God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; September 6, 2015; Christian Tradition
4 September 2015
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This Sunday our topic of conversation will be Tradition
Our Scripture is 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17.
You can read these Scripture here: NIV2010 and ESV
Hymns this Sunday:
UMH 77 – How Great Thou Art
UMH 191 – Jesus Loves Me
UMH 369 – Blessed Assurance
Our lives are embedded in a story. These days we are not challenged to think about our stories or how our stories shape us because the fast pace of our lives is not conducive to quiet times. But that does not change the fact that we dream in stories, we hope in stories, we imagine our future in stories, we tell and re-tell our past in stories.
Tradition is a way to remember our shared story. While it is commonly assumed that traditions have ancient history, many traditions have been invented for political or cultural reasons, over short periods of time. And many things that we call “traditions” are simply habits and routine.
Our Christian tradition is a tradition of the loving God who watches over us, making adjustments in response to our interaction with God’s world. Since we live in a fallen world, most of our actions cause some sort of imbalance somewhere. Just like God cared about Adam and Eve, God cares about you and me, God cares about us.
A few weeks back we looked at the story of the Fall, when our common ancestors were expelled from the Garden of Eden. God, however, did not leave them unprotected and vulnerable. Let’s look at Genesis 3:21-24:
21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He [God] drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
In response to the first humans disobeying God, God gave them a means of fending for themselves, gave them clothes for their protection and only then let them go.
In the story of Noah we learned that the world became an exceedingly brutal and cruel place to be. Let us look at Genesis 6:5-6.
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
So there was a flood, and still, in spite of our actions, God preserved mankind through the family of Noah, and preserved the rest of life on Earth by providing an Ark. Noah and his family had quite a bit of time to think about why they were inside the Ark, why God chose them, and to look back at their lives as they considered what a responsibility it was to inherit God’s Creation. Who among us has not spent our own personal time “in the Ark?” Who among us has not had to stop and think about how we got to a certain junction in our lives? Who among us has not felt bad for someone else who was left behind? Who among us has not asked God to search and to know our hearts; who among us has not asked God to calm our anxieties at one time or another; who among us has not said “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13) and asked God to break our offensive ways and to guide us to the path of holiness (Psalm 139: 23-24). Who among us has not experienced God’s healing Grace and Love in response, even if the answer received was not what we expected.
The Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible are filled with wonderful stories of how God took the time to meet us where we are because we live in a fallen world. As we cope with things that are beyond our control we cause other problems because we live in a fallen world. The Good News is that when we reach out to God, God reaches back. This is the foundation of our Christian tradition.
Eventually an angel appeared to Mary and to Joseph. Eventually Jesus was born. God determined it was time to do something different. The Earthly life of Jesus gives us an example of how we can usher in a better world, of how we can BE the change that we want in the world.
In the collection of Jesus’ teachings that we traditionally call the Sermon on the Mount, we hear “you have heard … but I tell you…” Our story is the story of God waking us up when we lose our way, meeting us where we are and being available to us when we are lost and when we call on God. That is our hope, that is our good news, that is our Christian tradition.
Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, his contemporaries expected Jesus to enter Jerusalem as a conqueror and a military leader and to establish the Kingdom of Heaven in the Promised Land. And again, God surprised everyone by dying on the Cross instead of conquering the land by force.
To meet everyone’s need for grace, to demonstrate God’s love for all of God’s children, God did not claim the throne room in Jerusalem. Instead God chose to die on the Cross. As a result, instead of being known as the God of the Jews, He revealed himself to all people as the God of the Universe. Instead of conquering only the Promised Land (a small corner of the world) by force, God revealed God-self to the whole world by Grace and Love.
Ours is a story of discovering that God is right here by our side when we feel lost, when we feel that our very souls are parched and dry and that we have serious doubts about the future. Our church is not as packed as it used to be; many of you tell me that it is the same people that do everything and that you are tired. We pray fervently asking God to send renewal and revival to our church. We are tired.
Our renewal starts with God. One of the ways that we recognize the presence of God in our midst is by celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion. We don’t come to this table because we all share “THE RIGHT” beliefs or because we are the righteous ones. We come to this table because we are broken, because our souls are thirsty, because we are tired. We come to this table because we recognize our need for renewal. The Sacrament of the Holy Communion is one of the ways that Jesus happens in our lives.