Waimea United Church of Christ

 

Luke 11:24-36          “Need for Repentance”

 

            Today is the day we celebrate the coming down of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised. Jesus said that he would send us a helper in the spirit. John 14:16, “And, I will ask the father, and he will give you a helper, to be with you forever.” Fifty days after the crucifixion of Jesus at Passover when people were gathered in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost, that Spirit came down.

            We can read about the ecstatic experience people had when the Holy Spirit came down and rested upon them. All of this is reported by Luke, again, in Acts 2. Thousands were filled with the Spirit and came to accept Jesus as savior. This is still a wonder today. The Holy Spirit is still active today and has touched our lives here as well.

 

            In our scripture that was read from the pulpit this morning, we see that Jesus was busy with other kinds of spirits, which he calls “unclean” spirits. So, we have the Holy Spirit, that is the incredible essence of the Father and Jesus Christ, and we have these other kinds of spirits that are “unclean.” Jesus tells us another way to think about  these kinds of spirits is in terms of light and dark. You see at the end of our scripture Jesus talks about the light that is our godliness being inside of us and pushing out the dark. So, I have a few questions to ask all of you:

            “What would you name the horse that an unclean spirit rides?” A night-mare.

            “Which unclean spirit lives at city hall?” The night-mayor.

            “What does the unclean spirit eat on his burger?” Night-mayo

It is fun to joke about unclean spirits, but someone who has one is indeed living in a nightmare. The light of Christ is being blocked by darkness. That unclean spirit has to be cast out.

            Jesus warns us that if we cast out that unclean spirit, we might create a bigger problem as that spirit might come back and bring other spirits along. I know that sounds a little strange, but I have seen it happen. I have seen a man, for instance, who had a drinking problem beat that unclean spirit only to recede back to drinking and doing drugs. What Jesus reports is quite true about our human condition. We think we have got something beat, but  then we find ourselves worse off then before as we slide back into old behaviors—and then just keep sliding.

            The answer to this conundrum is to never leave your house completely empty so that an unclean spirit can take over, or even invite the buddies along. So, fill your life with the Holy Spirit so that the other unclean spirits will never gain a foothold on your life!

 

            While Jesus is talking, a woman interrupts him, saying, “Blesses is the womb that bore you. . . . .!” No argument. Mary was blessed. It is interesting to note then already very early in the church the veneration of Mary begins. How does Mary feel about it? How did Jesus about it when it started in his own lifetime? Remember, Luke had spoken with Mary after the death and resurrection of Jesus. That is how Luke has all the back-story on the birth of Jesus that the other gospel writers seemed to have missed. Jesus responds saying “Blessed are those rather who hear the Word of God and obey it!” Seems as if Jesus was not too keen on the “Mary worship” thing that was starting in the church.

 

            This topic brings him to reverse the question to all of us. Okay, Mary was blessed and Jesus was the Son of God; but about us, Jesus says that we are of an “evil generation.” The word in the Greek can be said that we “are born to evil.” And, we are always looking for some easy way out of our predicament. We are looking for sign—as if we know that we are on the wrong path right now in this world and all we need is an exit ramp back to God. But, that is too easy. Salvation does not work that way. Jesus  says the only off-ramp sign we have is the same one that Jonah had. This is the sign of Jonah.

            Well, Jonah was awakened to the voice of the Lord telling him to go to the heathen city of Nineveh and preach to them the need for repentance. Instead, he goes down to Joppa, gets on a ship, and heads off to Tarshish. God sends a storm to the ship, and the sailors figure out that God is upset with Jonah and throw him overboard. He is swallowed by a big fish. In the belly of the fish he cries out to God that he now finds himself in hell. He REPENTS. He promises God that he will do what he has been called to do. He will go to Nineveh, even though he expects that he will be killed there. The fish then vomits him up on the beach, and he starts the long trek to Nineveh. When he arrives, he is surprised that even the King of Nineveh accepts the Word of God and sits in ashes wearing sackcloth as a sign of sincere repentance.

            All the people of Nineveh are saved because Jonah finally does what is required by God of him. Jonah repents. Nineveh repents. This is the essence of the sign of Jonah. If we are not obeying God in our lives, but rather some lesser unclean spirits, then we must repent.

            Jesus notes that if we do not repent, then even the people of Nineveh, who are now with God in heaven after death, will rise up at the time of judgment. They will be considered better than the rest of us who could not bring ourselves to repent of our own wrongdoings.

 

            What should “repentance” actually mean? You will remember that I just said that we are looking for the easy off-ramp to get us off the wrong path in life. That is not good enough. We have to turn completely around and head back to God from whence we came. Both in Hebrew and in Greek, repentance means a turning of the heart and mind. We had made a decision to travel in directions that lead us away from God.

            When I first got my driver’s license my sister and I decided to go out and have lunch with my father one day. He worked in Pasadena, Ca. We lived in La Habra far to the east in the Los Angeles area. We got out to see him and had lunch at Pasadena cafeteria on Colorado Blvd. We saw his office and met some of his coworkers. Then, we headed home on the freeways again. When we got on the 605 to 60 Freeway merge, we got into trouble. My sister and I both knew that we needed to head east on the 60, but the signs only read “Pomona” or “Los Angeles.”

            My sister cried out at the last moment to choose which lane to drive in “Go to Pomona—wherever that is. We certainly do not want to go to LA!” As soon as that decision was made, we knew that we were heading home. We could smell the dump in Montebello that told us we were heading in the right direction.

            Repentance means making the hard choice and taking the right turn to get home to God again.

 

            I want you to think about the fact that according to the Bible, Revelation 20, we will all have the chance to be judged one day before the thrown of the Almighty. The Book of Life will be opened. No more secrets or hidden agendas. It will all be plain. That is when the people of Nineveh, who have already repented, will be lifted up!

            The question is: “Why wait for that day with any uncertainty in your heart?” Why should we live another moment not knowing what is going to take place in the end time with our souls?! The life everlasting with Jesus does not have to start at death; it starts right now when we repent and choose the path back to God. When I get to heaven, I want to be right there singing praises to God as we read in Revelation 7:11 “All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God. “

           

            The last part of what was read from the pulpit is about letting that light shine over our lives and shine out from us to others. I like to think of this as “radiant repentance.”

            When we were talking about this in Bible Study, about letting our light shine out, we started recounting stories about how we had seen in other people that light of Christ shining out. It can be as if there is so much of the Holy Spirit in someone that the body cannot hold it anymore. They are oozing out the light of Christ.

            Jesus talks about the eye being the “lamp of the body.” That means he is not talking about ambient light, photons, hitting the retinas. He is talking about the light coming out of the eye to others who can see it. This is good for me—since I am blind in one eye! I hope both eyes are radiating out the heart of repentance and the light of Christ to others who can see it!

            I have seen it in others’ eyes. I am happy to say that as a man working for God’s church, I see that light in so many eyes everyday. It is an incredible blessing. I  hope that all of you get to see that light everyday in others too. Moreover, I want us all to be that light going out to others.

            Strangely enough, this starts by pushing out the darkness that we do not want or need in our lives. It means repenting before God, just saying to God that you will obey and follow the light to the ends of the earth and to heaven above.

 

Amen