A WALK DOWN THE STREET WITH JESUS
1 John 1:1-10
Let’s walk down the street together. You, me, and Jesus.
As we leave the front doors of the church, we find ourselves on a semi-busy street. Manhattan Avenue is a semi-busy street in my book. The sun is shining. There is a small breeze blowing which is nice. We take a left and walk along the property of NBCC. Cars and trucks whiz by. A few people honk because they recognize us or more truthfully they probably recognize Who is with us. Maybe. Maybe not. I am not sure how many people these days recognize Jesus if He walked on water in front of them. I guess in the end I am not sure why they are honking. Maybe my good looks.
Anyway, we aren’t even off of the entry sidewalk when someone pulls into the church parking lot in their car. At that moment, I get a text. Immediately I pull out my phone and check my message. Not really an important one. You know what is important… facebook and twitter. I am standing there and the person walks by me headed for the door of the church. Facebook is great. Twitter is great. I suddenly realize we aren’t walking! Let’s go for a walk.
Jesus just kind of looked at me and stared and looked back at the door of the church with the person standing there.
We haven’t even gone very far on our walk when the next thing that we come to is the church gazebo on our left. The gazebo is where the greeters sit and give out bulletins and communion for the drive-in service we have each week. Now you need to know that recently our gazebo is getting a bit tattered. You see, at night apparently there are homeless people sleeping in it on a regular basis. They are eating and drinking and making an absolute mess which is causing bugs and other critters to gather. A few of the bench parts are broken now. Not only that, there is graffiti appearing in the gazebo. I assume they are messages from homeless people to homeless people that it is a safe place to sleep. Sometimes they even leave their sleeping bags and backpacks in it. They tore down our no trespassing sign. To be honest, people are being a nuisance all of a sudden and are messing up our stuff.
As I am walking along and come up to the gazebo, I notice an older man sitting in the gazebo. He is just sitting there. He is not eating or drinking or sleeping, but just sitting there. “Well Jesus,” I say out loud, “there he is. He must be one of the ones who are messing up our stuff. You know what I think I will do… I think I will tell him to move. After all, he is obviously the one who is causing a mess and causing issues.”
I walk over to the man. In a firm and authoritative voice, I tell him that he has to move. After all, I am the minister of the church and we can’t have people sleeping in the gazebo and messing it up. We won’t have it to use if the homeless people break the benches, fill it with graffiti, and cause it to be overrun with pests. We have to be good stewards of what God has given us. I am nice. I am firm. I even comment that the Church of Christ next door only has a service once a week and never has anyone there and he is more than welcome to hang out around their building. He was very polite as he corrected my assumption that he was homeless. He mentioned that he lives across the street and was on his way back from Winn Dixie. His ol’ legs weren’t what they used to be and he needed to rest. He bent over and picked up his grocery bags which I had not seen and got up and left. He kind of limped as he went along lugging his groceries. He had three or four bags in each hand and it was amazing that the old guy could carry so much. I watched him for a few steps. I looked at Jesus and nodded with approval of my own actions.
Jesus just kind of looked at me and stared.
I looked at Jesus and said, “I suppose You are thinking that I should have let the old man sit in the gazebo? I don’t know. Or maybe I should be helping him on his way home across the street by carrying his bags. Maybe, but I am on a walk with my friends and with You. I shouldn’t get distracted by what people need. I need to focus on You.”
Jesus turned around and looked at the older man as he was walking.
I walked down the street some more. A few more people honked and waved. The doctor’s office is on the left. As we were walking by, we saw a friend of ours come out of the doctor’s office. He had some papers in his hand and it looked like he had been crying. I waved. He waved as he was walking to his car. Now my deductive sleuthing skills went into high gear. A person we know is coming from a doctor’s office with several papers in their hands and it looks like they have been crying. It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that they have received some bad news about their health from the doctor.
