Going Deeper 12/17/18

First, a word of law, a word of warning from our Gospel reading from Luke: John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits worthy of repentance.”  And now a word of Gospel, a word of grace from our reading from Zephaniah:  Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout… Rejoice and exult with all your heart… The Lord has taken away the judgments against you.  Thus far our texts.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.
I was walking along the beach a couple of weeks ago during our vacation in Mexico and a question came to mind: Just how does my accumulated wisdom and knowledge—60+ years worth now—compare to the wisdom and knowledge of God, our Creator.  I looked down at the sand at my feet and wondered if the comparison would be akin to one tiny grain of sand in contrast to the sands that comprised that very long beach.  
I then looked out at the Pacific Ocean—which as you may know means “calm and peaceful by nature”—and wondered if my understanding of things in comparison to God’s amounted to anything more than a drop in contrast to the vast ocean.  My first reaction was not really “calm and peaceful by nature.”  I felt very small and incredibly insignificant.
Isaiah 55:8 came to mind: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”  That strikes me as a good and necessary perspective… at least as a good place to start.  Humility is a good thing.
A quick aside: the other day when I was writing this sermon, I decided to restart some Christian music I had started earlier in the morning, and it just so happened that this is what played: (Oceans: 3:30-4:39)  Kind of a cool ‘coincidence’, wouldn’t you agree?
Now, back to humility.  I’ve been made acutely aware of my unworthiness to be such a beloved and blessed child of God.  My humility is impacted not only by how small I am in comparison to God, but even more so by my awareness of my deep sinful brokenness.  Our omniscient Father knows everything about us, and speaks the truth to us, calling us to repentance.  Can any of us respond to John’s warning: “hey, easy big guy. I have born fruits worthy of repentance.”  I can’t; I still have too many weaknesses I have not overcome, thorns in my flesh that God, in His wisdom, has not removed, or that I in my small faith have not succeeded in removing.  
And beyond that, I have not practiced the kind of radical generosity John calls for.  I have a lot more coats and a lot more food that could be shared with those who have none.  No, my work doesn’t put me in a position to exploit others like the tax collectors and soldiers in our text… or does it?  I do think my consumption and purchase habits may very well exploit the poor at times.
Such feelings are far from calm and peaceful.  But as painful as they are, they do prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.  Repentance is the prelude to joy.  The Messiah came to deliver us from the messes… the messes sin has made of our lives and of our broken world.  
So, here is where my thoughts have taken me: the fact of the matter is I really have no idea how insignificant I am in contrast to God, but I do know this: the infinitely powerful, all-knowing and everywhere-present and holy Creator of the universe, knows every bit of my sin and shame and brokenness… even better than I do.  
And yet He loves me unconditionally.  My Father knows me by name… even knows how many hairs I have on my head.  I can sing aloud… shout… rejoice and exult with all my heart…because the Lord has taken away the judgments against me.
More words from Isaiah: “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing!  For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.  But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me."  Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.  See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.
At another point on our trip I was struck by something: I was thinking about how Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motions might apply to our theology and our faith life.  (I know, I’m weird!)  But I am going to develop this line of thought a little more deeply sometime.  
For now, I would like us to consider the third law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Think about it… does that not reflect God’s revealed will for us, His incredible, love-inspired and grace-driven saving actions call for an equal reaction.  Our response to God’s love ought to be love-inspired and grace-driven discipleship, a gratitude-based desire to love as we’ve been loved, to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, to bless as we’ve been blessed.
You see, in a sense this is a natural force, reflecting our created nature.  Led and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, we can more and more recapture our created nature.  In response to the love of God in Jesus, the sacrificial infinite love which moved God to rescue and redeem us at a great cost, we are set in motion to bear fruit worthy of repentance.  
This is rooted, really, in a falling deeper and deeper in love with God, of recognizing the truth that no matter how broken our lives have been, no matter how weak we may continue to be, God’s love has no end.  And His love is not only behind His motive to save us, that very same love is behind is calling for us to follow Him in grateful obedience.  When we live more and more fully in the way of Jesus, in the way of radical love and service and self-sacrifice, our lives are more fulfilling, more purposeful, more joyful.  No, they are not really made easier, but they are made better.
Let us pray:  Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.  Oh, Jesus, you're my God!  I will call upon Your name.  Keep my eyes above the waves. My soul will rest in Your embrace.  I am Yours and You are mine.  Amen

 

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