Sunday, September 29, 2013

Call On My Name

Pastor Brad Shannon welcomed us warmly on this bright autumn day with the colors beginning to burst. In welcoming us he said today's theme would focus on the difference between hoping for something and hoping in Someone.

1) For the next 3 days we need people who can stand watch over the burning of the log piles across the street where the new church is to be built. Please contact Bob Winship if you can help in any way. Responsibilities are minimal. We just need someone present.
2) Family Nights begin this Wednesday. Leonard will be making meals as we meet for Bible study and  activities for youth. 6:00-7:30
3) We're having friendship dinners the next three months. Sign up sheet is in the back of the sanctuary. Once a month dinners with other members and friends of our church family to help strengthen ties and get to know one another.
4) Next Saturday is our church bazaar at Twig Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Volunteers are always helpful for setting up or cleaning up.
5) Matt Danielski shared that because scrap yard prices are up, he is helping to gather scrap metal to raise money for the new building. If you have scrap metal or old vehicles you wish to donate, please contact Matt to make arrangements.

Chuck opened the service by reading a portion of Psalm 103 and then sang Dallas Holm's I'll Rise Again with Ken and Darlene. After the offering, prayers and a time of worship Brad took the pulpit to talk about hope.

Call On My Name
In the days of Samuel, Israel was in an ongoing conflict with the Philistines. After one of Israel's defeats the leaders decided to improve their odds of victory by carrying the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them. Their erroneous idea was that God would not allow the Ark to be captured because it was the symbol of God's presence with Israel.

Brad used this story from I Samuel 5 to illustrate the manner in which we often have a false basis for hope and that ultimately this kind of hope almost always disappoints. Perhaps it is our hope to have a cancer test come up negative or for a job interview to work out. Sometimes these things fall our way, but sometimes they don't. Then what?

Israel hoped to win the battle but instead lost the ark.

The Philistines were beside themselves at this turn of events, for they believed -- again falsely -- that capturing the ark proved that their god Dagon was stronger than the God if Israel. In the aftermath of battle they placed the ark of God inside the temple of Dagon in Ashdod. But the next day the statue of Dagon was fallen on its face, as if worshiping the Ark. The Philistines propped up the statue of their god but during the night Dagon not only had fallen toward the Ark, his hands and head had broken off.

The Philistines became frightened by these things and sent the ark of God to Gath, another Philistine city. When the people there had an outbreak of tumors and people of all ages were dying, they moved the ark of God yet again, this time to Ekron. Again, people began to die and those who did not developed ugly tumors. Ultimately the leaders decided the ark of God needed to be returned to Israel.

Brad used this story to talk about three-day stories. The Bible is full of such stories. In the capture of the ark by the Philistines we see the pattern. First day: the ark is captured. It is a day of sorrow, loss of hope and despair. There is no answer as to how or why this was allowed to happen. The second act in the three-day story is a time of uncertainty, ambiguity. The day after the ark was captured we find Dagon fallen on his face before the ark. What next?

On day three we see God's vindication. Not only is Dagon, the statue, knocked over yet again, he is broken in pieces.

Examples of this pattern abound. From the story of Joseph, to Esther, to Jonah and elsewhere we see it repeated. Hosea 6:1-2 spells it out like this...

1 “Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.

Pastor Brad then compared Jesus to the ark of God, who "became flesh and tabernacled among us." Jesus was not, during His lifetime, "God in a box" who could be manipulated to benefit people with an agenda, and today He is the same Jesus. Not a token to be carried around in our pocket for good luck, but a living God....

At the end of His time on earth He still would not be what the Pharisees or the Romans or the Zealots... and as a result He was nailed to a cross. That was day one of the three-day story. The Messiah was unexpectedly defeated, whipped, beaten, stripped, publicly humiliated and crucified. The second day was that uncertain, ambiguous period. Roman guards had been posted and a rock rolled in front of the tomb. But then there was day three, God's day. Who could have expected this?

You never know what might happen on a third day. When we're in the uncertain second day of confusion and ambiguity, we can't look at circumstances for our hope. God is our hope, and He alone will never disappoint.

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