Worship Message Texts

I concluded my final interim pastorate in March 2016, so I am no longer preaching on a regular basis. I am available for pulpit supply and these sermon scripts and videos give a picture of my approach. For pulpit supply, I am happy to write new sermons targeted at specific concerns or needs of congregations, otherwise I will rework previous sermons based on the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for that Sunday.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Holy Ground for Seeking God

2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Mark 6:30-34
July 22, 2012
© 2012

I.                 Wayne Muller is a therapist, minister, consultant, speaker and author who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Roger is a thoughtful physician and one of Wayne’s clients. Physicians are trained to work when they're exhausted, required to perform when they are sleep-deprived, hurried and overloaded. Roger told Wayne, “I discovered in medical school, that the more exhausted I was, the more tests I would order. I was too tired to see precisely what was going on with my patients. I could recognize their symptoms and formulate possible diagnoses, but I couldn't hear precisely how it fit together. So I would order tests to give me what I was missing. But when I was rested--if I had an opportunity to get some sleep, or meditate, or go for a quiet walk --I could rely on my intuition and experience to tell me what was needed. If there was any uncertainty, I would order a specific test to confirm my diagnosis. But when I was rested and could listen and be present, I was almost always right.”

Wayne writes, “I speak with people in business and education, doctors and day-care workers, shopkeepers and social workers, parents and teachers, nurses and lawyers, students and therapists, community activists and cooks. Remarkably, within this mosaic there is a universal refrain: ‘I am so busy.’ We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a mark of real character. Because we do not rest, we lose our way.” http://www.waynemuller.com/cool_stuff/articles_and_excerpts/whatever_happened_to_sunday

A.           I had the opportunity to hear Wayne Muller speak at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas a few years ago. What he said stuck with me, confirming and expanding the rhythm of my spiritual disciplines. He recommended 1 minute of Sabbath every hour, 1 hour of Sabbath every day, 1 day of Sabbath every week, and 1 week of Sabbath every year.

B.            When I was in junior high our family’s vacation took us through Grand Rapids, Michigan on Sunday. We could not find a gas station or restaurant open in town. Later in life I did some Christian education seminars, consulting and curriculum writing for the Christian Reformed Church based in Grand Rapids. I learned from these folk, who had a healthy self-deprecating humor, the debates within the Dutch Reformed tradition about what activities were and were not acceptable on Sunday. You could read the Sunday paper if you bought it Saturday evening but you could not have it delivered Sunday morning. Any outdoor chores that might be observed by your neighbors were verboten: washing the car, mowing the lawn. Of course, a Saturday night snowfall was shoveled Sunday morning so you could drive to church. With the advent of transistor radios with ear phones, men and boys listened to sports they would never dare to watch on TV. We may bemoan that Sunday has become as commercial and busy as every other day, but we wouldn’t want to go back to blue laws or the harsh Sabbath enforcements of colonial Massachusetts. We can find great freedom in the practice of Sabbath if we do not think of it in terms of what we can’t do but what we don’t have to do.

C.            In the Gospels Jesus is constantly in trouble for his refusal to follow all the Sabbath rules, but he was not anti-Sabbath. In Mark 2:27 he said, “The Sabbath was made for mankind, and not mankind for the Sabbath.” When the Ten Commandments are repeated in Deuteronomy 5:15, the people are told, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Sabbath was a sign of freedom and liberation. The Israelites were no longer slaves. They could rest one day a week and no task master could force them to work.

D.           If you put rest in your rhythm, God will catch up to you for a chat.

II.            Mark’s Gospel frequently tells stories in sandwiches. After starting the action, a contrasting narrative in inserted, and then the story climaxes. Mark 6:30-34 is the conclusion of the story of Jesus sending his 12 disciples out in pairs to preach and heal. It is interrupted by the death of John the Baptist we talked about last week. Now we get the rest of the story.

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

A.           In this Gospel sandwich, we get a snapshot of a rhythm Jesus repeats many times with his disciples. Learn by watching and listening to me. Go out and serve in my name. Take a rest and refresh your relationship with me. Then learn some more as you repeat the cycle.

B.            Jesus was not at all hesitant for the disciples to get away for some solitude and rest. Yes, when he went ashore and saw the great crowd he had compassion for them. But notice that he taught them; he didn’t give the disciples an assignment until evening came and they were hungry. Neither we nor the disciples are Jesus. We are not obligated to respond to every need we encounter. As guilty as they may feel, famine relief workers know they must eat better food than they are distributing or they won’t have the strength to help anyone. If you fail to rest, eventually you will fail to serve.

C.            All through the Gospels Jesus gets away for rest and prayer, and he lead the disciples to rest and pray as well, even if something urgent interrupts the rhythm. If you kept reading to Mark 6:46, you’d see Jesus go up the mountain alone to pray.

D.           If you put rest in your rhythm, God will catch up to you for a chat.

III.       When King David wanted to build a Temple for God, he was looking to provide holy ground for meeting God. He desired a place where he and the people of Israel could get away from the pressures of live to rest and refresh their relationship with God. Unfortunately, this was contaminated by his ambition to accomplish something important for God.

A.           At first the prophet Nathan gave David the go ahead to do what was in his mind, for God was with him. But what was in David’s mind was not what was in God’s mind. God wasn’t interested in a cedar palace. God was mobile, not confined to any one place, certainly not controlled by David or anyone else.

B.            David’s desire to build a Temple is certainly understandable, but much as Wayne Muller wrote about how we inflate our self-importance with busyness, David had his perspective, not Gods. A careful reading of 2 Samuel 7 reveals that David is not the main character in the story, God is!

C.            If you put rest in your rhythm, God will catch up to you for a chat.

IV.      The interim period for 1st Christian Church, Duncanville is coming to a conclusion. I don’t know if you’d describe it as a time of rest, but I do hope you think of this year we’ve spent together as a time of learning. Pastor David will be with you in September, and you will head into a new season of service.

A.           The only places in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus’ disciples are called apostles are 6:30 and 3:14. In both instances, Jesus is sending them on a mission. The word apostle means someone who is sent with a message or mission. Sometimes you will hear people speak about the Church’s apostolic tradition as though it refers to the authentic, approved teaching that came from the apostles. The way the New Testament uses apostle has more to do with the tradition of being sent by Jesus.

B.            Jesus is sending Pastor David to 1st Christian Church, Duncanville to lead you on new apostolic mission. All around you are people who are like sheep without a shepherd. Yes, the time is fast approaching to mobilize for action, but busyness engulfs people. Compassion for them does not mean getting overwhelmed yourselves, but practicing the rhythm of learn, serve and rest. Exhausted people will flock to Jesus for rest.

C.            When God declines King David’s offer to build a Temple, God promises to build the household of David. The real Temple is not this building or the institution of this congregation. You as a community of faith are the real temple, as Ephesians 2:19b-22 says so eloquently.

You are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

D.           If you put rest in your rhythm, God will catch up to you for a chat.

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