Thanksgiving 2018

Jeff’s sermon to Wilbur Community Church. November 4, 2018

Brothers and sisters, I am so grateful to be here with you today. As Dave said a few minutes ago, I was raised in a Presbyterian Church, so in a sense, this feels like somewhat of a homecoming.

When Dave first asked me to speak, I was surprised. I said to him more than once, you do know that I’m a Latter-day Saint, right? Thinking that maybe, just maybe, he was playing a joke on me, as he is often fond of doing at work. But he was sincere and I can honestly say that it’s a pleasure, as a fellow disciple of Christ to stand before you to today bear witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now you might be asking yourself, what can a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offer our congregation? I think the way your two congregations have blended is a testament to fundamental truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we can all unite behind. I would hope that as fellow believers I can add to that spirit of unity, and maybe draw us all a little closer to the Savior as we go.

Ash Wednesday, 1945 Dresden, Germany

A post WWII story from Deiter Uchtdorf, speaking of the destruction of the city of Dresden. “As I pondered the history of Dresden and marveled at the ingenuity and resolve of those who restored what had been so completely destroyed, I felt the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit. Surely, I thought, if man can take the ruins, rubble, and remains of a broken city and rebuild an awe-inspiring structure that rises toward the heavens, how much more capable is our Almighty Father to restore His children who have fallen, struggled, or become lost?”

Stop and just imagine that for a moment? Put yourself there, in that moment, seeing what he witnessed. Something that seemed completely beyond repair, something without value, reduced to rubble, was once again made beautiful with a little love and restoration.

Dresden, Germany 2018

The same can be true of us.

It doesn’t matter how completely ruined our lives may seem. I doesn’t matter how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts might be. Even those who find themselves without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God CAN be rebuilt. The glorious truth is that there is no life so broken that it can’t be restored.

The joyous news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is this: because of the eternal plan of happiness provided by our loving Heavenly Father and through the infinite sacrifice of Jesus Christ, not only can be redeemed from our fallen state and restored to purity, but we can transcend the mortal imagination and become heirs of eternal life and partakers of God’s indescribable glory.

During the Savior’s mortal ministry, the religious leaders of His day disapproved of his spending time with people they had labeled “sinners.” (today’s leaders would say “deplorables”) To them, anyone who didn’t perfectly follow mosaic law, or those who weren’t jews were considered not worthy.

So you can imagine that maybe to them it looked like Jesus was tolerating or even condoning sinful behavior. Maybe they believed, wrongly, that the best way to help sinners repent was by condemning, ridiculing, and shaming them. I think there is a lesson here for all of us to contemplate in our own lives.

But when the Savior discerned what the Pharisees and scribes were thinking, He taught them a parable.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

“And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”

He was testifying of God’s love for His wayward children, or what the Pharisees might describe as sinners. The Savior’s message was that God is fully aware of those who are lost, and those who are not walking straightly on the covenant path. The Savior declared boldly that He will find his lost sheep, He will reach out to them, and He will rescue them.

If all of that is true, what do the sheep need to do to qualify for His divine help?

Does the sheep need to know how to use a map and compass to orient to find its coordinates? Does it need to be able to use a Google Maps to define its position? Does it have to have the expertise to create an app that will call for help? Does the sheep need endorsements by a sponsor before the Good Shepherd will come to the rescue?

No! The sheep is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the Good Shepherd.

Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves us. He knows when we are lost, and He knows where we are. He knows our grief. Our silent pleadings. Our fears. Our tears.

Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, you are not forgotten. No matter how dark your days seem, no matter how insignificant you feel, no matter how overshadowed you think you may be, your Heavenly Father HASN’T FORGOTTEN YOU! In fact, He loves you with an infinite love, and has sent his son, the Holy Messiah to walk with you.

Never give up—however deep the wounds of your soul, whatever their source, wherever or whenever they happen, and however short or long they persist, you are not meant to walk through your trials alone. The Shepherd of all men seeks you, to bind up your wounds, mend your broken heart, and guide you back home.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done none less.”

I testify that God sees us as we truly are—and He sees us worthy of rescue. We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, strength, and comfort is available to each and every one of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we will just ask him.

It is the love of God that rescues, restores, and revives. God knows you. You are His child. He loves you. Even when you think that you are not lovable, He reaches out to you.

He will rescue you.

He will lift you up and place you on His shoulders.

He will carry you home.