When God calls us into redemption of the world, we sometimes don’t like what we’re called to do, but if we obey Him we will find that God has gone before us, that His grace is more generous and patient than we thought, and that the life we saved was actually our own. Didn’t Jesus say something like this? “He who loses his life, for me and for the gospel, will save it,” (Mark 8:35).
Most of us admire Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for their courage; but behind their courage is a value that keeps them standing tall. This is more, then, than a story of how to stand up in a moment of decision; it’s also a reminder that obedience might cost us all we have. This sermon will examine that tension and help us understand explore what kept these three on their feet.
It’s been said that you can’t have the right friends if you don’t have the right enemies. In this popular story, we are called to confront our enemies in the Name and power of God. But our posture is not one of anger or violence, but one of humility and complete trust that “God will hand our enemies over” in His time and in His way. Our battle is not for our sake, and it is not in our armor, but in His “so that the whole world will know that there is a God and that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s,” (17:46-47).
What do we do when life has become “bitter” for us or, worse yet, it seems that “the LORD himself has raised his fist against us?” The book of Ruth gives us a snapshot of one seemingly insignificant family during the days when the Judges ruled in Israel. God seems silent and for Naomi and Ruth, the future looks bleak. But Ruth and Boaz show us how living in the freedom of and maybe from the law sets them free. They are living in the way of the Gospel and God continues to be faithful to His promise through this exceedingly significant family.
The success of any venture is disproportionate to one person, to the one who is called. But what if that person doesn’t feel called? What if they’re not very good at the thing God calls them to do? Many of us have been in that place and some are in it now. “Fake it till you make it,” is the most common approach. But here is a better one: Take off your shoes for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Moses is an example of someone, like us, who is called out of our weakness instead of our strength. Rather than fighting against our deficiencies, or hiding them as is more common today, Moses encourages us to use them as leverage for the power of God.
In between the dream and the reality is a long and barren stretch known as “middle time,” where old dreams go to die. Somewhere between the “already” and the “not yet” is a valley fraught with temptations to compromise or to despair. But to those who hold onto these God-given dreams, God will open new horizons beyond our imagination.
Have you ever wanted something, more than anything, only to get it and be asked to lay it down again? “Take your son, your only son whom you love . . . and sacrifice him there (on Moriah),” (Gen. 22:2). This unspeakable ask, from God to Abraham, to sacrifice the very thing God gave us is at the core of our faith. It is something God himself has done (see John 3:16) and something every one of us, at one time or another, will be asked to do. But it is here, at the altar, where God raises what we sacrifice so that it is more powerful than before (see Heb. 11:19).
Noah and The Flood. For many of us, we know the story, we learned about it in Sunday School. And yet for others they know it only from the people who are debating the historical facts in the public square. In both these cases, the purpose for telling this ancient story gets submerged. Craig Bartholomew wrote “A major feature of any story is its central conflict, the thing that goes wrong and needs to be fixed.” The Flood story is about the relationship and conflict between God and creation. The climax involves a deluge of water never encountered before and a boat full of animals. The resolution; well, that’s the plot twist in our story.
Henri Nouwen said, “One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are.” How do we find ourselves again? We re-collect our stories by recollecting the Story of God. In other words, we remember by retelling. The overarching narrative of Scripture and the individuals stories in the library of the Bible, answer our most foundational human question, “Who am I?” with an ever better divine one, “Who is God?”. In our summer series we’ll explore how God reveals himself to humanity in a series of Old Testament stories, starting at the beginning: God creating and his unique imprint on the first humans: “the Imago Dei”.