April 16, 2018
“Almighty, Powerful God!” ~ Sermon for Sunday, April 15, 2018
For our gospel reading this morning I chose the lectionary passage from 1 John.
We don’t often venture into these later letters and Luke’s gospel this morning covered the same ‘locked room’ visit that we heard from John’s gospel last week.
The writer of 1 John is thought by some scholars to be the same as the writer of the book of John, or a follower of the original John.
The letter, more like an essay, is being written sometime around the year 100 perhaps addressed to a group that has become disenchanted with the early Jesus movement.
John encourages them to remember what they had been taught.
Hear now a reading from 1 John 3: 1-20.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn in this time of worship may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Our women’s bible study group has been working our way through Exodus – the story of the Israelites escape from slavery to the promised land.
The book is beautifully written and we take just a bit each week and read it out loud and then try to discern what is saying to us today.
We started with a pre-packaged commentary but quickly put it aside when we realized that our own dialogue was more interesting.
Last week we read the passage called ‘Moses Song’ a hymn of praise sung after the Israelites make their way to safety across the parted Red Sea.
The song alternates verses of praise of an almighty God who has done great things and gloating over the fate of the enemies.
We wondered about the enemy slaying and what it said about God.
We worried that God’s destruction of the Israelite’s enemies didn’t sound like the loving God we embrace.
Then we had a bit of an epiphany.
We came to realize that the Red Sea story was our story.
We started talking about times that we have felt trapped between an ocean and an angry mob and how God always shows up.
Cammiel labeled these our ‘Red Sea Moments.’
We began reflecting on how often God shows up when we least expect it – or when we have given up.
The most important thing that came out of our session was the recognition that perhaps we have tamed our God too much.
We wondered if it was possible that we have created God in our image rather than embracing the idea that we are created in God’s image.
When we shy away from a fearsome, powerful, almighty God aren’t we suggesting that God is really just like us?
God is not just like us.
When we dismiss the ‘Old Testament God’ as too violent, we are applying our own ideas of how God ought to act.
Do we really want a God who is always going to make us feel good?
The gospel is bold in its claims of God’s power, but we often forget that.
We shudder when we read about God smiting the enemies but wouldn’t you want God to mete out the judgment that you cannot?
I started thinking about what type of enemies pursue us to our Red Sea moments and I pictured children being subject to chemical weapons; addicts being pursued by dealers offering deadly drugs; women being raped.
Don’t we want God to respond to evil in the world?
The writer of 1John is quite clear about the difference between good and evil.
“Lawlessness is sin;” sin is committed by the child of the devil but we are children of God.
We have been gifted, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit with the grace to do the right thing.
Simply by loving one another. “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
The most important line in this passage is “God is greater than our hearts, and God knows everything.
That is an amazing statement.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing that you can hide from God.
I think that is a comfort, but for some it might be the opposite.
I love knowing that God knows everything about me.
As a child of God I can expect unconditional love – as long as I abide in God and let God abide in me.
We most often talk about God as ‘gracious, loving, and forgiving.’
I think it is at our own peril that we forget to talk about God as all-knowing, powerful, almighty.
In my Easter sermon I quoted psalm 128 “Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.”
Preachers are quick to point out that ‘fear’ in scripture really means ‘love’ today.
What if it means ‘fear?’
I like the idea that God is so powerful, so almighty that God inspires awe and fear in us.
I don’t really want a God who is going to be quiet and tame and not offend anyone.
Culturally, we have abandoned institutional authority;
we have decided that we are better off pursuing our own self interest rather than worrying about the common good.
We have adopted a posture of self-importance that makes us bigger than God.
Well, my friends, later today we are going to celebrate the Creation story.
In song and music we are going to celebrate the powers of an almighty God who created heaven and earth and all that inhabit them.
I invite you to reflect on your own accomplishments, your own power, your own might and compare them to the Creator.
Look through your history books for your own ‘Red Sea’ moments and notice who else was there.
We ought to be fearful; we ought to bow down; we ought to love one another exactly as God has loved us.
Every time I think I am important I retreat to nature to remind myself how small a part I play in this cosmic drama.
I look at the trees and the mountains and the sky and I am in awe.
This is how I want to live…in awe, in wonder, above the pettiness of day-to-day tasks.
I want to be a little bit afraid of a powerful, almighty God because as a child, a child of God, I know that comfort will be mine.
I know that God will hold me tenderly in God’s embrace welcoming me safely to shore on the other side of the Red Sea free from the relentless pursuit of my enemies.
If there is anything that defines followers of Jesus it’s our faith in resurrection – what can be mightier than that – raising someone from the dead.
In this Easter season, we have the opportunity of reaffirming this faith, moving deeper into its mystery, and allowing it to permeate our lives still more.
As we have seen, though, resurrection living is not just about us as individuals – it connects us with others in communities of faith.
But, it also leads us back out into the world to connect with all people and with the creation that God loves.
That’s why Jesus calls his disciples to be “witnesses” to his resurrection.
What is also significant about the resurrection is that it reveals the truth about Jesus’ message and mission.
When Jesus rose, it was not just about him becoming alive again as an individual who lived long ago.
It was about the amazing truth that God’s Reign – God’s grace, compassion, peace, justice and love – cannot be defeated even by death.
This is powerful.
This means that being a witness to Jesus is not just about believing that he rose again.
It’s about living the eternal values of Jesus now and inviting others into the abundant, eternal life of Christ now.
So, like Peter in the Acts 3 reading, you may need to use words to share Christ’s life, but you will definitely need to make your commitment to Christ’s values, Christ’s gracious actions and Christ’s welcoming acceptance of others visible.
Being witnesses is about letting the resurrection impact the world through us as we embody the character and purposes of Jesus.
We are meant to have a faith as powerful as God!
Our hymns this morning testify to this grand faith:
Our God Is an Awesome God
O Worship the King
How Great Thou Art
These are the words penned by our ancestors in faith who understood that the kingdom and the power and the glory are all Gods!
Let us pray.
Almighty, wonderful, loving God we turn to you this day seeking a bold faith that will honor the magnitude of your mercy.
Help us to remember that you, Creator God, are powerful beyond our imaginations.
Restore our belief in your power to be present in every moment of our lives.
Grant us the grace, we pray to wonder at the mystery of Creation and our role in your kingdom.
Hear our prayers this day for those whom we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For those who are trapped in ‘Red Sea’ moments we pray that your Holy Spirit will guide them to safe land.
Hear us now, in the sacred silence of this Meetinghouse as we turn our hearts to you….Amen.