July 15, 2010

Sermon #2

Hi there! In case you haven't noticed, it's been about 2 months since I've posted here. Amazing how time gets away from you when you A) get a computer virus and have to fix the laptop and get a new modem and B) get completely out of the habit of getting up early.

So in an attempt to kickstart my morning habit again, I'm going to give you the second sermon I gave in my leadership class, which I would have posted about the time that I got the virus. It is a bit lengthy I know--remember this wasn't written to be a blog post but rather a 12-minute sermon. But I like the idea of putting this out there. Remember too that I gave this sermon right in the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs. :)

Are You Prepared for the Day of the Lord?

Imagine two hockey players. They’re both on the same team. The team has done very well, and is in the finals for the Stanley cup. The are clearly both very excited, and they are each preparing for the games in different ways.

The first player, we’ll call him Jim, showed up early every day for practice. He worked out in the weight room, ate healthy food, went to bed on time, and in general followed all of the directions that his coach and his trainers gave him.

The second player, let’s call him Bob, grew a beard. Now, I don’t want you to think that I have an issue with any real hockey team that happens to be growing beards. This is an illustration. But Bob was a little bit confused. You see, he had heard all of the superstitions about how important it was as a team to grow a beard, and to not wash his socks, and to wear the same jersey every game, and to put his left skate on before the right one. He still went to practice, but he spent just as much time focusing on all of these superstitions as he did on honing his skill.

Which player do you think will do the best in the game? I’ve got to say Jim is a little more prepared for the big game, isn’t he? He has kept his focus on what is good, and important about hockey, and Bob, well, you could almost say that Bob was worshiping at some rather interesting altars, couldn’t you? He didn’t have faith in the right way to act as a hockey player, and spent time instead trying to satiate these images he had in his head of rituals that would suddenly bestow winning skills on him.

So, what does this mean to us? None of us are professional hockey players. We are, however, in a similar situation. Where Jim and Bob were preparing for the final game, we must prepare, in a way for our final game—the day that we meet with God. So my question for you today is: Are you prepared for the Day of the Lord?

“The Day of the Lord” is a phrase that has been used throughout the Bible and in much biblical commentary. There is a very strong end-times connotation to it, from our perspective, because it speaks to the day when Christ will return. It speaks to the rule of God on earth. It speaks to a day when we will all stand before God and account for our actions. Pretty fun stuff, huh?

But The Day of the Lord was not just a new testament theory. The Day of the Lord was known to the Jews of the Old Testament, because remember they were looking forward to the coming of the messiah, who we know as Jesus Christ.

But the problem is that no one knew when he was coming.

And the problem is that the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel were experiencing some peaceful, prosperous times. And what happens when humans, fallen, broken humans, experience peaceful, prosperous times? They often get complacent. They begin to develop a feeling of entitlement. And they begin to assume that The Day of the Lord is when the party gets started, when all the heathens and enemies of Yaweh get smited by the wrath of God, and when the earth will finally belong to the Chosen ones at last.

And then comes Amos. Amos was a prophet during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah, and Jeroboam the 2nd of Israel. Amos stepped up and said “you know, I don’t think you quite get what this Day of the Lord is about.”  Listen to what he says in Amos 5: 18-24, speaking on behalf of God:

“Woe to you who long
       for the day of the LORD!
       Why do you long for the day of the LORD ?
       That day will be darkness, not light.
 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
       only to meet a bear,
       as though he entered his house
       and rested his hand on the wall
       only to have a snake bite him.
 20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
       pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
 21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
       I cannot stand your assemblies.
 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
       I will not accept them.
       Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
       I will have no regard for them.
 23 Away with the noise of your songs!
       I will not listen to the music of your harps.
 24 But let justice roll on like a river,
       righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

I be there were some Israelites who thought “Woe?? Woe to us?? What the heck are you talking about? Why would God be angry with us? Look, we’re doing the offerings, we’re singing the songs, we’re doing everything you told us to do!!”

But the problem, alas, is that the Jews were doing more than that. While they gave offerings to God, they also gave offerings to idols. Amos continues to say:

“ You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves.”

Woah. That kinda explains things a little more—to me at least. What is it the children of God were doing? They were creating their own gods, and worshipping them as well. It’s almost as if they were hedging their bets. Almost as if, like Bob the hockey player, they said “Ok, I’ll do what I’m supposed to do, but I’m not entirely sure it’s going to work, so I’m going to do all this other stuff too, because I heard that will ensure that I have a good life.”

So what were the children of God doing to prepare for the Day of the Lord? They were ignoring God’s commandments. What good is singing and sacrifice when there is no justice? What good is giving a tenth of what you have to the temple and then walking past the sick, the poor, and the down on their luck on your way home to spend the other 90%?

Does this sound perhaps like Christians today? Do we as a group worship God, lift up his name, give him our offerings, and then play the lotto, cut corners, steal paper from the office because we “don’t get paid enough,” and ignore our neighbor who actually has less than us? Do we sometimes expect more from others than we require of ourselves? Do we get upset when someone isn’t on time and yet we’re always late? Do we speak ill of someone who hurt us instead of going directly to them to resolve the issue? Do we make idols for ourselves? Idols called Greed, Entitlement, and Pride?

I have to say this sounds sometimes like me. So what do we do? What do we do to prepare for the Day of the Lord, when Jesus returns and we are called to give that account of our lives? Yes we are saved through the blood of the lamb, but aren’t we supposed to do more with our lives than just “get ours” ?

Well we’re in luck, because the Bible answers this question for us. We are told many, many things. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. And, one of my favorite verses in the Old Testament, Micah 6:8:

       He has showed you, O man, what is good.
       And what does the LORD require of you?
       To act justly and to love mercy
       and to walk humbly with your God.

It’s about how we act that we prepare for the coming of the Lord. It’s how we treat God, how we treat ourselves, and how we treat others, that prepares us for The Day of the Lord.

And the great thing is that God gets our hearts. He knows that we aren’t going to be perfect. The trick, however, is to keep ourselves from making those idols. The trick is to not be like Bob, trying to find a shortcut through to a better life. The trick is to be more like Jim, to learn the “right” way to live, and to do our absolute best to live that way. To be humble when we mess up, and to try again.

And I’ll leave you with one more illustration, from one of my favorite movies, G.I. Jane. This is a fictional story about a woman who was in the Navy Seals program, the hardest program in the entire armed forces. She and her crew were on a training mission outside Lybia, when they were suddenly brought together and told that a satellite had fallen into the desert, and the combat unit that had been sent to retrieve it needed help out. So these people, who were still in training, were told “we need you to do the right thing, to step up and help these people who need us, because there’s no one else.” “If for one second, the Captian told the Command Master Chief” your people aren’t ready for any reason, you tell me now.” And the Master Chief said “we’re ready.” He then turned to his crew, told them what was going on, and said “ok, who’s not ready.”

No one raised their hands. They weren’t “ready” by the standards of training and examinations and titles. But they were needed. And they stepped up. And they got that other team out of there.

So I guess my only question for you today is “What are you doing to be prepared for the Day of the Lord?” When you are called upon to help the lost, the last and the least, do you? Do you study the Bible daily in order to learn more about how God wants us to live? Or do you try to find the shortcut? Do you try to find that one song, that one ritual which will “make” God give you an abundant life?

God is looking at us right now, people. There are others in need out there. And his Command Master Chief is asking us: “who’s not ready?”

1 comment:

  1. WOOHOO!!! She's back!!!! :-) (and I've been awol last several days! ::snort)


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