WHAT NEXT? WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 2: 7-12; John 6: 66-69
In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us, and gives us life. Amen!
During the Sundays after Easter, I have based the sermons on the question “What Next”. I spoke that after the Resurrection of Jesus, the community of faith became a reinvented community; how we need to trade up in our understanding of God’s purpose for us. Last week, I said that we are on a quest and need to be both pruned and abiding in our relationships, especially with our families.
Today, being my last Sunday, my last sermon here with you, I raise this question: What Next? Where do we go from here?
Both scriptures that we read a few moments ago ask the same question but from different people. The Matthew account tells of the Wise men going home a separate way. In the reading from the Gospel of John, the disciple Peter asks the question, “Lord to whom shall we go.”
Now, I know what you are thinking: This is two weeks in a row that Welch has used a scripture reading that is out of step for the time of the season. You’re right! I have done that. Last week it was Mother’s Day and I used the story of the Ethiopian eunuch and his quest to experience Christ. Today, the story of the Wise men, a Christmas story is the focus of the sermon.
A couple from another state, say Texas, are lost on a road in rural Wyoming. They spot a rancher, so they stop the truck and asked him, “Sir, could you tell us where this road will take us?” The rancher, without hesitation replied, “this road will take you anywhere in the world you want to go – if you’re moving in the right direction.”
The question is, “Where do we go from here?” We need to go in the right direction. And maybe the story of the wise men can help us find it.
First, “Where do we go from here? We need to go forward with determination to find the Lord.
These wise men showed incredible determination to find the Lord. They were wise because they made the move, acted in faith and sought the Christ child. They not only saw the star, they sought the King.
They decided this was an opportunity of a lifetime. So, they crossed deserts, braved storms and risked many dangers to see the sight. These men had been searching long and hard when they found the Lord. They had come 400, 500 or even a thousand miles on camel or foot. As they set out they used the auto-camel and traveled.
The wise men had everything the world could offer, but there was something missing in their lives. They had a spiritual hunger that drove them to the highest goal. They were seeking the King. Seeking to find him. Seeking to know him. Seeking to get close to him. Seeking to worship him.
After they found the King, they were warned not to go back to Herod. After two years of travel, they probably said, “I have sore feet.” “I’m getting tired”. “Are we there yet?” “Let’s go home”. What next? Where do we go from here? They had to find someplace else to go.
Go forward with determination to find the Lord.
Second, “Where do we go from here?” go forward with declarations of your faith.
The wise men said, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship him.” That was a bold declaration of their faith. What declarations can we make?
John Wesley, through his sermons presented his theology. From the sermon The Circumcision of the Heart: “Don’t just say you are a Methodist, be a Methodist. Be a Christian who has given their life to Christ. Be a Christian who lives, with God’s help, a holy life. Study your Bible. Pray daily. Be a Christian who fights injustice and spreads Scriptural holiness. Be the holy people that God has called you to be so that people can look at Methodists and see and example of God’s mercy and God’s love, of God’s righteousness. Then they too can be inspired to give their lives to Christ in devotion and service.” (based on “The Circumcision of the Heart” by John Wesley)
Where do we go from here? Well, we’ve got something to say! Remember, it is not just me or other clergy making statements of faith. It is all of us. So, make bold declarations of your faith. Even a small testimony can help change someone’s life forever.
Third, “Where do we go from here?” Go forward depending on God’s guidance.
The reading from the Gospel of John follows an event that took place following one of the most spectacular miracles ever worked by Jesus during his life on earth. Multitudes were fed with just five loaves and a few small fish. How exciting that must have been. To watch as such a small amount fed so many and then to see the disciples gather up twelve baskets of leftovers!
But Jesus was not just a miracle worker. He was the Son of God. He came to deliver a message of hope to a hopeless world. As he began to preach to them about eternal life, the crowds and the disciples began to walk away.
What was the message that caused them to walk away? What would Jesus say that would offend them so much that they would turn their backs on him. Jesus said, “It is the spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help at all…some of you do not believe. That is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the father has enabled them.” From this time, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?”, Jesus asked the twelve (John 6: 67).
Then comes the crossroad, not just for this story, but for the whole gospel of John. “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Have you ever stopped to think where they went? They wouldn’t follow the Lord. They wouldn’t obey him. They turned their backs on him, but where did they go? Did they return to their old religious ways? If we turn away from God this morning, where will we go? There really is nowhere else to turn?
So, if you ask the question, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus is the One to whom we can go with our problems, our fears, our concerns for the unknown!
Go forward depending on God’s guidance.
One of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals is entitled, Whistle Down the Wind. The story line involves a family of children whose mother has died. When she was alive, the mother sang her children a lullaby about whistling down the wind. Ironically, the song was about not feeling abandoned. “Whistle down the wind for I have always been right there.”
When the children sing the song, they remember their mother. Her spirit continues to guide them. The same is true for us. As Jesus says, we have come from God, we are journeying with God, and we are traveling toward God’ fullness.
What next? Where do we go from here? May each of us reflect this spiritual journey in our individual lives and as a congregation. May we live in such a way we have the joy of the Lord with those who have not experienced it, so they may whistle down the wind and know God is right there.
Where do we go from here? You, the members of the Chugwater/Wheatland United Methodist communities of faith will receive a new clergy person and continue your spiritual walk, seeking the joy of the Lord with him or her.
As for me, I will paraphrase the words of the Honorable David Crockett (he preferred “David”). David Crockett represented Tennessee in the U. S. Congress, served in the Texas Revolution and died at the battle of the Alamo. In 1835, he was defeated by Adam Huntsman in his bid for election and said, “I told the people of my district that if reelected I would serve them as faithfully as I had done but if not…you may all stay in Wyoming, and I will go to Texas.”
Vaya con Dios! Amen.
MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH