Sermon – 03-08-20 – Lent II – Cycle A
Scripture: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17
Sermon Title: “How God Touches Our Lives”
Bruce and Mary are serving a short-term mission. This is not the repairing-buildings kind of mission. This is share-the-gospel kind of endeavor, like in saving souls. This is a salvation mission. They find themselves in a section of a big city where gangs rule the turf. Bruce and Mary are pretty tough themselves. Their lives as children left a lot to be desired. Before they were “saved,” they were part of a group of bikers – not out to damage or injure but definitely no “Jesus” talk. Now that they have opened their hearts to Jesus, they are eager to share the good feeling and the good news.
When they were looking for an opportunity to witness to their exciting new faith, they heard an ad on their favorite Christian radio programming for young couples to move into a specific area of this big city and make a difference for Christ. It is announced to be a year in length. Without too much analyzing, they apply, they are accepted, they inform their landlord, they pack their meager possessions and off they go.
They take a day to settle in – their apartment was already secured for them by the organization that is paying them to do this work. Mind you, the word “pay” here hardly deserves that name; more in the nature of a tip perhaps. But these two people are zealous. They have just met the Lord and nothing is going to stop their enthusiasm. Well – almost nothing!
Bruce and Mary were led to open their hearts to Christ by a Christian denomination that believes that God pre-determines who will be saved before the person is born. It also means that God pre-determines who will not be saved no matter how hard someone tries.
So they take a stroll in their new neighborhood in early evening to get a feel for the people in the streets on this warm summer day. They say hello and smile. Some smiles are returned, some not. They mention to these people that there will be a small gathering under that tree over there tomorrow evening about this time. “Come and see,” they say.
Same time the next day, Bruce and Mary are under the tree, with their guitars, singing nicely but a bit apprehensively. Will anyone join them? Then they start to wonder between their songs, “How will we know which persons God has predestined to be saved?” Shall we say John 3:16 to everyone as a blanket invitation? Do we tell everyone that God so loved the world that he sent His only beloved Son to die for their sins? Do we tell everyone that Jesus died for them and that he loves each of them? Is that lying?
People gather. Bruce and Mary tell everyone that God loves them and had his Son die for them because how could they not include everyone with that news? Later, alone in their dwelling place, they look at each other with puzzled looks. “What do we believe?” they admitted. When we opened our hearts to Jesus, did we think we were favored ones? Did we think we were exclusive – better than other people?
They each pick up their phones and use a few thumbstrokes to search for Christian beliefs. There they find facts. Aha! For whatever reason some Christians think God totally controls everything in a person’s life. The person is just a puppet attached to the strings that are manipulated in God’s hands. Funny, is it not? I believe that God knows and sees and hears everything but to imagine that God is holding strings in his hands for each person in the world and each cloud and each rain drop or each wild animal and each volcano seems like a comedy. Okay, let’s say there are no strings, it is just that God can control without strings, more like wireless communication that we have on earth. Feels like prison. Of course, with this belief nothing is our responsibility. We can’t be blamed for anything!
Then Mary and Bruce read more. Some other people believe that God just created the world and then turned his back. We are on our own. The hills and the rivers and the oceans and the trees are on their own. No one to watch over us. No one to receiver our prayers. No one to protect us or cheer us. No control! Freedom is nice but it demands a lot of responsibility. We can make our own mistakes and learn the consequences. Really!
When we say, “everything happens for a reason,” if we are believing that God controls everything, then we believe that God plans and makes bad things happen to good people. If we believe that God is doing no controlling and we say “everything happens for a reason” we look around for someone or something to blame. Or we realize that we are to blame! Or that we are totally at the mercy of nature’s whimsy.
Bruce and Mary look at each other and say together, “There must be a better way to believe!” They move to the middle between these two opposing ideas about God.
They say at the same time, “It is about love. Did we not feel an overwhelming sense of being loved when we opened our hearts and Jesus flowed in while the pastor laid hands on our heads? Belief in God has got to be about love! What kind of love did we feel? Love like a parent? Love like a lover? Love like God does not want to lose us? Oh, a love that God wants to save us. He does not want us to be weighed down with our sins, our unkindnesses, our bad timing. He gave Jesus, the Son, to die temporarily – real death you understand – but not for long! God as parent! Loving us so much!” Mary and Bruce feel good. They agree about this understanding of how God fits our lives, how God touches our lives.
However, the next day, when Bruce forgot to look the second time before driving from a stop sign, he is injured and his bicycle is demolished. Where is God? Why did God not place a wall in front of Bruce to keep him safe? Is God not always a loving God? a protecting God? Clearly, it was in Bruce’s power to look to the left again to make sure he had a clear space. What is the reason for this hardship? It was Bruce’s negligence in this case.
Then there is outright evil. Why does God not protect us from evil as our Psalm 121 says? Or does he protect us? How does God work in our lives? How does God touch our lives? I was reminded last week that God does send angels to be close to us, to protect us, to comfort us. Looking at the picture on the cover of our bulletin, we see an angel doing what angels do. Until next week, please be in thought about how God touches your life.