“Good morning, brothers and sisters. Good morning and thank you for joining us on this lovely spring day. As we gather in this house of God, I urge you remember that the sun is shining outside these walls. And although we congregate in a movie theater, a space that is purposefully darkened, we each can provide the sunshine of God’s love and brighten every corner of the room. Can you say amen to that? Amen!
Before I begin today’s sermon, I want to ask that each of you take a moment to send a prayer into the heavens for our sister Gretchen. Gretchen’s story is a sad one. She’s sitting right there in the front row and I know that she won’t mind me sharing her sad story with you. On Friday, Gretchen fell and broke her wrist. Yes, that’s right my friends, our sister was simply enjoying a two for twenty dollar meal with a gentleman she met online, sitting at one of those high top table at Applebee’s happy as can be when she fell off the chair and snapped her right wrist clean through. Gretchen, I am so very sorry for your struggle. Please take strength and comfort from the congregation’s prayers. And let any one of us know if you need something written down for you.
Today, brothers and sisters, I want you close your eyes and consider your last hour on earth. Imagine that the world is coming to an end, and you are blessed with the awareness that life as we know it will be over in just one hour. Now, I know what you are thinking. “But Pastor Sebastian, the world isn’t really going to end in an hour, is it?” Brothers and sisters, I cannot completely reassure you that our lives will not end in an hour, but I have spoken to God and his son, our Lord Jesus Christ, just this morning, and neither one, that’s right neither God nor Christ our Savior indicated to me that the end is nigh. So, while my sermon today is an urgent warning and we must take action, it is not a prophecy of our immediate demise.
Where was I… or yes, please close your eyes and imagine the end of your life. Are you prepared to enter the fiery embrace of Christ’s love? Or will you be surrounded by another type of fire? The burning and eternally painful flames of Lucifer’s underworld.
I stopped to consider this question recently. I thought to myself, “Sebastian Weinbaum, are you prepared? Are you able to die without guilt? Are you able to meet your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the pearly gates with a completely clean conscience?”
I’m sad to report, brothers and sisters, that I was not able to categorically answer that question with a yes. Believe me when I say I wanted to, but I am not yet prepared. And I realized that if I — your leader into the fiery embrace of Christ’s love — am unable to state without a shadow of a doubt that I am ready to die with all my trespasses forgiven, that you — my congregation of neophytes who lack my spiritual sophistication — would all certainly end up in the pit of hell.
I thought of Roger, sitting right there in the second row on the aisle, who just yesterday told me that he was having an affair with a woman from his bowling league. And his wife, Sally, sitting right next to him holding his hand… well she was a moment ago… who confessed to me last month that she eats an entire bag of Chips Ahoy cookies almost every day. And then there’s the newest member of our family, Mindy, who came into our fold just three weeks ago. She hasn’t shared her sins with me yet, but Christ and I both know she has sinned. We’ve seen that tattoo on her ankle and we know she will eventually come to need forgiveness for her past indiscretions.
Roger and Sally and Mindy are not alone. Far from it. All nine of us have sinned. At some point on our lives all nine of us have indulged in something or someone pleasurable yet evil. I have never hidden from you the fact that before I founded our wonderful church I was addicted to Texas Hold ‘Em. Yes, my friends, just like the song by the very talented Kenny Rogers, I was a gambler. I made it as far as the world series of poker, which is as close as you can come to the devil’s den and still escape, before I saw the light. God spoke to me right there in the casino. I was all in holding a pocket pair of kings with a third king on the river, but l laid down my cards and walked out of the darkness and into the fiery embrace of Christ’s love.
That’s the good news I bring you today, brothers and sisters. I walked out of the darkness and so can you. You can take your hand off your girlfriend’s breast, Roger, and out of the cookie bag, Sally. You can go all in with God and he won’t care if you have a lowly pair of deuces or a straight flush, as long as you’re straight with Him. Now I’m going to count to three and I want each and every one of us to yell out our biggest sin, something we have not confessed to anyone before today. One, two, three. I BORROWED A DOLLAR FROM THE CHURCH OFFERING LAST WEEK TO BUY A LOTTERY TICKET!
Hallelujah, brothers and sisters, hal-le-lu-jah! We just took the next step of our journey together and soon we will be able to face the end with pure hearts and walk together into the fiery embrace of Christ’s love. Amen!
Now let’s rise and join our band, The Flaming Disciples, in singing “Come, Holy Ghost, Life-Giving Fire,” which is number 666 in your hymnals.”