Sunday, April 12, 2009

How Big Is Your God?

Friday evening, we shared a thoughtful, reflective Good Friday service called Tenebrae. Tenebrae is Latin for “shadows” or “darkness.” As music and readings detailing the events at Calvary were shared, the candles were slowly extinguished. We remembered the price Jesus paid to redeem us from our sins. We remembered His last words, and shared in the solemnity of that experience. It was very special service. The sparseness of the sanctuary and somber mood stood in stark contrast to the color and excitement we encountered this morning upon entering.

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Jesus is alive!

We shared an Easter breakfast downstairs at 9:00 a.m., followed by an Easter Egg Hunt for the younger ones. The service itself began with the customary greetings, a brief announcement about the building committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, and a time of worship.

Because Resurrection Sunday is a time of new beginnings, we received a batch of new members into the church family this morning. They were: Tony & Jeannette Ciaccio, Roschelle Landsverk, Brent & Ann Lee, Norm & Mae Livgard, Ed & Susie Newman, and Rob & Jen Strom.

The Scripture readings and a time of prayer followed.
Psalm 118:1-4, 14-24
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 28:1-10

Shylee Smith Lunde then shared a beautiful solo with us after which our pastor, Brad Shannon, began his message.

How Big Is Your God?

Brad began with how kids when their little love to spread their arms and say how big they are. Or how big their love is, or whatever. But the real question on the table this morning, Brad stated, is this. How big is Christ in your life?

Jesus claimed to be God in human form and He verified His claims by rising from the dead. Jesus is alive!

The apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 15, called the resurrection the hingepoint of history. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead affirms the faith, and certifies that all He said was true.

At this point Brad detoured to ask questions about our human limits. How long can we go without food? 30 days. How long without sleep? 10 days. How many hours can we dance? 100. How far can we walk? 500 to 600 miles. But how long can we go without water? Only three days.

Water is central to our lives. And in the especially arid Middle East, water is an even more pressing concern. This is in part behind the point Jesus was making when He encountered the woman at the well in John 4. The idea of an eternal well that would flow up without end captured her imagination. Jesus was speaking of the well of living water that flows from God, the only well that really satisfies our deepest thirst. The rest of the sermon focused on the thirsts most common to humankind.

First, our thirst for an answer to the meaning of life... Brad cited several songs from the 60’s which wrestled with life’s tough questions, including Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind, Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence, and the Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

T.S.Eliot, who became a Christian after rejecting the futility of the modern world’s empty path once wrote about the condition of godless man in this manner.

And the wind shall say:
"Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls . . ."

A second thirst that is common amongst us is the thirst for community. We desire to be connected, to be part of a group, to have peers, friends, relationship. We all seek deeper connections. But what is it that we really seek?

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jer. 2:13)

Every heart is like a cistern. When we open the lid and allow God to fill it, indeed He fills it to the brim and overflowing. If we try to fill our hearts with something else, it leaves us empty.

Brad cited an amusing story about a relationship he had with a girl that he thought was special, but she pushed him away. At the time he thought she was his everything. But after the third rejection, God spoke to him and said, “She’s not your everything. I am your everything.”

A relationship with God is the deep connection we all seek.

The thirst to be clean is a third longing we all have. Brad shared how when he was mowing fields on a hot summer day, getting all sweaty and having the swirling dust stick to his skin… he had only one thought pre-eminent in his mind. “I’ve got to have a shower.” It feels good to be clean.

Likewise, our souls have an aversion to moral dirt. Some of us have lived large portions of our lives stained by our acts. Some of us wonder, “Would people still love me if they knew who I really was and what I’ve really done?”

In Psalm 51 David pleads, “Cleanse me… wash me… create in me a pure heart.” This is the deep thirst of every human heart. And when we look at the cross, what Jesus did for us, it satisfies this deep longing, for Jesus took on our sin, our uncleanness, to make us clean. Who needs a shower? Humble yourselves… He wants to wash you.

The final thirst we share is for a grander vision. Several of the disciples had been fisherman. It was a commercial activity that provided for their families. But Jesus offered them something more, to become fishers of men. To work with Him to restore a broken world. To the disciples, and to us, He puts forth this question: Are you about dollars or destinies?

Jesus is alive. When you find God’s grander vision, you’ll see… this is it.

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