I looked at Jesus. I looked at our friend heading to their car. “You know I should probably ask them what the matter is,” I said to Jesus as we were walking. “But that might be a little rude and intrusive. And I am sure You are thinking that I should stop, listen, and then offer to pray with them right there in the parking lot. That would be so intrusive of their rights and personal space. Plus I am ‘assuming’ they got bad news and I just ‘assumed’ something about a persona a minute ago that wasn’t even true. I think I will just keep on walking and keep my assumptions and my prayers to myself. I should just keep to myself.”
Jesus turned around and looked at the person as they got into their car. I thought I saw a tear roll down His cheek, but maybe not.
You, me, and Jesus are walking down the street together having a most wonderful walk! I am sharing with Him all about my life. I of course have things that I ask Jesus for as we walk. I ask Him to keep my family safe. I ask Him to help me keep my job (especially after a sermon like this). I look at Him and say there are some ‘unspoken’ requests ‘wink wink’ that I would like Him to take care of. My dog needs a new collar. My car could use some brakes. The yard needs to be raked. I then realized I was going over my to-do list of the activities of the day instead of talking with Jesus. It is so easy to get distracted.
As we are walking, we come upon a bus stop. You know on Manhattan Avenue there are tons of bus stops. At this particular bus stop there is a man hunched almost completely over as he sits. He has no shirt on which is what made me notice him in the first place. He looks to be almost skin and bones. He is sitting and sleeping at the bus stop.
Jesus points at the man.
“You want me to talk to him? I could You know, but I know this guy Jesus. He comes to our church about once every six months. Every time he comes in he tells us his woes because of alcohol. I have talked with him a few times and he is definitely someone who needs You. Dude is addicted to alcohol and who knows what else. He gets help and then falls right back into his old patterns it seems.”
Jesus again points at the man.
“You want me to talk to him? I could. I know this guy Jesus. I could talk to him and encourage him or see what he needs. He obviously needs a shirt. But I don’t think so. I think I will let him stew in his own mistakes at the bottom of an empty bottle. Plus he is sleeping. I should just let him sleep. Maybe a little sunburn will teach him a lesson about drinking. You know… tough agape love and all that.”
Jesus again points at the man.
“No thank you,” I said and we again continued on our walk.
We continued our walk down the street. I continued to talk to Jesus all about myself. My frustration over having been interrupted by the shirtless drunk man was fading. I told Jesus all about the new car I wanted. You see I have three teenagers that will be driving soon and I asked Jesus to provide another car so that there will be enough car to go around. Oh, and please get me a raise so I can pay for the increased insurance. “And,” I said to Jesus directly, “if you really want to show you are really and truly God, let my wife get a raise too. I will increase my tithe I promise.” Oh Jesus and I had such a wonderful conversation as we walked. I talked. I talked. I talked. I talked. I talked.
On our walk we came up to the Baptist church. You know the same architect that built our church was the same one who built that one. That is what I was told once. “You know,” I told Jesus, “those Baptists are ok. Some of them are a little uptight with the whole no cards and no dancing thing.” I laughed at my attempted joke. “Did you know,” I asked him, “that most Baptists celebrate Your supper only once a month… if that. Crazy. We of course do it weekly which makes us way holier than them. I think the way we do absolutely everything in our church makes You completely happy. We are the city on the hill that cannot be hidden. We are shining lights in a very dark world.” I nodded my head with conviction and said as a summary statement, “holier than them all.”
Jesus just kind of looked at me and stared.
We walked even further down the street. There are stores on our left past the Baptist church. There were people shopping. Cars pulling into parking spaces and cars pulling out of spaces. As we were walking, we came upon the daycare center which is just past the shopping center. As we passed, a couple of parents came out of the daycare center as they were picking up their children. One of the mothers waved at me and motioned me over. The one motioning me over comes to our church on Christmas and every other Easter and just can’t seem find the time to get to church any of the other Sundays. Such a busy life. Jesus, knowing my thoughts and heart, knew what I was thinking. He started to shake His head no.
“Oh hey pastor!” she said excitedly. She motioned to her friend who was with her. “This is the pastor of my church!” She was very excited to introduce me to her friend. “Your church,” I said in a surprised voice, “you haven’t been in services in over a year. How could you possibly call us your church?”
Jesus was shaking His head no as he heard the shameful things come out of my mouth. He knew them before they even came out of my mouth. I felt a little bad at saying what I said. Only a little.
“You know,” I said to her in front of her friend who was now wide-eyed with embarrassment, “you should only refer to me as ‘your pastor’ and ‘your church’ if you actually come through the doors. Why, I am not even sure God knows your name.”
Jesus was shaking His head and now rested it low in shame and whispered something that sounded like her name.
We walked on. You. Me. Jesus. We are having such a great walk. “You know,” I said to Jesus, “these people are fooling themselves if they think coming to church once a year makes them a Christian. It feels good to put them in their place… doesn’t it? I bet no one ever tells them the truth. I guess I get to be the one who tells the truth. It is a heavy burden to be righteous all the time. But I guess You already knew that.”
Jesus turned around and looked at her as she was putting her child in her car. I thought I saw a tear roll down His cheek, but maybe not. He whispered what sounded like a name again.
We crossed the street and started to head back to the church.
Anyway, as we are walking Jesus kind of leads the way back to our church. He took the lead. Weird. I had been leading our walk the whole time. What is Jesus doing taking the lead? I guess He knows where He is going. I guess we should follow Him. We walk into the front door of the church and Jesus goes and sits in the sanctuary. We all follow and sit next to Him. He pulls out one of the Bibles in the pew and turns to 1 John 1.
[Indicate to the congregation to pull out the Bibles and turn to 1 John 1. Page to 1898 in the older Bibles and 1856 on the newer ones.]
Jesus handed me the Bible and pointed at the page.
READ 1 JOHN 1:1-10
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-- this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Let me share with you the five things that I learned from our walk and from our passage today:
#1 God is light. Light is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Light is forgiveness, grace, mercy, soft words, revealing sin, repentance, and service. Light is faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ His Son, living in the Spirit, and sharing the message about Jesus to someone who does not know. That is light.
#2 Our God commands us to live in light. This means all of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, intentions, actions, and reactions must be full of light. Meaning all of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, intentions, actions, and reactions are full of Him. We need to continually monitor ourselves by prayer, reading God’s Word, and fellowship with other believers that we might remain in the light. This is not an option for someone who claims to believe in God and follow His Son Jesus Christ.
#3 Walk in the light is daily. We must continually have fellowship with Jesus in the light in order to fill up our spiritual tanks. By doing this, we will be guided by the Holy Spirit rather than our own thoughts and feelings which in their default setting is probably sinful. Walking in the light is not a once in a while thing. Walking in the light is not a Sunday-only thing. Walking in the light is a daily way of life. Walking in the light is a daily choice.
#4 Light is given out without restrictions. Every single person we meet in every single situation we are in is an opportunity to share light. Every single conversation we have is an opportunity to speak light. Every hurting person we come across is in need of light in their lives. Here is where walking in light gets quite difficult. It does not matter what they have done, who they have hurt, what they have said, we are to be light to them each and every time. I does not matter how many times they have disappointed us, how many times they have failed, or how often they have asked for help, we are to be light to them each and every time. The other person’s full-of-darkness attitudes or actions does not dictate our full-of-light response. We are to be light without restrictions.
#5 Light and darkness are always at odds. God is light. Everything that has nothing to do with God is darkness. You can claim to know Jesus and yet walk in darkness. Doing so means Jesus is not really a part of our lives and we make the faith in Jesus Christ an active lie in our lives. Claiming to know Jesus and walking in darkness is a lie. That lie will be discovered in this life or in the next, but it will be discovered.
CONCLUSION IN PRAYER