Sunday, September 18, 2016

Breathing with our Mountain-Moving God, Psalm 113 sermon for Sept 18, 2016

Rev. George Miller
Psalm 113
Sept 18, 2016

It has been a super hectic summer.

We had the joyful experience of calling Rev. Ken Hull to be our Director of Music.

We had the somber experience of responding to the PULSE murders and hosting the Town Hall Meeting.

We had our Vacation Bible School, the monthly Shepherd’s Pantry, and I’ve been busy with play rehearsals.

But now it feels like we are starting to cool down, catch our breath.

The office is at the point in which bulletins are done a day early. Council reports were in on-time.

After last week’s Air Conditioner Chat, two people have stepped forward offering to co-organize this year’s Harvest Home Sale.

Ahhh- breathe- calm…

And then…the news. We got our financial report and the treasurer shared the fact that we are currently $22,000 behind budget.

Which means that we definitely need to make sure we have a Harvest Home. That we begin early with our Meet the Budget Match. That we run a successful Intent to Give Campaign for 2017.

And that we take seriously our offerings and expenses for the next 3 ½ months.

Such somber, sobering news can make it feel as if the sky is falling, the world is coming to an end, that we have our backs against the Red Sea, and the bill collectors will soon be forcing us to shut our church’s doors…

Breathe….ah, breathe.

Then look- we’ve actually received $1,500 more than this time last year.

Membership is up, and new people are joining next month. Attendance has seen a 17% increase since 2010.

Worship, spirituality and mission are on point. The community knows our name.

In other words, our mission and ministry are thriving, which means that yes- our expenses are up.

You can’t have a healthy pastor without health insurance.

You can’t print bulletins, run websites, have a full-time office administrator without paying for it.

Can’t have a safe, air-conditioned, lighted place to hold worship, handbell practice, Bible studies, food pantries and free lunches without taking care of the grounds, paying the utilities, and buying supplies.

No one is getting rich. No one is throwing money away.

No one can say we are not having mission and ministry, fellowship and worship.

So what to do, what to do?

First, breathe…

Then, take a page from today’s scripture and praise the Lord!

How about we praise, O servants of the Lord!

How about we praise the name of the Lord!

How blessed is the name of the Lord from this time on and forevermore!

Who is like the Lord our God?

Everybody-praise the Lord!

Today’s scripture is a very special one. It makes up what are called the Hallel psalms.

Hallel means to praise.

Psalm 113 to Psalm 118 are 6 songs that were designed to be sung during joyous festivals. They were songs meant to be sung during Passover.

Which means that Psalm 113 is a song that Jesus and his disciples would have sung on the night they shared their final meal.

Which means that even in the shadow of the betrayal and the reality of the cross, Jesus sang out “Praise the Lord!”

The reason why Psalm 113-118 were sung during festivals and Passover is very clear. They were songs about deliverance; songs representing the majesty and wonder of God.

Psalm 113 represents the good, great things that God can do.

Psalm 113 represents how God can do what others say cannot be done.

Raise the poor? Done!

Lift the needy? Done!

Fill an empty home with children? Done and done again!

Today’s scripture presents what we have been calling a “vertical image” of God. It talks of God being high above and distant, kingly and sitting on a throne.

AND- it also shows God as being close at hand, alert, aware and active.

Psalm 113 praises the Lord for being a God who can raise the poor from dust.

A God who lifts the needy from piles of ash.

A God who gives a childless person a house filled with the sound of kids laughing.

These are not insignificant feats. These are not mere fairy tales.

These are the traits of a God who sees, a God who knows, who cares, who causes things to happen.

These are the traits of a God who sends winds, who parts waters, who delivers the innocent, and conquers the enemy.

This is a God in which nothing is too, too wonderful…

You know, as of today I have been ordained exactly 11 years, 2 months and a day.

I have been here at Emmanuel UCC for exactly 6 years and 5 months.

Ya’ll know that according to reason I should not be here. You’ve seen just some of the steps I have taken.

If there is one thing I hope to leave behind as my legacy is the realization that God can and does work miracles.

That God moves mountains, God parts the seas, and that God can make a way out of no way.

I hope that my legacy is one in which people can testify that when the world says “no”, God says “yes!”

That when I was poor and unemployed, God found a way to make sure my bills were paid and food was in the cabinet.

That when I was needy, God found a way to surround me with people, organizations, and opportunities to ensure my most basic needs were met.

That even though I am 46, single and as barren as anyone can be, God is finding a way for even a wretch like me to go through the adoption process and create a home in which children’s laughter will be heard.

Those are just some of the reasons why I can say “Praise the Lord!” Why I can praise the name of the Lord.

How many reasons to praise God exist right here in our sanctuary today?

Who else in here knows what it is like to be poor and needy, and to have somehow, someway made it through?

Who else has experienced the pain of death and the loss of a loved one, and discovered that there can be life, love, and new beginnings on the other side of grief?

Who has ever lost all they had and found a way to start afresh?

Who has ever watched their life go up in dust and never thought things could settle back down?

Who else has ever felt barren, empty, hopelessly bare and found that God has blessed them with new opportunities and a chance for joy?

If so- then we are called to rejoice. We are called to give thanks.

We are called not to hold back, but to co-create with God, to minister with Jesus, and to do the mission of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, as of today, we may be $22,000 behind. But we are far from finished. We are far from the end of the road.

We are far from the end of the story, or at the point that the Red Sea waters will come crashing down.

We remember all that God, through Christ, has done for us.

We recognize all that God, through Christ, is currently doing.

We embrace the opportunity to co-create and play a part in God’s mission and ministry through:

-our offerings
-our tithes
-our gifts
-our time
-our talents
-our stories, and

And we trust that as we continue in our mission and the ministry, there is nothing, no thing that God cannot do.

Amen and amen.

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