John 3:14-21


Many of you who grew up with King James Gift Bibles often had part of the print in red.  In opening your Bible when it was new, you found that an editor and a printer had painstakingly, and at significant cost, put just the words of Jesus in RED! Goodness! Jesus’ words must be very special! They are. What are some of those words? They include blessings like:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.


Those are just three blessings from the mouth of Jesus recorded in Matthew chapter five. Here is one more recorded in Matthew:

“Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

Also, hear these words of blessing that Jesus offered in John’s gospel:

“Peace be with you.”


“Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe.”


Now: according to the red-letter Bible, Jesus said these blessing words too:

“God so loved the world the he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever

believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”


Even though we have found words that are intended to bless us, are there actions too, that we receive from above, or from others, or from unexplainable events that could also be blessings from Jesus?


The gifted theologian Henri Nouwen wrote these words in his book Our Greatest Gift:

The younger we are, the more people we need so that we may live; the older we become, the more people we again need to live. Life is lived from dependence to dependence. That’s the mystery that God has revealed to us through Jesus, whose life was a journey from the manger to the cross. Born in complete dependence on those who surrounded him, Jesus died as a passive victim of other people’s actions and decisions….[He goes on to say] I have been blessed by an experience that has made all of this clear to me. A few years ago, I was hit by a car while walking along a roadside and brought to the hospital with a ruptured spleen. The doctor told me she wasn’t sure that I would make it through surgery. I did, but the hours lived before and after the operation allowed me to get in touch with my childhood as never before. Bound with straps on a table that looked like a cross, surrounded by masked figures, I experienced my complete dependence…. All at once, I knew that all human dependencies are embedded in a divine dependence and that divine dependence makes dying part of a greater and much vaster way of living. This experience was so real, so basic, and so all-pervasive that it changed radically my sense of self and affected profoundly my state of consciousness.


Could it be that our states of dependence are supposed to bless us rather than burden us? If Jesus continues to want to bless us, in what form does it happen? Isn’t the burden of a young child being dependent on parents actually the blessing of having a newborn? Could it be that our dependence as people grow older is intended to bless the family too?  Here’s my example: my mother and father were healthy and independent people through June of 2016. My dad did regular email communications with me and my brother and two sisters. Then my Dad died, and my mother started to grow more dependent: dependent on friends, repairmen, Women’s Circles, and her family. After a stroke she became even more dependent so she moved from our home of 52 years into a so called “independent living” Community, which in fact, includes very little truly independent living. I have been witnessing dependence and acknowledging what Henri Nouwen described. My brother and two sisters and I have communicated more with each other now than when my father was alive. We have each, independently, gone to visit and assist my mother. My two sisters will go again this week. Perhaps it is a strangely divine gift that my mother’s need for us and for others is drawing us more together.


Are any of you, like me, old enough to remember Roy Rogers and Dale Evans?

Dale Evans wrote this in her book called Life is a Blessing:

On August 26, 1950, my husband, Roy Rogers and I became the parents of a baby girl, Robin Elizabeth, who was called our “little angel” by her Daddy. Had we not been committed Christians when we were told that she was [a Down’s Syndrome child] the news would have totally destroyed us, since we are quite vulnerable to the needs of children. When advised to put our Robin in a foster home, one that understood the plight of the Down’s syndrome child, Roy said, “We are taking our baby home. God has a purpose for allowing this, and if we put her away, we will never know it.” As for myself [Dale Evans Rogers continued] I could not imagine putting away any child of mine. Romans 8:28 declares: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” How I thank God for the two years He let us minister to our little angel, for she really was the “cementer” of our Christian commitment.


“God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” Jesus is saying that about himself, not out of pain, but out of love! “I and the Father are one” Jesus once said. This was a team decision. Could the Father/Son team have considered: “How can we show the human race how much we care? How can we show them that purpose can be pulled from the jaws of tragedy, or what appears to be a tragedy at the time?” How many ways does Jesus bless us, not only with words shared in dreams or during our day, but also through events that pull us out of life’s routines and schedules?

Here’s another true story:

A woman in our congregation has a grown son Frank. He was driving to his home in St. Augustine this week. The traffic was very heavy. He was crossing a bridge and stopped because of traffic. It was frustrating. Suddenly he witnessed an accident: one vehicle in front of him ran into the back of another. The front car occupants actually drove away! The man behind them appeared to be very hurt. Frank pulled off the road and ran to help. The driver of that vehicle was unconscious and looked to be dead. He was very large. Another man and Frank pulled him out and laid him on the side of the road. He had stopped breathing and there appeared to be no pulse. So Frank got on top of him and started doing CPR on his chest, pushing hard to perhaps make him breathe again. It was tiring and seemed useless.  He paused for a moment when suddenly a firefighter ran up and said “Please move aside sir.” They looked at each other; the firefighter happened to be Frank’s son, Zach, a firefighter, responding to the call! Running up, Zach hadn’t realized it was his father. His team took the unconscious man to the hospital. Later that evening, Zach called his Dad, “Dad, you gave CPR to that man, didn’t you? “Yep,” his father said, “but I’m not sure it did any good.” “Dad, you did it!” Zach exclaimed. The man started breathing and it looks like he will make it!” His Dad said, “I was just at the right place at the right time.” He later spoke to his Mom and told her the story. She replied: “This was part of God’s plan, Frank, for you to get stuck in that slow traffic and be there for that man. And then for Zach to be the first responder on the scene!”  Frank said, “If I had gone through the drive-through at McDonalds instead of walking in, or if I hadn’t been in such traffic, I would not have been there at the right time! But Mom, the beginning of God’s plan was when you adopted me.”

Could it be that your burdens turn out to be blessings? Could it be that your rainy days of pessimism could instead be turned into rainbows of optimism? It has been said that attitude is everything. But there is more than attitude; we also have a Savior who loves us and has a marvelous plan for our lives! “ The apostle Paul said: “When I was a child I thought like a child, but when I grew up I gave up childish things.” Today I want to take you back to the lesson I learned as a child before crossing a street: “Stop, look, and listen.” Imagine that you are at a crossroad now. How can you stop, look, and listen for the blessings of Jesus?

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                                     March 11, 2018