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Test

The Rev. Joseph Winston

April 29, 2007

Sermon

Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1
Please clear off your desk, take out a clean sheet of paper and a pen, and take
the following test. There will be four parts on this pop quiz. The first portion is:
“Using textual criticism, decide the probability that the reading from Acts actu-
ally happened. Please include a concise discussion what redaction occurs in this
pericope and how the denouement has influenced the church at large.” The second
set of questions covers the twenty-third Psalm. “What common characteristics,
if any, does the shepherd have with the architect Howard Roark in Ann Rynd’s
book The Fountainhead? Also, summarize the philosophy found in the psalm.”
Next, “Compare and contrast the text found in Revelation with a Tridentine Mass
and the Orthodox’s Divine Liturgy. What sacramental actions are found before
1
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians
1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3

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the Lord’s throne?” Finally, “Examine the metaphysical aspects of the Word in-
carnated as a shepherd. Jacques Derrida asserts in The Gift of Death that both the
giver of death and death itself is good. Explain how the text either supports or
contradicts this thesis.”
Pass the test in.
God, we have made Christianity so complicated!
As I reviewed the lessons for today’s sermon, I just wanted to say, stop clos-
ing your eyes and see what has happened to Dorcas. Here was a woman who
devoted her life to the Lord’s service. It is obvious that her death deeply touched
the widows in her community because they risked public ridicule by asking two
men to bring Peter the simple message to immediately come and visit them. Pe-
ter followed their request and came to the weeping widows. He prayed and the
Lord fulfilled Peter’s request. Dorcas lived again. Because of this miracle, her life
became a witness of the Lord’s power.
I wanted to hear the beauty of the twenty-third psalm savored like a glass of
fine wine or celebrated like a slice of warm homemade bread. Enjoy once again
God’s goodness in this well loved psalm. For our own safety, we need to follow
the Good Shepard’s lead because He is the One who takes the flock through the
good times and the bad. He cares for us so deeply that even in the darkest times
of our lives, the Shepard provides more than enough for His sheep. Every part of
our lives should be savored because we are living together with God.
When the words from Revelation were read, I wanted to be taught the power
that God’s Word has in our lives. We know that these few lines from Revelation

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are important to us and to our tradition because we hear many of these words in
our hymns and during funerals. They bring so many of us hope and comfort since
we believe that God has the ability to do what God says.
The final lesson from John told us about those men who had personally heard
the Word with their ears and had seen the Word in action. I wanted to be told that
all of us need to unstop our ears and uncover our eyes so that we too can experience
God first hand. Ironically, I never heard this message in my study for today. Our
inability to encounter God in the world places us in the same category as these
men. We have been judged because we have refused to look at the evidence that
has been presented to us.
Instead of learning how the Lord dramatically changed the community and the
individuals with in it, I read ream after ream of material on the what the original
author had in mind when he wrote the text, or I leaned more information about the
specific setting, or maybe even listened to some oblique comments based on one
or two words found in the text.
This sermon is not a call for us to become “know nothings” that never critically
look at the lessons, which God has given us nor is this a speech on how we can
find some god through “feelings.” Instead, this is a plea for some balance in our
lives.
Humanity is only one when head and heart are joined. God has created us with
both emotions and intellect and in doing so God has given us two different gifts.
Emotions give us a way to experience the richness of life: the touch of a lover, the
taste of fine food, the smell of home, and the sound of music. Thinking gives us

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a way to adapt to the changing world: heating keeps us warm when the weather
turns cold, refrigeration keeps our food fresh, reducing pollution makes the world
better for everyone, lighting provides us a way to see in the dark, and iPods let us
take our music with us.
When we lean too much on one or the other, we find ourselves in trouble.
People who shy away from thinking and adopt feeling as their primary way of
experiencing the world can find many different things, which make them happy.
However, using only emotions it is impossible to know when the true God has
found you because you do not know how to distinguish an encounter with God
and any other experience. Individuals that are afraid of seeing the world through
their senses and only use cold logic in making their decisions are often richly
rewarded by society since they have the ability to make the “hard” choices. These
type of people are often found in management positions. In spite of what these
people know, reason never saves. Instead, salvation comes from God initiating a
relationship. And just like any other affair, the bond between God and us will have
its emotional ups and downs.
This insight of a balanced life is a key part of the message of salvation pre-
sented in the Bible. Jesus not only saves us from our destructive behaviors but He
also redeems us to be human (John 3:16.).
The root of the word salvation comes from the noun “salve.” Therefore, sal-
vation literally is the ointment that is placed on our wounds. Christ’s work in the
world is to provide the cream that helps ease our pain and to apply this liniment
to our injuries.

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For some of us, the balm needs to be applied to our feelings. We are the ones
who have been physically hurt by the world. It pains us to bring others close to us
because when they leave us we will have an ache deep inside of us. Jesus comes
to people like us and gives us the medicine for our broken hearts. Through His
healing, we once again can love others.
Others of us are intellectually scarred. We have tried to understand how the
world works and in doing so we have become distant from others. We cannot let
others come to close to us because we know that they might betray us. Christ
comes to us and treats our lack of trust. His Word of total acceptance lets us reach
out to others. By His gift of Grace, we can live together with our neighbors.
No matter what ails us, Jesus comes to each of us and He heals us. The result
of His work in our lives is that we become human. People who both feel and think.
While tests might be a good way to analyze how much material a student
has learned, God disagrees. God never asks us to prove how much we love God.
Instead, God comes to us and engages us as humans. This means that we encounter
God through our senses and our intellect.
A trite and tired cliche is that a quiz really tests the ability of the teacher to
instruct the students rather than seeing how well a person answers questions. In
this specific case, this saying is totally true. Since we cannot know anything about
God unless God completely informs us, God must give us the information that we
need. Nothing else would be fair.
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and

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minds through Christ Jesus.”2

2
Philippians 4:7.