“Seeking The Joy of God’s Saving Help”, Pentecost 10B, – August 2, 2015
<strong>“Seeking The Joy of God’s Saving Help”
Pentecost 10B, – August 2, 2015
Samuel 11:26 -,12:13a; Psalm 51:1-13; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35
The last verse in today’s Psalm is a call for us to seek the joy of God’s saving help again in our lives. One of the issues I was dealing with during my sabbatical was exactly that: seeking the joy of God’s saving help once again in my life, and for Holy Cross.
At the Leadership Retreat we had on June 20th one of the key insights that came from it was the need Holy Cross has to gain a fresh commitment to that which God has called us to be and do. And to be and do what God has called us to be and do requires that we intentionally seek the joy of God’s saving help.
God Invites And Encourages Us To Seek The Joy Of His Help
precisely because God knows we cannot be and do what He wants without his help. And, as we seek Him and His help we are filled with the joy of the Lord, which becomes our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). This dynamic works on both the personal and the corporate levels. Individually and corporately we need the joy of God’s saving help. It is so much easier and joyful to witness God working in and through us than to exhaust ourselves trying to be and do what God is calling us to be and do. Here is a spiritual truth as sure as gravity in the physical world: What God calls us to be and do, God provides the resources so we can accomplish his will. Did you get that? God doesn’t call you to overcome sin in your life; to become more holy; or to be involved in outreach and mission and then expect you to do it on your own. If we let God, God’s Spirit will work in and through us so we can accomplish God’s purposes for us and others. Isn’t that Good? We are not alone. We have incredible spiritual, Godly resources at our disposal.
So, Let’s Take Advantage of God’s Offer To Help Us.
Paul, writing to the Ephesians, put it this way: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (:1). But we can’t live that worthy life entirely through our own efforts. We need help, and God is ready, willing, and able to help us.
Benjamin Franklin really tried to live that life through his own dedicated, studious, serious, disciplined efforts. He really did. Each year he identified areas in his life that needed improvement and set a course on how to achieve those improvements. He was much more dedicated to personal improvement than anyone I know. And, he improved himself from a Printer’s Apprentice to a very successful businessman, inventor, scientist, statesman, and one of the founding fathers of our country.
As much as he achieved through his own efforts he still fell short of walking fully in the steps of Jesus Christ. For all his accomplishments he was also famous for all his romantic liaisons with various French women when he was the Ambassador to France. He probably didn’t write home about his many late nights, but God knew each one. The Psalmist wrote in verses 3 and 4: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is every before me. Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”
King David lived out those words in his sin with Uriah’s wife, and the murder of Uriah so he could take her as one of his wives. We may be justified in our own heart and eyes but God sees us for exactly what we are – people who need the joy of God’s saving help again in their lives.
One of the ways we seek God’s saving help is to allow God to fulfill this call from today’s Psalm, verse 11:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
I want to push us to recognize that we can best satisfy that request of God by dedicating ourselves to a life characterized by prayer. It is not accidental that the religious faith we follow doesn’t call it’s central book a Book of Worship – though it is; nor does it call it a Book of Discipline – though that is what it produces. Our book is called The Book of Common Prayer.
In this Anglican faith it was recognized that the Christian life must be founded on faith in God through Jesus Christ and built strong through a life of prayer.
At the Leadership Retreat we recognized that every serious member of this congregation will have a two-fold commitment. One is to be in Ministry within the church, and the other is to be part of reaching out to the community beyond the walls of the church. Ministry is all those things that are needed to help the church fulfill it’s Christian commitment given by Jesus to “Make Disciples”. It includes all the jobs required to conduct a worship service, teach our children, staff the Nursery, host the Coffee Hour, and many, many other things.
Outreach is those things we do in the community that witness that there is a God who loves all people and has proven that love through His incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ. Those acts of service to those outside the church are a way of saying, “God’s grace is freely given and I’m freely giving you my time, talent, energy, and love. I want you to experience Jesus Christ the Bread of Life, for only in him will you be eternally satisfied. Therefore,
The Church Has A Double-Flow Purpose In This World.
Think for a minute about our lungs. They reach outward to gather air. Then they bring that air inward where it takes care of the body. Then they send that air that has fed the body back into the world where it feeds plant life and is then reprocessed into air for the body.
Part of our purpose is In-Ward. We draw God into our lives through worship, study, prayer, fellowship and service.
Our second purpose is Out-Ward. We are to take what we experience and learn from God out into the world and share it with others whom God is drawing to Himself. In-Flow. Out-Go.
And we cannot possibly do this without cultivating lives of prayer. Our lungs are a template for us in our spiritual relationship with God. It is not an accident that in both the Old and New Testaments the word used for Spirit is also used for wind and breath. We need to train our minds and spirits to breathe in God’s spirit all day long. We need to have an ongoing conversation with God. We need to be thinking about God, what God might want us to do in every situation in which we find ourselves. We need to be praising God and thanking God all day long. We need to be interceding for people and situations as we encounter them throughout our day.
We need God’s Spirit in us as much as we need the air that we breathe! Our Prayer Book is a tool to help shape our thinking and worship of God. It gives us words we can use in our conversations with God and with others. It teaches us much about the value of a life of prayer.
So we come into the Church to experience God’s love. Then we take this knowledge and experiences with God back into our world ‘to love and serve others’, in Christ’s name.
Here is an opportunity to put all this into practice. On August 15th we are going to host a gigantic yard sale for the purpose of “Bringing Home The Babies”. The babies are the two boys – Henri and Oliver – Erin and Josh Cooper are adopting from Haiti. This yard sale gives us an opportunity to engage in meaningful prayer for them and for the sale and for our part in helping them. It gives us a chance to be both in mission and outreach.
Part of Paul’s teaching today is that one of the responsibilities of Pastors is “to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature…” (:12-13). That’s what I’m trying to do today.
Let me share a perspective most of you don’t have. What I am going to share with you about my grandson Sam, who was also adopted out of the same orphanage in Haiti as Henri and Oliver, is also true about Henri and Oliver and the majority of the children being adopted in Haiti.
Sam was abandoned at a hospital in Haiti when he was a few months old. He was malnourished. He needed medical attention. He needed a family and a chance at a future. The good news is, he was loved enough to be dropped off at a hospital. Some children in Haiti are simply dropped off on the side of the road, or left in a pile of garbage. So, I thank Sam’s parents – probably his mother – for loving him enough to give him a chance.
Almost every time I’ve been to Haiti there has been a knock on the Orphanage gate. Standing outside is a desperate, young, destitute single mother. She is at the end of her rope. She no longer can feed herself let alone her baby. So, she makes a courageous decision. She would rather give her baby up than see it die. That’s Sam’s story. That’s Henri’s story.
Today Sam is a thriving, happy, bright 3-year old who has a chance at a great life. Plus, he is growing up in the home of dedicated Christians and has a better than average chance to know Jesus as his lord and savior. Henri and Oliver are going to have those same opportunities. So I ask you,
What Is That Worth?
People in the crowd around Jesus asked him: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (:28). Jesus answered this way, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One he has sent.” That work is about giving kids and youth and adults the chance to meet Jesus ‘the bread that came down from heaven and gives life to the world” (:33).
You need, if at all possible, to participate in this Yard Sale. It is kingdom work. You will be in mission helping these two babies come home to a great future. You will be doing outreach work because there will be hundreds of people coming onto our property. It will be a great chance to tell people why we are doing this; to witness about the joy of the saving help of God.
I need you to be in serious, daily prayer about this yard sale. It is so much more than selling stuff. You will be blessed. Josh and Erin will be blessed by their sisters and brothers. Henri and Oliver will be blessed for the rest of their lives. And, only God knows who will be blessed by coming to Holy Cross to buy something and finding the bread of life so that they never again hunger and never again thirst.
Will you give yourself to this work of service? There is Friday afternoon work of putting stuff on tables and pricing. There is Saturday early morning work of moving stuff outside and bringing stuff over from the storage locker. There is Saturday mid-morning work of talking to people and selling stuff. There is Saturday afternoon work of talking, selling, and breaking down the yard sale. There are friends and neighbors to tell and invite to come. There are donations to solicit. There are prayers to pray. Will you pray them?
We are seeking the joy of God’s saving help. May God richly bless you, and through you bless the Cooper family and Holy Cross Church, and people we don’t even yet know. “From him the whole body,joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”.