I don't want to make this sermon a travelogue but a part of the striking nature of the trip was to do all that traveling and realize that Paul did that and more
And so it can often be in our lives, God working in ways we don't see until maybe even years later. One of the fruit of the Spirit is patience, and often we need patience to let God's will work in our lives without always seeing the results until much later.
But back to the wonder of Paul's travels. Our reading in Acts is when he got to Athens after being chased by the mobs from Thessalonica, Borea and Philippi. He's meeting there men and women who would gather to discuss philosophies. Paul's philosophy was a new one to them. One of the more unique lines in scripture is written here; most translations have the philosophers say, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Paul's words sounded likely babbling at first, for who ever heard of a person rising again from the dead? But Paul loved to preach, loved to debate and he made it his life to travel the known world. So what would inspire this man to face all the hardships of first century travel; face abuse from many of his listeners, sleep on the ground, face shipwrecks and robbers and beatings? And we know the answer, it was his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was a passionate man and he used that passion, first in persecuting the followers of Jesus and then in spreading the Good News around the world. If we compare Paul's dedication to the Lord to our own, I'm afraid we don't come near to measuring up. We are dedicated, we will be together this week to work hard at the Lilac Luncheon. There are other projects that we have throughout the year, but none of us come close to Paul's dedication. And I wouldn't expect anybody but Paul to reach such a level. But maybe his life can serve as an example, as a challenge and an inspiration for us to examine how we can live more fully for the Lord regardless of the challenges we are facing in our individual lives..
I ran across this list of people who faced challenges in their lives. Perhaps this too can encourage us to examine our own lives to see how we can serve God by serving the people in our lives. We can serve in the name of the Lord despite adversity, the trend toward mediocrity, and the temptation to rationalize our limitations. But great things have been done by people with great limitations. “You can't keep a good man down. Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in a prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan. Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington. Raise him in abject poverty, and you have an Abraham Lincoln. Strike him down with infantile paralysis, and he becomes a Franklin D. Roosevelt. Deafen him and you have a Ludwig van Beethoven.
Have him or her born black in a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have a Booker T. Washington, a Marian Anderson, a George Washington Carver, or a Martin Luther King, Jr. Call him a slow learner, “retarded,” and write him off as uneducate-able, and you have an Albert Einstein.”
As I considered this list, I thought of some examples closer to home... have a child born with Cerebral Palsy who faces challenges throughout his life and you get a Tom Townsend who spent that life loving and serving the Lord. Find her faced with dementia but still greeting her pastor with joy and laughter you find a Dottie Madsen who continues to project joy most days. Find a daughter who uprooted her life in Atlanta to care for and visit her mother in memory care every day in faithful love and you find an Amy Sullivan. See a woman who has lost her husband and two children as well as siblings and you find a Lillian Peterson who remains faithful, following our church on Facebook- live every week in faithfulness to the Lord. Give a man a brain tumor in his 30's, a tumor that few survive and you may find a Mark Chamberlain who has defied all the Drs. expectations and has preached the good news years beyond his life expectancy.
I can't list them all but we have people here who face trials every day; suffering with depression, the malady Spastic Parapalegia, people who lost a parent at a young age, one who was raised in an orphanage, cancer survivors, wheelchair bound... all this and still faithfully gather to worship God and to serve as best they can. We are witnesses to faithful people all around us. Their lives can remind us that we should never allow our circumstances to limit our possibilities; to limit how we worship God or how we share God's love. We can't all preach like Paul, but we all can share God's love in big and small ways. That was at the root of Paul's ministry, love. And this brings us right into the gospel where Jesus, on his last day on earth gave his final thoughts to the disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Jesus called his disciples to demonstrate love, the love Jesus showed them in his life. Jesus called Paul to be the apostle to the gentiles; to the non-Jewish world. Jesus calls us to follow his claim on our lives. You may feel unqualified, you may have challenges that seem to limit your service. But you do have Jesus living within you. That babbler Paul wrote most of the New Testament. He wrote in Philippians, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4: 11-13) Claim this assurance of presence and encouragement and strength; demonstrated by Paul and promised by Jesus. We have no excuses, we are called to live out the love we've been shown. Love in the name of the one who calls you and loves you. Show that love to the world in which you are living today. Remember, you can do all things that God calls you to do though Christ who strengthens you. Amen. Hymn: Blessed Assurance 341 PH