Pastor Sherry’s Message for April 18, 2021
Scriptures: Acts 3:12-19; Ps 4; 1 Jn 3:1-7; Lk 24:36-48
The Lord woke me up several days ago with the thought, “Hunt for Red October.” I hit the snooze button several times, and each time I awoke, again, to the thought, “Hunt for Red October.” “How odd,” I mused. “I’ve not thought of that Tom Clancy novel, or the movie (starring Sean Connery) in ages.” I was curious about why the Lord would want me to remember this title. Of what relevance was this? I had seen the movie in the early 1990’s but had never read the book. So I went to the library, checked the book out, and began reading to see if I could figure out what God wanted me to learn.
Do you remember the novel or the movie? It’s the story of a Russian submarine captain who decides to defect to the US with a brand new, nuclear-powered sub armed with 36 nuclear missiles. What I mainly remember from the movie were the underwater sub chase scenes, the fabulous Russian men’s choir singing in the background, and the difficulties and dangers involved in defecting from a hostile nation in a sophisticated—and silent–weapon of mass destruction. Would the U.S. believe the captain’s intentions were peaceful, or would he be considered a rogue or a nut intent on beginning WW3? With no direct communications with the U.S., how would this captain make his desire for asylum known? Meanwhile the Russians set out 58 subs whose mission is to destroy him and the state-of-the-art sub. The United States sets out 3 carrier groups and 1,000 planes both to protect our coastline and to try to ferret him out.
As I read the novel, I realized the film had not clearly revealed the captain’s reasons for defecting. His dear wife of 15 years had died due to incompetence and neglect in a Soviet hospital. She had had an attack of appendicitis that was mishandled. Clancy continues on p.44, The state had robbed him of more than his wife. It had robbed him of a means to assuage his grief with prayer, it had robbed him of the hope—if only an illusion—of ever seeing her again. Yes, the surgeon who responded to her ruptured appendix was drunk and botched the surgery. Yes, the antibiotics provided to fight infection were inferior and ineffective. But, in addition, the communist party had prohibited him to have any faith in God.
This deprived him of utilizing the power of prayer on behalf of his beloved; it also denied him any hope of seeing her again in the afterlife.
Jack Ryan, the American consultant to the CIA who realizes the Russian captain wants to defect, summarizes the psychological profile of defectors during the Cold War (p.291): They tended to understand the inequities of life under Communism; the lack of justice (party members were always treated better than others; the inability to develop as an individual; a desire for a better life; and the grayness of life in Russia.
I think the Lord brought this book to my mind this week to remind me, and us, of the differences between life lived in a totalitarian society vs. the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. Compare what the Russian captain was trying to escape from—a harsh, cold political reality– to the picture presented in our Scriptures today—a grace-filled and loving spiritual one:
Acts 3:12-19 Peter and John are going to the Temple at 3:00p.m. to pray. Remember, the new Christian Church was composed only of Jewish believers at this point, and many continued their Jewish religious observances. A crippled panhandler asks them for money, much in the way we see homeless with their signs at the corners of our city streets, or at the on/off ramps of our interstates. Peter replies, famously, (v.6) Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” What a gracious response! Peter and John lift the guy to his feet, and his feet and ankles realign as they are made strong. The beggar has asked for money, but he receives a healing. He’s asked for money–provision for a day or two–but Peter and John give him the ability to support himself the rest of his life. This is the first recorded miracle of the infant Church.
This incident also prompts Peter’s 2nd sermon. Once again, he emphasizes the facts that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead. Once again, he asserts the need for repentance for sin and faith in Christ. Dr. Luke, the author of Acts, tells us 5,000 men (not to mention women and children) at the Temple that day came to faith in Jesus. (Remember Peter’s sermon on Pentecost resulted in 3,000 conversions). Peter is on a roll! Clearly conviction plus and encounter with Christ changes people’s lives.
Psalm 4 This psalm of David constitutes a prayer for relief.
In it,the King appeals to God for help (perhaps for end of a drought).
In verses 2-3, he inquires of his people why they seek help from fake gods rather than the One True God. In verses 4-5, he urges his people not to give way to exasperation, anger, or anxiety, but to put their trust in the Lord. In verses 6-8, he reminds us all that God is good to us and that He offers provision and peace. Our God is neither asleep at the wheel, nor careless, nor incompetent. We can place the fate of our loved ones in His hands when they are hospitalized. We can trust in the power of prayer. Furthermore, we don’t have to live in a gray, colorless, scary, or hopeless world—or feel totally alone, up against hostile and unfeeling forces– because we are loved and cared for by our God.
1st John 3:1-7 The Apostle John urges us to live like we know Jesus.
He is saying that our lives ought to demonstrate the fact that we are “in Christ.” Knowing Jesus should make a positive difference in the way we relate to God and to others. We don’t just talk the talk, spinning the impression that we love Jesus; but we actively walk it out. We try to keep short sin accounts with God. We ask His forgiveness daily. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit who encourages us to behave like Jesus. We are kind, loving, and forgiving of others. Our lives truly are our witness.
As the novel makes clear, the Communist Party does not trust individuals to do the right thing. So they spy on and infiltrate and threaten for compliance. Anyone who makes a mistake or a poor decision is often never heard of again—talk about “Cancel Culture.” There is no grace and no forgiveness, only threat and punishment. Praise God this is not the case for us with our God.
Luke 24:36-48 Rather than chastise the Apostles for having abandoned Him during His trials and His crucifixion, in this Post-Resurrection passage, Jesus greets them with good will; offers to dine with them (also demonstrating He was not a ghost, as spirits do not eat); and opens up for them the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. What a fabulous Bible Study that must have been! Messiah Himself teaches them how the Old Testament predicted and described Him, as well as how He fulfilled every “jot and tittle.” What grace! What mercy! With the possible exception of John, they have all let Him down. He doesn’t retaliate. He doesn’t try to execute them (like the Russians wish to do to the captain of the Red October). Instead, He reinstates, reassures, equips and encourages them.
He also goes on to entrust them with a great mission: take what He has taught them into the world…
1.) Beginning with Jerusalem (Wellborn);
2.) And as Dr. Luke continues in Acts 1:8, then out to all of Judea (Suwannee County);
3.) Then up to Samaria (the state of Florida);
4.) And then to all the world (the United States and beyond).
He overlooks (or simply accepts) their human frailties, and knowing their potential, gives them a goal, a new purpose for living. This is another place in the novel where the Communist party failed the sub commander. Despite his years of loyal service, and his irreplaceable skill and experience, they are so frightened by his defection that they would rather kill him than repatriate him. Thank God our Lord offers us chance after chance after chance!
Communism, socialism, and fascism (totalitarianism) often promise an equal treatment of people and a fair distribution of wealth and goods–but none of them delivers. Rather than having our freedoms restricted, we, as Christ-followers, are free to be ourselves and to develop our God-given gifts and talents. We live in the Light of Christ, so our lives are not gray! Rather than feeling anxious, paranoid, angry or depressed, we can feel confident because our God gives us a hope and a future (See Jeremiah 29:11). Rather than responding punitively or looking for revenge, we can give our concerns to the Lord, ask His forgiveness for our sins, and trust Him to vindicate us. Rather than Hunting for Red October—or trying to escape with it–our hunt/our aim/our efforts should be to live a life pleasing to our gracious God. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ! Alleluia! Alleluia!
©2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams