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Gifts from God - Easter Sunday

My topic today will be “gifts from God” and some of those gifts are with us in our church today.  We have the lilies with their glowing beauty and powerful fragrance.  We have the Easter candle, which is made from beeswax, another gift from God.  And next to the candle we have a large basin of water.  This water is from Lake Onamia.  This water causes wild rice to grow because it contains just the right combination of those minerals that wild rice needs.  And when our ancestors harvested the wild rice they gave thanks to the Creator.  They sang their thanksgiving prayers on the shores of the lake and they called the lake Onamia because Onamia means prayer.


Another gift from God is the beautiful music in our church today.  God has placed delightful harmonies in the sounds that surround us and our musicians discover more and more of these harmonies each week and they present them to us in song.


And then we have the children…they are truly gifts from God as we read in Psalm 127.  They are gifts from God in their energy and their vitality; in their innocence; in their spontaneity and in their desire to help us with whatever we are doing at the moment.  We are surrounded by many gifts from God in our church today.


So far, I have mentioned gifts which are visible and audible and tangible.  However, the most important gift from God is not visible or audible or tangible…and that is the gift of faith.  The gift that we hold in our hearts.  The gift of faith is something that is freely given: something that we did not earn or work for.  

 The Bible says that Abraham was the first person of faith.  His parents and uncle and aunts were worshipping pagan idols.  They did not give him the faith.  Faith came to Abraham as a gift from the one true God.  Abraham did not invent the faith.  His family did not give him faith.  His culture did not give him faith.  Faith was strictly a gift from God.


One day God said to Abraham, “Do you believe in me?”  “Yes.”  Abraham said.  “Will you go to the land of Canaan and start a new religion for me?”  “Yes.” Abraham said.  Abraham responded to God’s gift of faith by moving his family hundreds of miles across the desert to start the Jewish religion.


There are two lessons here: Number 1. Faith is a gift from God.  AND Number 2. You have to respond to it to make it effective in your life.  Abraham responded by doing what God had asked him to do.


God is calling us to receive the gift of faith and to make it effective in our lives.  I wish to look at another Bible story in which someone received the gift of faith and make it effective in her life…Jesus saw the gift of faith in a Canaanite woman.


Her daughter who was very ill and she believed that Jesus could heal her.   She did not belong to the Jewish religion; but she had received the gift of faith from God, and she used it and Jesus rewarded her by healing her daughter.  Jesus was fully aware of the gift of faith and fully aware of who was using it and who was not using it.


Moving now to the story of Easter.  Mary Magdalene was a very important person in the story of Easter as we heard in today’s gospel.  She was the first person to see the empty tomb.  And she was the first person to see Jesus and talk to Him on Easter Sunday.  She believed Him when He met her in the garden and said to her, “I am alive and I am going to my Father.”  She believed Him and she ran to tell the other disciples, “He is alive. I have seen the Lord.”

Moving forward to our own day… Looking at things with the eyes of faith, we can see the Risen Lord in our lives today.  We can get brief glimpses of our Risen Savior.  Not visual sightings but brief spiritual experiences of His resurrected presence in our lives.


We won’t see His face like Mary Magdalene did and the doubting Thomas did, and the other disciples did; but we will experience Him heart to heart.  We will find Him in His new home.   Namely:  in the hearts of His people. 


For example, recently I met someone who told me that she quit her job in the Cities and moved up north to care for her ailing brother.  When she told me that story I could see the Spirit of Jesus living in her.


During Holy Week I saw a third grader passing out palms on Palm Sunday.  And on Holy Thursday children came forward to have their feet washed when I asked for volunteers.


Perhaps that is why Jesus said, “If you are looking for the Kingdom of Heaven, look to the children.”   Look at their spirit of generosity and you will see the Kingdom of Heaven.


Last summer I met a couple who said that they were celebrating their wedding anniversary.  I said, “Would that be 60 years?”   “No.  70 years.”  they said.  I saw the Spirit of Jesus in their relationship.  70 years of love in good times and in bad; in sickness and in health.


I will close with a short summary.  During this Easter season, we can get brief glimpses of our Risen Savior.  Not visual sightings but brief spiritual experiences of His resurrected presence in our lives.  We can experience Him heart to heart.


Today we are thinking about the many gifts that God has given us.  Please thank God for the gift of faith because faith gives us a Spiritual outlook on life and helps us to see the Risen Lord in our lives each and every day.

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