“Living in Awe”
Pentecost 12, 2017
“Awed by God’s Love”
When was the last time you saw something that was so wonderful, so amazing, that it took your breath away? Maybe you have been to the Grand Canyon, or the memorials in Washington D.C. and had such a reaction. Maybe you were in awe on Monday…of the world’s longest pizza. I know, you were thinking of the eclipse, but the pizza thing is true. The pizza was 6300 feet long. A couple of weeks ago, Erica and I watched the Glenn Campbell documentary that showed his last tour. I was in awe watching him in concert, with Alzheimer’s, singing and playing his guitar expertly. If you are a Netflixer, I recommend that movie. But keep some Kleenex handy.
At any rate, it is my belief that we all have times that we are filled with awe. We just stand there, amazed, at what whatever it is that we have seen. In our New Testament lesson today, Paul had such an experience. As he was writing his letter to the Christians in the church at Rome, it suddenly hit him how wonderful God is, and how amazing we are loved. Today we will discuss being, “Awed by God’s Love.”
One of the problems we have in our current society is there is a movement out there to take away awe. So many out there saying incorrectly that the universe in its size and complexity is not a creation of God, but is here by accident. The miracle of childbirth is just a biologic, genetic, reproductive thing, no big deal. The atheists and the skeptics want to take away our awe! By the way, I was watching eclipse coverage on TV Monday, and an astronomer mentioned that some people find religion when they see a total eclipse. Meanwhile, the most famous astrophysicist guy (Neil deGrasse Tyson) said this week that since they can predict an eclipse right, they are also right about global warming.
Getting back to the subject at hand, sometimes we take the awe away from ourselves. When we think of God, look on God, we often try and reduce Him. We expect God to think the way we think. We expect God to behave as we behave. We expect God to feel the way we feel. When we do this, we end up lowering God to our level. If we persist in this kind of attitude, then we have no sense of awe or wonderment towards God because we think of Him as something like us.
And there is another way that we can go wrong. I think something that is very commonplace among us is that we take God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s Grace for granted. For those of us who grew up in the church, who have heard about all this stuff all of our lives, we may start to think it’s no big deal, and so we may start to make excuses not to come here for worship or not to see the value of what we do here. In a series of articles on “The Worshiping Church,” some common excuses for skipping church or losing that sense of awe were confronted by very pointed responses from Jesus. In one, the excuse-maker said, “We don’t go because the pastor (or some member) did such and such.” Jesus responds, “I didn’t know you went to worship the pastor (member).” In another, the excuse-maker said, “Going to church just isn’t for me.” Jesus responds, “Which part of my life, death, and resurrection wasn’t for you?”
This response doesn’t appear there, but which part of everything that is “from Him and through Him and to Him” suggests that you and I should not worship God every moment of every day, let alone every Sunday? Which part suggests that worship is our only response and that it is ok not to tell others what Jesus gave and did for them?
We should not lose our awe where God is concerned. When we are faced with what God has done for us, and what God continues to do for us, we should be in awe, thankful, praiseful (I looked it up, it is a word), showing our gratitude. And how do we do that?
Paul also has the answer to that. In the second part of our text, Paul said, “I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…” And later he wrote, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” This is what we do with our awe. This is how we show thanks to God. By serving God, serving the church, and serving our neighbors (whether they believe what we believe or not)!
This is not a popular thought these days. More and more current Christians walk into church thinking to themselves, “What can I get?” instead of “What can I give?” One way the consumer culture we live in is spilling over into the church is some folks think when they are here: “If I do not get the service I want…If I do not get the music I want…If the pastor does not preach the way I want…then I am going to take “my business” (my presence) elsewhere.” The problem with this, of course, is there is nowhere in the Bible that says this attitude is ok. The Holy Spirit has brought us together today to worship. The Holy Spirit has led us to be a family of faith here at St. Mark. And the Bible clearly teaches that we are to love one another, serve one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to be selfless, not selfish. Jesus said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” (Mt 20:26-7) Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34-35) Paul wrote, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1Thessalonians 5:16-18) We are not here to get what we want, to get our way. We are here to hear the Word, to receive forgiveness, to join Jesus for Supper, and for the strengthening of our faith. We are also here to give: thanks, praise, repentance, love. That is why God brings us here.
And to show our thanks and awe, Paul said in the text today, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Last week was Rally Day. Next month we elect our new officers. We have groups in the church recruiting. We need someone to be the treasurer, Sunday School teachers, Rufus Comfort Dog handlers. Every one of you has something to contribute besides your presence here and your tithes, your 10% or more of your income. We have all been given talents by God that He and you can put to work in His kingdom. I am in awe of what God has done for us. I think you are, too. So think on this. Pray on this. And help!
Here is a story for you as we think about saying, “Amen,” here. This story happened this past June in Minnesota. A deputy sheriff, his name is Vai, pulled over a car because the owner of the vehicle had a warrant out for her arrest. When he pulled the car over, the woman was not in the car, but there was a guy in the back seat who did not have a seat belt on. He took his ID and ran him, and found out he had a warrant for drugs. The deputy got him out of the car, and the guy had a little smirk on his face, which puzzled the law enforcement officer. Would you smile at a man with a badge and a gun, knowing you were about to go to jail?
The deputy found out why the man was smirking. The guy asked Deputy Vai to reach into his front shirt pocket. That, too, is a dangerous thing for an officer to do since pockets can easily hide things like infected hypodermic needles. To the deputy’s surprise, all that was in the pocket was a card: a card taken from the Parker Brothers’ board game: Monopoly. The card read “Get out of Jail Free.”
When the curious deputy asked his prisoner to explain the card, the man said, “I’ve been carrying it on me ever since I found out there was a warrant, just in case.” Deputy Vai took a picture of the Monopoly card, gave the card back to the man, and then the deputy hauled the guy off to jail. It goes without saying: the man had put his faith in the wrong thing. And I am in AWE, that that guy thought that card would really work! (So was Deputy Vai. He took the picture of the card so he could put all this on social media.)
When it comes to God, we need to be in awe of what He has done, and still does, and will do for us. We need to be on guard against complacency in our faith. We should not be taking God and His gifts for granted. We should keep in the front of our lives how God is the source of all of our talents and abilities. We should always have that sense of awe, where God is concerned. God created us, and the whole universe as well. We sinned and turned our backs to Him, He rescued us from our sins and saved us from ourselves by Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection. Our God is an awesome God, and may He lead us all to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
This is most certainly true.
In Jesus’ name.