St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-14-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-14-2018

Oh How Wonder-Full

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20), Psalm 139:1-18, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Last Sunday, using Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus as the inspiration, I spoke of how much we might miss if we “clean-up” or “over polish” the stories in the Bible. While studying and reflecting on this week’s selections, I became mindful, once again, of how much we miss when we “over-think” what we’re reading.

I’ve spoken of this before in several contexts; how we can find little phrases here and there in the Bible and think them to be major revelation. Yes, sometimes they are and sometimes they are not; but all too often we spend so much time developing the merits of our argument for that one little piece that we miss everything else being revealed.

I could find examples of this in all four of today’s readings but I was most struck by some of the commentary I read on Psalm 139; hence, why I asked Ken to read that, this morning, in place of our usual Old Testament reading from 1st Samuel.

Not always, but often I will read a few commentaries on the assigned text just to be sure I’m not missing something that someone else has noticed and/or to gain a little extra confidence in my understanding of the part that I have chosen to highlight. Sometimes what I read ends up being way off from what I am seeing in the text, but that doesn’t necessarily make either myself or the commentator right or wrong; it just shows how two people can find two different ways of looking at any reading; hopefully, both are right.

 

But, in this case, I read a fundamentalist’s take on the Psalm and, in so doing, remembered other conversations from my days in Seminary that circled around Christian Doctrine. In both cases, the argument focused on the “omniscience” and the “omnipresence” of God and on “predestination”, and how, based on this reading, all three had to be held as sound truths by anyone calling themselves a Christian.

An “omniscient” (all knowing) God can be found in the first 4 verses…

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely”.

An “omnipresent” (in every place) God can be clearly seen in verses 7-9…

”Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast”.

And an argument for belief in predestination can be derived from the second sentence of verse 16: “In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed”.

I do believe strongly in an omniscient, all knowing, God; and I also hold God’s omnipresence, in every place at every time, as truth! As for predestination, well… depending on the precise definition; I do have a problem believing that no matter what we do it is done according to God’s plan and that our entry into, or exclusion from, God’s kingdom is already determined. But I won’t argue that today; especially not today because this message is intended to address, not Doctrine, but what we miss when we seek only Doctrine.

You see, in the commentary I mentioned reading, and in the remembered conversations over what we are to learn from this Psalm, both neglected what we are to feel, deep in our hearts, when reading it, and what we can see in our minds as we take it in.

Looking from the perspective of the Old Testament, which of course is where the Psalm comes from, we see a lot of language referring to “God’s People” in the plural; “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt…”; “I will take you as my people, and I will be your God…”; “Assemble the people for me, and I will let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me…”

With an awareness of this the first thing that we may notice about this Psalm is that it is all written in the first person singular; “you have searched me and known me… and are acquainted with all my ways… Where can I go from your spirit…” it makes it personal; it places us one-on-one with God! This we need to feel in our hearts and see in our minds!

We may also notice that our omniscient God is not a mere observer of our life: but an active part in creating it; “you knit me together in my mother’s womb… Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed”! This we need to feel in our hearts and see in our minds!

And we may also notice that our omnipresent God is active in our life also; “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me… If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast”. This we need to feel in our hearts and see in our minds!

Finally, we must also be aware that, no matter how we try to discern truth from the Bible, we will always fall short of full understanding; “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it… for darkness is as light to you… How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them”! This we need to feel in our hearts and see in our minds!

It’s okay that we fall short of full understanding; for as the poet tells us, we don’t have to have full understanding to be near God and for God to be near us! We don’t need to be able to comprehend how God can see all things and be in all places at the same time to know that God is with us in every place, every moment of our life! This is the wonder of God who is near us as a people when we gather in this Church; who is near each of us as individuals when we leave this place; from the heights of heaven to the depths of sheol, to the ends of the seas; yesterday, today, and tomorrow God’s loving hand is upon us! This we don’t need to fathom in order for it to be real; we just to need to openour hearts and the eyes of our minds and it is so!

I come to the end –I am still with you.

Amen.

 

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
3:1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
3:2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room;
3:3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
3:4 Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!”
3:5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
3:6 The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”
3:7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
3:8 The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.
3:9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
3:10 Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
3:11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.
3:12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.
3:13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.
3:14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
3:15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.
3:16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.”
3:17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.”
3:18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”
3:19 As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
3:20 And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.

Psalm 139:1-18

1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.

2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.

5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”

12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

18 I try to count them–they are more than the sand; I come to the end –I am still with you.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
6:13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
6:14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.
6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
6:16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”
6:17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
6:18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself.
6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?
6:20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

John 1:43-51
1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
1:44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
1:46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
1:47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”
1:48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
1:49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
1:50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
1:51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”