Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Object of Our Faith

Punctuality is not a strong suit in our church family. Maybe that isn't such a bad thing in a world so corporate with everything timed to a tightly wound schedule. I doubt that Jesus was impatiently waiting for the crowds to get seated so he could start the Sermon on the Mount "on time." For what it's worth, in our summer period we're a bit loose on this point, but the warmth of our church family is visible everywhere as we gather on Sunday mornings. And it was another great message from our pastor today.

Pastor Brad came to the front and welcomed us as he always does. "I’m grateful you’re here today. Today I’m going to talk about the object of our faith. I am convinced that the size of the God we worship determines the trajectory of our lives." He summarized main points of previous sermons in our summer series and noted today's theme.

1. Brooke showed us a blue binder in which everyone has been invited to sign up for the various activities and volunteer opportunities here at New Life Covenant.
2. Gwen mentioned that next Sunday is Rally Sunday, and thanked everyone who is making dirt pies. Bring lawn chairs, and kites if you have them.
3. Chuck noted that $1200 was raised for homeless and needy families in Duluth.
4. Elsa invited everyone involved with our youth to an all youth group bonfire at Borndal’s next Saturday evening. Also next Sunday is Elsa’s end of the year in service to us. She thanked us for our hospitality and the wonderful connections she made with us.

Darlene transitioned us into worship as Brad quotes from Psalm 24 saying "Lift up your heads O gates… that the King of Glory should come in.”

We sang a pair of hymns including Amazing Love.

The Scripture reading was from John 6:56-69 followed by a time of prayer in which we lifted up again the many needs in our church family.

The Object of Faith

Pastor Brad's sermon was based on a familiar old story from the book of Judges, the story of Gideon. He began by sharing one of the games he used to play when his kids were small. He'd ask, “How big are you?” And he'd say, “I’m so big.” The idea being that he wanted his children to feel boundless in terms of their futures. 

This was just a game, but the question Brad wanted us to consider is no game at all. How big is your God? How we live is a consequence of how we view God. Do you have an all powerful, all-present, all-loving, totally capable God? We will live differently if our God is shrunken and small. The result is stagnation and fear when our God is too small.

We do not serve a little tribal God. Whatever we need our God is bigger.

In Judges 6, before Israel had kings like David, the Israelites had problems, one of them being the Midianites. This was all setup for the story of Gideon.

The Midianites did more than harass Israel. They took Israel's crops at harvest time, ravished their lands and left Israel impoverished. For this reason the story begins with Gideon threshing wheat in a wine press. He was terrified of the Midianites who might spy him and take his wheat. A winepress is far from the ideal place to thresh wheat. It is a small, confined space. Furthermore it lacks the wind necessary to thresh properly. But for Gideon is was safe, because he lived in fear of the Midianites.

Gideon was not a Samson, nor a super hero.But the angel of the Lord came to Gideon and called him a mighty warrior. Gideon didn't see himself this way at all. When we have a little God we don’t believe things can ever change. Our job simply becomes a matter of survival. Gideon rationalized his passivity by his smallness, the smallest member of the weakest tribe, most insignificant.

God’s response: “I will be with you and you will strike down the Midianites with one hand."

What is unthinkable and undoable on our own becomes possible when God is with us. “You don’t have to live your life in hiding. You have a great big God and He has called you to do something, so get on with it. “

Gideon was told to knock down the altar to Baal, god of a fertility cult that involved infant sacrifice. 

Gideon and ten of his servants knock down the altar… at night. He was still scared to publicly carry out God's will. His dad had built the altar but responded in this surprising way: if Baal is God he will take care of it.

God then asks Gideon to lead Israel against the Midianites. Gideon asks God for a confirmation, and what follows in the famous incident with the fleece.God affirms that he is with Gideon. Gideon then rounds up an army, is told to go to battle, to lead.

Though Gideon army was outnumbered 4 to 1 God says he has too many men for this battle. Gideon is instructed to send everyone home who is afraid. 22,000 went home.

But the army was still not small enough. There was another sifting so that Gideon was left with 300 men vs. 120,000 Midianites, 450 to one odds.

God says, “It’s my battle. You don’t have to wrestle with fear.”

Brad reminded us that the single most repeated commandment in Scripture is “Fear not.”

Modern genome science claims to have found the worry gene. Worry is a common malady. Problems and outcomes we have no control over….. But at times when overwhelmed I sometimes here God say to me, “You and I are going to walk through this thing together. Just trust me.”

OK God, I will live this life with as much joy and hope as possible. God is enough to see us through. God is the inner reality. Nobody else can give this kind of peace. It is a peace that comes from God alone. God says, “I am bigger than your problems, your regrets.“

And in the empty tomb we see that God is bigger than death itself.

God knows about the Midianites in your life. He knows you. He knows about your worries. He knows about your kids. He knows what you’ve lost. He knows about the divorce. He knows about the divorce. He knows about the crumbling marriage. He knows about the affair. He knows about the abortion. He knows about the job failure. He knows about where you are stagnant. He knows where your dreams have died. But He has better dreams for you. If you just ask him, He will be a bigger presence in your life than you have known.

After the closing hymn we celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

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