IN THE RUSH; WHERE ARE YOU?
Psalm 132: 1-12
JOHN 18: 33-37
November 25, 2018
There is that one moment … a moment that most individuals in this nation experience at least once a year; a moment that is shared by our neighbors to the north except on a different day in a different month. A moment when the rushing stops … a moment when we pause collectively. A minuscule fragment of time when we actually gaze at those around us …. Perhaps noting changes that have occurred through the years or allowing ourselves the time to magically bring up a past moment or two from our memory banks. An awakening moment of stillness that I truly believe the human condition requires if we are to be stronger people. A God connection through thanks.
A moment when the energy was focused on thanks … yes, it was also the opportunity to breathe in the scents of food but on Thursday the intent of the population for a brief moment in each of our days was to pause … not to rush but to pause and be thankful. Prayers to God lifted openly in more households than on any other day. The strength of that God connection varying most days because all too many people have chosen to flourish in the rush of their lives while pushing God aside as an afterthought … all too many people have left empty pews in their paths of life rather than bringing that celebration … that thankfulness … that God connection into its fullness that occurs with worship. Rushing versus peaceful thanksgiving. Shoving to reach goals triumphing time and time again over strengthening ourselves through the worship of God.
Paul writes, in my favorite Scripture lesson, “Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. THE LORD is near! Don’t be anxious about anything. Bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers along with giving thanks. THEN THE PEACE of GOD that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe.” Church do you know where our hearts and minds are safe? (“In Christ Jesus.”).
As we left church last Sunday, after that delicious breakfast, I was frankly impacted again by the contrast of worship and the real world. As the football game of the week ended poorly for most of you, I wondered how loud Eagles fans had been … cheering and then perhaps booing. The complexities of life’s priorities because when offered opportunities to make some noise for God and Jesus Christ most churches are filled with individuals who do not want to reveal their extreme reverence for God even though most know that David danced through the streets with abandon for God and those at Pentecost were so alive in Jesus Christ that others thought they were drunk.
So, friends … we are a week away from the official church calendar’s call to again consider God’s love through the birth of Jesus in Advent. Some have already completed their Christmas shopping or are anxiously awaiting Cyber Monday to get another couple of fantastic buys to complete their list. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I ask “In the rush, where are you?”
Do you subscribe to Paul’s message? Do you have time to even consider living by those simple verses of faith? That lesson begins with, “Be glad in the Lord always! Again, I say be glad!” Are you? Do you find time in your busy schedule to let your gentleness for ALL people show up or is that boxed away like our Christmas decorations only to be opened on very specific occasions. Do you think often that THE LORD IS NEAR? In fact, that the Creator of the Universe is with you at all moments, which should lead to all of your gentleness boxes to be opened on a daily basis but we are busy … Pastor, you don’t understand I am so busy rushing around so much to do … as one mom who does not attend church told me, “My 11 year old daughter is in 3 soccer leagues and 2 basketball leagues … there’s no time for church nor for me.” She then asked, “Do you think God understands?”
Hmm … do I think God understands? If you were called into that historic palace and brought before Pilate surrounded by guards, hearing the jeering hate-filled crowds chanting for the punishment of an innocent one. If you were there and Jesus was in a corner. If Pontius Pilate looked you in your eyes and asked, “Is He King of the Jews?” What would your answer be? If you were given the choice to either join with a crowd mocking someone who had never been convicted of any crime other than being disliked or threatened by certain powerful people and their followers or allowed to stand next to that person showing gentleness and love resulting in your being mocked too …
I am not attempting to be trite by suggesting an impossible historic question that you will never be asked to answer but as we get a few more minutes, then hours, then days, and then weeks away from the Thanksgiving table in the year 2018 that soon will be history also … you need to consider; I need to consider; we all need to consider God’s place and Jesus role in our lives in the rushing of time that can easily overwhelm us all.
Our Psalm today is often referred to as a pilgrimage psalm. About the journey in life that people take but in this case referencing David and David’s goal in his rule “to find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place.” The psalm shares David’s words, “I won’t enter my house, won’t get into my bed. I won’t close my eyes until I find a place for the Lord.” David wanted the Ark of the Covenant to be at rest so that God’s people could worship with ease. Have you found a place for the Lord?
Imagine if you will … that this church was filled with people and that the next church down the road and the next church after that were filled with people and that the neighbors outside these churches heard joy-filled sounds coming from within these buildings. Imagine if someone walking down the street heard praises being shouted to God … loud applause, which in our society marks our reverence and appreciation more than any other action, loud applause for the Lord God. Imagine if each of these people, inside these buildings called church, realized that in their lives finding the place of the Lord meant more than anything … that having full knowledge and courage to declare that Jesus Christ from the lineage of David is the Son of God, Savior, Lord and Master who brings Salvation to all and teaches the ultimate lesson of love. Imagine … the joy; the praise; and the breaking of silence because God means so much. The Lord’s place … God teaches “if your children keep my covenant and the laws that I will teach them, then their children too will experience God’s blessings.”
If only … but then we do have churches that have room for more; we do have this concept of silence is best when it comes to God choosing to be hushed in our faith and relationship with Jesus but when the rush of the world sweeps us up into the human calamity that is the exact opposite of where the God of Creation wants us it seems we can make a lot of noise. The choice is both difficult and oh so easy … in the RUSH WHERE ARE YOU?
As we approach Christmas Day … a day where I hope we focus on Christ …. I would like each of us to consider God. Not just momentarily here in worship but God in our mornings, God during our lunch times and God when we listen to friends express their thoughts in ways that directly contradict God’s Word, God’s love and the fact that THE LORD IS NEAR. Can you commit … you and God a journey to the manger?
Last week I stated that I get frustrated with those adherents to the church calendar who somehow find value in busying and hiding away the songs of Christmas celebration. I happen to know that Jesus Christ is alive today my friends … Jesus Christ is my Savior and I strive to follow the teachings of Jesus failing more often than He deserves but this season to me is not an anxious awaiting for the baby … this season is one for people of faith to get in the RUSH for CHRIST … to put our energy and our commitment to God.
If you are hurting hear Jesus Christ’s call, “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. I am gentle and humble and you will find rest for yourselves. Learn from me.”
We are capable during our Thanksgiving once a year meal time out to actually pause and pump the brake on life’s rush hour. As a collective people we rediscover each year the ability to offer a prayer of thanks to a Creator while surrounded by family and friends not embarrassed nor afraid.
But, God needs us more than in a November Thursday afternoon or early evening prayer. God calls us to be God’s people … your life and my life need the peace that exceeds all human understanding. We have no reason to be anxious. Scripture teaches us not to fear so those who teach fear are only attempting to take us away from God’s love. Gentleness, which in itself is a love reflection, is to be our lifestyle. And, then when we worship … maybe in the coming days when we gather together as people of faith whether it is our church family or the one down the road … our neighbors, our family members, our co-workers, and friends will be wanting to join us because we are celebrating the Lord’s presence with all of our strength, with songs, with tambourines, with rattles, and cymbals. We will jump and dance before the Lord filled with joy because in the rush of life we are with God knowing that the Lord is always near!
We will be once again seen as the people who truly accept God’s Word that teaches us to “Praise the Lord! Praise God in God’s sanctuary! Praise God with the blast of the ram’s horn! Praise God with lute and lyre with drum and dance with strings and pipe! Praise God with loud cymbals! Let every living thing PRAISE THE LORD!
And, then my friends people will understand that when you have a relationship with God … when Jesus is in your heart then you get “the peace of God that exceeds all human understanding” and that is something we all seek. People will want to have what you and I have, which again will fill the Houses of Worship across the land!
It only makes sense then … if you have found that closeness with God. If you are a follower of Jesus in life’s actions and thoughts allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you then it only makes sense that you will be glad in the Lord always! Again, be glad!
So get out of the rush of the world … find the peace of God and use the season before us as an opportunity to regain that closeness with the Creator and our Savior that we all need.
Watch a video of today’s worship service: