Jesus Is with You
May 6, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! I want to talk with you today about a simple yet profound idea: Jesus is with you. Jesus is with you. Jesus is with you, our confirmands here with us today. And Jesus is with you, dear people of God. That is so central to our faith. Jesus is with you.
I’d like to tell you a little story about something that happened to me several years ago, that I don’t ever want to forget. It was so special and wonderful. I was on a retreat with other ministers, under the leadership of a very great man. His name was Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Do you recognize that name? He was the author of a great book, The Power of Positive Thinking, and he was the pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in the city of New York for 50 years. Dr. Peale passed away at 98 years young, and I miss him still.
Well, all those years ago, some ministers and I were on a retreat, having a great time in Pauling, New York. But I had a gnawing question in my mind that I really wanted to ask Dr. Peale about. I’ve always believed in God. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. I’ve always had faith in God. But…people in the Protestant church always seem to have a strong and enthusiastic faith in Jesus, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t quite get it. And I thought that if I talked to Norman Vincent Peale, maybe I’d understand better. So I went up to him and said, “Dr. Peale –,” and he said, “Yes, my friend, how can I help you?” I have to tell you, he was a very charismatic man. He was a man of rather Lincolnesque stature, and he looked like everyone’s grandfather. He had a way of making every conversation special, and making every person he was with feel encouraged.
I said, “Dr. Peale, I’d like to have a conversation with you about your personal faith in Jesus.”
He said, “Why, sure. Come to me after lunch and we’ll talk together.” So I enthusiastically waited until lunchtime. We were done with lunch, I went over to his table, and people gathered around him and swept him away. He looked at me and said, “I’ll see you after dinner.” Well, dinner came, and I went over to talk to him, and his entourage surrounded him and pulled him away. He said, “Lunchtime tomorrow.”
You probably know what happened. Lunchtime tomorrow, he was busy. I thought, “That’s okay.” It was Saturday afternoon. The retreat was enough. Sunday, we were all invited to Marble Collegiate Church to hear Norman Vincent Peale preach. I decided to go – about half of our retreat group went. The church was packed. The fellowship hall was packed. The video cable was connected in the fellowship hall, and Dr. Peale was in the pulpit. During the announcement time in the service, he said, “Oh, by the way…there was a minister on the retreat I just ran who wanted to have a conversation with me. I never had the chance to talk with him. But on the slight chance that he’s here, I ask him to come see me in my office after the service.”
I gasped. Could it be? I thought, “Oh, there will be 24 ministers lined up outside his office.” But I went to his office anyway, and standing outside the office door were two very large men wearing suits and ties. They said to me, “Yes? Can we help you?”
I said, “I think I may be the minister that Dr. Peale was talking about. If it’s okay with both of you, I’d like to see Dr. Peale.” They said, “Just a moment.” One of them went into the office, and he came out and said, “Yes, Dr. Peale would be very happy to see you. Come on in.”
It was amazing. I had an amazing conversation with Dr. Peale. I said, “Dr. Peale, tell me about Jesus. Tell me about your personal faith in Jesus.”
He said, “Oh, I’d be glad to do that. Have a seat.” So I sat down. He took his Bible and opened it to the book of Matthew, all the way to the end. He said, “Take a look at what Jesus said,” as he handed me his Bible.
Here’s what Jesus said: “I am with you always, even to the end of time.”
I am with you always. Say that out loud: I am with you always. Jesus is with you always. Dr. Peale said, “I picture Jesus in a chair next to me, and I talk to Him directly. I picture Him sitting in a chair by my bed while I’m praying, and I talk to Him as my friend and my savior. He’s with me. I know He is, because the Bible tells me so.” He said, “Would you like to have a prayer?” I said yes, and we knelt down in front of his desk, and we prayed together. It was an encounter I will never forget.
It is my great joy to share that with you. Jesus is with you, my friend. I would just like to tell you three things about the Jesus that you talk to in prayer. Won’t you remember these three things? Number one, Jesus is the most intelligent spirit in the universe. When you pray, you’re not praying to a brick wall. You’re praying to an invisible spirit, the most intelligent spirit in all the universe. Know that you are talking to this intelligent spirit. And, if I may be a bit outrageous here, if you were God, how would you feel about the prayer? Remember that the spirit that listens to you is a spirit of infinite wisdom. Won’t you think about that as you pray this week?
The second thing to remember is that Jesus is the most understanding spirit in the universe. He understands you and me, and He loves us through and through. He knows everything about us, and He loves us through and through. Confirmands, I have a wish for you that comes from the bottom of my heart – and that wish is for everyone who is hearing this sermon or reading it – please, please, never let anything stand in the way of your prayer to God. Never let anything get in the way. Never let any feeling of unworthiness or sinfulness or mistake or any other thing stand in the way of your prayer to God, because Jesus is the most understanding spirit in the universe.
And finally, He is the most loving spirit in the universe. Were you blessed with the love of parents? I was blessed with the most loving parents imaginable. It’s difficult to talk about it. But I tell you this – multiply that love a thousand times, and that’s what God is like. That’s what God is like for you.
Jesus is with you. Pray to Him. Talk to Him everyday. He is the most intelligent, understanding, and loving spirit in all the universe. That’s who He is, and He is with you always.
In closing, confirmation class, I want to tell you something from my heart, very personal. I like you. I like you, and I am proud of you. It has been a joy to teach you in confirmation class. I look forward to being your pastor. I look forward to having you in church and having this be the beginning of your active church participation. Thank you for being who you are. God bless you everyday. God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski