This is a sermon that I gave on October 29, 2000 for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost. The Scriptures for that Sunday were Job 42: 1 – 6, 10 – 17; Hebrews 7: 23 – 28; and Mark 10: 46 – 52. I am posting it because of what I am thinking about writing for this weekend.
In every learning opportunity, there comes a time when you realize that you have learned something. You have been trying to learn something and it hasn’t been easy. But suddenly, without any forewarning, you find that you understand perfectly clear what it is that you are trying to learn. And the funny thing about it is that after you understand this new concept, it seems so simple and clear that you wonder why it seemed to hard in the first place. That moment of learning is known as the AHA moment.
It is really hard to define this moment in any other terms simply because the time and place are determined by the characteristics of the learner and what may be that moment for one will not be the same for another.
It is the same with our relationship with God. Job’s encounter with God, as we read in today’s Old Testament reading, is an example of such a moment. As Job admits in the Old Testament reading for today, before he met God, he had only heard of God. His knowledge was second hand at best but after his encounter, he knew of God because he had come to know him first-hand.
When we have a first-hand knowledge of God, our lives change. We only have to remember what it was that John Wesley said after that memorable night at the Aldersgate Chapel to understand that change. Before Aldersgate, Wesley knowledge of God and the path that he was to take had been gained through rigorous study and self-discipline.
When John Wesley and his brother Charles first came to America in the 1736 as missionaries, it was with a great amount of joy and expectation. For now they had the opportunity to show that what they had been saying along would work. No longer would they have to put up with their detractors making fun of this Methodism of theirs.
But when it was all over, their mission was a failure and both brothers returned to England. The feeling of failure was so great that Charles was literally on his deathbed. Prepared as he and his brother were with the understanding that one cannot find peace in life outside Christ, neither man felt that they had truly found the Peace of Christ. Despite their training, despite their background, neither Wesley was willing to say they trusted the Lord. But you see, when you put your faith, as it were, solely in what you have heard or read about Jesus, it is impossible to trust in Him. Trust is only possible when you have that first-hand knowledge.
Only when John Wesley let Jesus into his life, that moment know to us as the Aldersgate moment, could he write
“I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Only when he accepted Christ as his personal Savior did John Wesley understand the direction his life was to take. By turning his life over to Christ, Wesley gained the confidence needed to make the Methodist revival possible.
That moment in life may be a subtle one, as it was for Jesus. Or it may be a dramatic one as it was for Paul on the road to Damascus. But however it occurs, it will change your life. That it changed Bartimaeus’ life is why his story is in the Gospel of Mark. It has been suggested that because Bartimaeus is named in this Gospel he did more than simply follow Jesus into Jericho but rather became a disciple of note later.
There will come a time when you might, if you haven’t already done so, have that encounter with Jesus. It is certain that there are others who will have an encounter of their own. How they come to that moment is not know to us at this time, nor it is certain that their moment will be like anything that we have encountered in our own lives. But one thing is certain, for each of us to know God as did Job, on that first-hand basis, it will be because we have allowed Jesus to come into our hearts.
It has to be Jesus and it cannot be anyone else. The point of the passage from Hebrews that we read today is that only Jesus can be the “high priest” who can intercede on our behalf before God. The point being made in this passage is that all other priests are not capable of taking on the task.
But how does one get to know Jesus? This is the question that we must ask of ourselves this day. For if there is one person in the world who has never known or heard of Jesus, it is impossible for them to come even close to a first-hand knowledge. If I may be permitted to use a chemistry analogy, Mendeleev, the developer of the “modern” periodic table was able to predict the existence of certain elements because of the gaps left in the periodic table. But he could not predict the existence of what were called the noble gases (helium, neon, argon, xenon, krypton, and radon) because there was no information on which to predict their existence. If there is nothing available upon which to make a prediction, you cannot make a prediction.
If there is no way to know of Jesus, then there is no way one can come to know Jesus. And my friends, that is exactly why we are here. So that people will know that Jesus is here in this world and in this time.
The question is how we can let others know. That is one reason why I put the note in the bulletin about reactivating “The Lamplighter.” If we are to bring the newsletter back, and we do have the resources to do so, will we have enough people to mail it to so that we can get a bulk mailing permit? It is my understanding that there must be at least two hundred people for us to get that permit. And even if everyone who is a member or a constituent member were to get one newsletter each, that would only be 113 persons on the mailing list. But that is not a practical letter because of the numerous duplicate addresses. If we are to reactivate the church newsletter, and it is my hope that we do, we will have to come up with a total of 200 addresses.
Another way that we can let people know that Walker Valley is alive and doing well is to let those who are not here today know that they are missed. Right now, we might say that we wonder where someone is but how many people actually call them and let them know that they are missed. Perhaps a call is not warranted; but a note surely is.
I know of some that are doing this and I encourage them to continue. I also encourage each of you to make a few calls. If you need someone’s number, call Sandee Scheel or me. If you feel that I need to call them or visit with them, I will do what I can. But remember the first contact must come from you, not me. This is not because I don’t have the time or the energy; nor is it because I have only a 1/4-time position. It is because the most successful way of getting people to know that Jesus is real comes when someone from the congregation makes the first call.
Why go to all of this trouble? Why take time out of our busy schedule to help someone else, when they may not want to be helped? Because, in the end, when we help one person, then all the effort that was made will have been worth it. No matter when the moment comes or how it comes, when someone has an encounter with Jesus, it changes their lives forever.
Job’s perseverance enabled him to gain rewards he never would have imagined. Remember that at the end of the book of Job, after Job had come to know God on a first-hand and he prayed for his friends, he received more than he had lost. Bartimaeus’ life changed forever after he gained his vision.
There is someone looking for that moment when life changes for them. Are we going to be in a position where we can enable them to have that moment? That is my question for you this morning.