sharing from a friend. No matter how it comes, if you have a rumbling in your heart about God, I say pay attention to it! It could be Jesus knocking at your door.
For me, the call came as an unsettled kind of feeling. I was part of a church, very active, I loved it, I love it still. However, there was something about the worship in that particular environment that left something still hungering in my heart. Saint Augustine put it this way: Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you. That restlessness is what I was feeling, that was part of the call. When people come to me and say, “Pastor I have these doubts that I am struggling with.” I say, “Rejoice and be glad! That could be Jesus knocking at your door!”
Another part of the call for me was when I was serving a Methodist church as organist and I observed the faith of these people. They were happy! They were happy about their faith. They rejoiced to be with one another. They were happy in their prayer life. I said to myself, “I want some of that. I would like that to be part of my life, too.” That was part of the call.
You know, part of sharing our faith is just being happy about it, just enjoying it. Others see us, and wonder what we’re up to. Your enjoyment of your faith can be a strong motivator in drawing people to Christ.
When I was child, I didn’t much like to eat what my parents liked to eat. They had this particular kind of soup that they seemed to like. They harvested green leaves similar to spinach from my Father’s garden. My mom would chop them up and make them into a cream soup, called sour grass soup. They would offer it to me and I would say, “I don’t want any of that green stuff.” They said, “Okay” and they just ate it and seemed to enjoy it. Another time they offered again, and I said, “No, I don’t eat that green stuff.” “Okay”, they said and went on enjoying it. Another time as I watched them enjoy it, I said, “All right, I will have some.” They spooned me out a bowl and I tried it - and it was really good! (The congregation laughs). A side note, one time I was in New York City and went to the Russian Tea Room. Guess what they were serving for $7.00 a bowl? (Congregation laughs again). Yes, of course I bought some and enjoyed it – rather wistfully.
Part of the call for me came from looking at folks who were part of the Methodist church. They had this faith that they were enjoying, and I said, “I want some of that.”
Another way the call came is that these Methodist Christians would say to me, “Won’t you come to our picnic?” I said, “But I am not part of your congregation.” They replied, “That’s okay, there is plenty.” Another Sunday they said, “Would you like to share Communion with us?” I said, “Oh, but I am not a Methodist.” They said, “That is okay.” I said, “All right, thank you, I would like that.” Little by little the call came. There was something special going on. They were pointing to something beyond the picnic and even beyond the Elements. They were pointing to Christ. They were pointing me toward a connection with Christ.
I was serving as their organist. One Saturday afternoon as I was practicing the organ for the next day’s service, I was practicing a piece called, If With all your Heart You Truly Seek Me You Shall Ever Surely Find Me, Thus Saith Our God. I just stopped playing and sat there at the bench and prayed, “Lord, if this is true, if this is so, let it happen now. I am making my decision, come into my heart. Let it be, I want to be your friend forever. I hereby accept your challenge.” I opened my eyes. There were no flashes of lightning, or heavenly choirs singing in the distance, or anything like that. But little by little, the closeness to God happened more and more and more. The presence of God in my life got greater and greater. I had made a decision, God responded, and continues to respond – every day.
What I am inviting you to do today, if you haven’t all ready, is to make a decision. To get with the Lord and say “Lord, I accept your challenge. Come into my life and let us be friends forever. Amen.” That is all you have to pray. Jesus always says yes.
So, the second step is Decision. What happens after the Decision? Well, you walk the joyful journey. You become part of the journey of Christ. You become one of the folks that follow Him. Wonderful things start happening in your life.
I saw examples of the joyful journey this week. My word! I saw folks working here at the church, putting up beautiful decorations. People were teaching, leading children, leading singing. It was a beautiful thing to see. It is all part of the joyful journey.
After our decision for Christ, we intentionally practice
the Five keys to Christian living. Let’s say them together:
• Pray every day.
• Worship every week.
• Read and grow.
• Give as you are given.
• Help wherever you can.
I invite you to invite your friends to church, and to give a tour of the windows to your friends. Explain the symbolism, explain the meaning of all these beautiful stained glass windows. Point them to this window that shows the most important thing, which is the connection to Christ. Jesus said, I am the vine and you are the branches. You see the vine that winds through all these windows, we are part of that vine. We are part of that energy. It is like tuning into a radio station to hear beautiful music, but you don’t hear the music until you tune into that station. That’s what happens when you have a connection to Christ. Once you do, you become part of His energy flow, part of the remarkable insight and power and healing of His Holy Spirit. I can’t think of anything more important than that.
Friend, the Good News is that you and I have a connection to Jesus Christ. And just as in the picture of the exuberant Mary, we can have the joy of closeness to our Beloved Teacher.
May the Connection to Christ be yours!
God love you; I do too.
May you have blessed week.
© 2010 Anthony J. Godlefski