Sermon 3-17-19: Really, God?

This sermon was given to three churches, Fairbury UMC, Endicott UMC, and Daykin UMC on March 17, 2019. (Here's a link to the story I wrote to go with it! It is called "Thundering Anthony.")


Really, God?


There once was a chunk of clay buried comfortably in the ground outside of Endicott, Nebraska. He was happy where he was and trusted God to take care of him. But one day something scooped him up and took him to a place that crushed him and put him into a wet slime. But God said, trust me, I’m making you into something very good for a purpose much bigger than you can imagine.


Really God?


They smashed the piece of clay through a very uncomfortable tube that made him into a sharp square that wasn’t fun at all. Then they put him in a 2000 degree oven for two and a half days.


Really God?


Three days later, our little chunk of clay in the ground had become a brick. And that brick was used to build a church where people could come and worship and pray and love on each other. Even when it was uncomfortable, this little bit of clay had trusted God to use him in ways he didn’t understand so he could be part of a purpose bigger than he ever imagined.


Is God asking you trust him with something really hard? Is it getting too hard to wait on the Lord for something? Or does it feel like he’s asking you to do something that would take you away from what you thought he had planned for you?


In our old testament reading today, Genesis 15:1-12 God asks Abraham and Sarah to trust him in something that took longer than they thought it should have. Then he later asked them to give up that very thing.


God promised them a baby, for they had no heir to carry on their legacy. But they were very old that it would have to be a miracle to have a baby.


Really God?


They didn’t do a great job at trusting. They took matters into their own hands and Sarah asked Abraham to sleep with her maidservant so they could have an heir. God blessed that child too, but against all worldly odds God till gave them their dream. When they were 100 years old they had a baby boy.


But then God told Abraham to take that very son and sacrifice him.


Really, God?


But this time Abraham was obedient to this absurd sounding command. And not only did God save Isaac at the last moment, but God said because you have not withheld your son from me I will bless all nations through your descendents. Because I see that you are willing to give up your son for me, I will give my son to the world through you. Abraham had no way to know that God was using his story to do something far greater story of being willing to sacrifice his son as a beautiful foreshadowing of God sacrificing his son, Jesus.


He wants to use us in ways that we would not expect and do not understand, because he has far greater plans for us.


Fast forward 2000 years, in our gospel passage today, Luke 13:31-35, the pharisees tell jesus, stop preaching and get out of town because Herod wants to kill you. Jesus’ disciples expected Jesus to become the king of their worldly kingdom. And being killed would in no way move him in that direction. But Jesus trusts God’s plan for him and stays in town anyway. He lets himself be killed.


Really God?


But because he let himself be killed he could become the king that invites all into his far greater spiritual kingdom across the entire globe and across the ages.


For me God asked me to do something really absurd. I’ve based my whole life on being a Christian, writing books about it, making art to help people building my community around Christians. Over the past couple of years too many coincidences lined up telling me to look honestly into a certain other religion.


REALLY GOD!??


This did not make any sense to me but it seemed like God was asking me to sacrifice my Isaac on the altar. Even though I was terrified, I gave it an honest look, being willing to convert and lose everything if that was what God asked me. And on the other side, I can say I am still a Christian, but now I have a much deeper trust in my own faith, in its theology as it has been established over the ages, and more of a certainty that this some religions are less correct. It seems God had a better future for me that I couldn’t see.


If God has placed a good dream in your heart, but it seems like there is no way for it to come true,


Or if you feel like God is asking you to do something that seems to be leading you away from the goal you thought he had for you, trust and obey. Because he wants to do in us far greater things that we can, or would do on our own.


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