Exodus 32: 7-14
MARK 1: 29-39

September 13, 2020 AM SERVICES

LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING till heaven and earth ring … the opening words from hymn number five hundred and seventeen from the United Methodist hymnal. SING A SONG FULL of the FAITH THAT THE PAST HAS TAUGHT US. SING A SONG FULL of the HOPE THAT THE PRESENT has BROUGHT US. HYMN NUMBER FIVE HUNDRED and SEVENTEEN from the United Methodist hymnal and a hymn that is in most hymnals. … in most churches across the United States of America.

And, the amazing thing friends … the amazing sad truth is the number of church going; church attending people who angrily have stated that they will not listen to a hymn of the church because it is being shared on national television from sea-to-shining-sea; O America the Beautiful. Oh GOD of our WEARY years … NOT GOING TO LISTEN and in fact going to complain and post their anger on social media and screech their voices on talk radio air waves … HYMN NUMBER FIVE HUNDRED and SEVENTEEN … I bet some of these folks will claim our kids can’t pray in school any more when they can pray but their active demonstration verifies that they are NOT GOING TO LISTEN to this hymn of God. They want to stop a hymn … a hymn of the church … from being sung across the land! They are disgusted they say by its singing.

And, “The LORD spoke to Moses: “Hurry up and go down! Your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt are ruining everything! They’ve abandoned the path that I commanded. They have made a metal bull calf for themselves. The LORD said to Moses, “I’ve been watching these people and I’ve seen how stubborn they are. Now leave me alone! Let my fury burn and devour them … but Moses pleaded with the LORD his God and the LORD changed his mind about the terrible things he would do to His people.”

GOOD MORNING again church. The reality of living a life as a human being comes with the opportunities to go off the path and perhaps we have Moses to thank …. or Moses to blame for that reality. We are not God’s robots merely God’s creation born in God’s Holy image but with the freedom to follow God or to actively reject God. The path of choosing is ours and many even many who attend church are not going to listen to God. They are rejecting God through their words and their actions.

For those of us who have attended church serves with regularity over the last many years we have repeatedly heard God’s promise through the prophet Jeremiah that offers more to us than the world can ever conceive of providing as a reward if we join in with the world. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace not disaster, to give you a future with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes search for me with all of your heart, you will find me.”

Perhaps we need to slam the brakes on right there and reconsider that prophesy from Jeremiah because there is a clause or two that require participation. An active, ongoing, and full participation … a free choice but a choice nonetheless. Of course, if you reject God … complain that Jesus’ rules don’t fit comfortably with how you want to live in 2020 and that you have absolutely no desire to listen to God’s Holy Spirit then none of this matters. But, if you are concerned with your personal eternity … if you know how temporal your breathing years on earth are and if you believe something for your soul is going to follow when your body can’t … then perhaps you are willing to consider the LORD as your GOD not as a side-note for occasional Sunday morning hours of gathering. If you still believe in a society where neighbors should love and respect neighbors then just maybe you have an interest in what the Torah reports to us today … what the prophet’s insight into the LORD GOD offers, and yes even what Jesus, born of Mary on that annual holiday where we worry about saying Merry Christmas, had to say. If you do then you need to pause to sense God’s expectations. You need to listen.

The reports we are receiving this morning from THE LORD GOD are coming from the very same LORD GOD who created the heavens and the earth … at least I hope and pray that you agree with me in that. The same LORD GOD whose love of humanity and concern for all of humanity led to God’s sending JESUS to earth to explicitly teach us how to live before dying for our sins so that our pathway of opportunity to a better eternity is much easier and convenient than what was before Him. Jesus who rose from the tomb … Jesus who stated His followers would be known by their love of all neighbors … Jesus joining the rejected and telling of the Good Samaritan as our example of loving a neighbor a simple but clarifying requirement.

The truth is, we still need to be honest and honorable and true to our taking that faith route for our eternal years because with God there is no acting out a role nor playing a part; we can’t fake it. There is no acceptable way to declare to God that you are NOT GOING TO LISTEN to God’s priorities, to God’s Word; to declarations of faith or to openly and defiantly reject them.

I am pretty sure that just as we are taught that God was not very happy with the people of Egypt whom God was watching carefully and of whom God said “they are ruining everything” … I can only imagine God’s consideration of the 21st century group of individuals claiming to be God’s people but who are joining chants to ban a hymn of the church from being sung to the nation. “STUBBORN PEOPLE …” You know God is paying close attention to your words and mine as well as to our actions. You can go back and reread today’s segment of Exodus if you need to be reminded of God’s reaction when God’s people choose to ignore or reject or replace God.

Do the admonitions from Jesus in Matthew 25 make you want to rip that out of your Bible because your social media beliefs run counter to His words? Are you angry with those who speak up for justice for all even for the least amongst us or for those who bring attention to the one lamb who has been left outside the safety of the fold where the others are comfortably residing?

The caveats in the prophet’s reflection that God has hope for our future comes in these words … if you choose not to listen to them then you are rejecting the call of the Holy but isn’t that the problem anyhow with the establishing of heaven on earth … so many who claim to be faithful are choosing humanity and human power while rejecting denying or basically not listening to God. The prophet teaches us, “When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes search for me with all your heart, you will find me.”

WHEN YOU COME TO ME … the LORD GOD says. Now, God didn’t need us to build buildings to come to God but God that Holy God of Creation does require us to put down our ROKU or FIRESTICK or COMCAST clicker and to focus in on God. No half listening because something more important is happening elsewhere … not slurping our soup while sort of reading a devotional or a portion of Scripture, God’s Word.

Friends, I have been challenging each of us to read just a few sentences from the Gospels each day … each and every day for the rest of our lives … so that we actually begin to focus in on what Jesus taught. Have you taken that time to read? Do you know that there are less than 140 words in Mark chapter 4 verses 35 through 41? Do you have time to read 140 words to COME TO GOD as a person of faith? Oh no, Pastor Dave you don’t understand how home schooling … pandemic worrying … shows that I can’t miss on Netflix … my talking heads on FOX or MSNBC … gosh 140 words … maybe 10 words or less is enough for me to COME TO GOD … and maybe just a couple days a week or maybe just once a week.

God’s love for us never stops church … God’s call to us is always there … Jesus’ saving power exists until we breathe our last and when we accept Jesus and acknowledge God through our love for God then the Holy Spirit is there to guide us. LIFT EVERY VOICE and SING till heaven and earth shall ring! But the prophet is more than clear … we need to COME TO GOD but then the real challenge and perhaps you have heard it before from this pulpit and I know you have read it in God’s Word … PEOPLE of GOD; STUBBORN PEOPLE seduced by the world’s loud controlling voices … you and I will never ever find God until we search with all of our heart not just through the Sunday morning time we give up; God deserves all of our heart. “Love Your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind” says Scripture … actually teaches Jesus. “This is the first Commandment of God.”

By the way, have you ever done the math related to your time versus the time you share with God? If this one hour service is your one weekly connection with God because you are way too busy the rest of the week … and believe me I really really understand what it is to be busy … if this is it then it means you are giving God ½ of 1 percent of your time. Do the math … 1 divided by the 168 hours in a week ONE HALF of ONE PERCENT of YOUR TIME not quite sure if that is searching for God with all of one’s heart. Loving God with all of one’s heart, mind and soul.

Actually I am sure because it isn’t and therefore I shouldn’t be surprised when church attending folk scream that a hymn from church hymnals should not be sung on national television or at national events … oh the threats they have raised these church folks .. never going to go to another one of those events because that blasted hymn was sung … “GOD OF OUR WEARY YEARS … GOD of our SILENT TEARS. Thou who has brought us thus far on our way. Thou who hast by thy might, led us into the light. Keep us forever in the path, we pray.” I am sure some of those same good church attending folk also dispute the prophet Micah’s directive from God, “He has told you human one what is good and what the LORD requires of you … TO DO JUSTICE and embrace FAITHFUL LOVE OF ALL.”

So, where does that take you and me today? Well if you have not prioritized God and Jesus Christ and fall into the words from Exodus that LORD spoke to Moses, “They’ve already abandoned the path that I commanded” well then today is a day of opportunity for you because our loving God never gives up on you nor on me. Rather than doing the terrible things we heard about in Exodus that are a God option; God chose to love us … God chose to provide Jesus to us out of love and then to have God’s Son become our sacrifice so that all we have to do is believe … not merely acknowledge but believe using our actions and our words as the verification of that belief but when we believe friends that is when God is there to be with us because we are keeping God as our priority. So, this means having that hard private chat with God today and then finding a person of faith to continue the conversation … join a study group … reorganize your priorities for living …get into the pathway of light because it offers you and me a changed life now and an eternity with God later.

But, if God is your priority already … and I can imagine most of you are nodding that is if you haven’t nodded off … thinking I love God … I love Jesus … Jesus loves me this I know … well are you reading a Gospel lesson daily or shaking your head saying that for some reason that would be a waste of time? Are you eagerly joining the choruses of the world as they attack and divide or are you endorsing the singing of songs of faith instead? Are you stepping forward to reveal that you are doing what the LORD God expects from God’s human creation … find it in Micah … read about it in Luke chapter 10 … review your life practices using Matthew 25 as your guide …

And, give thanks that today across the land a hymn of the church of Jesus Christ. HYMN number 517 in our hymnal is being sung on national television. Celebrate that reality with friends and strangers alike. Post the words from the hymn … and perhaps together we can agree with this prayer from its final verse:

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears. Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way. This who hast by Thy might, led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray. True to our God. AMEN

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