July 18, 2024

Sermon: Scripture in Troubling Times (Andre Burgard 08-03-2014) back

Sermon- Dayspring 8/3/14

Genesis 32:22-31 Jacob prepares to face Esau

Matthew 14:13-21 loaves & fishes

A few days ago I read the morning Post and it struck me again that this is like it must have been to watch from Rome as the Empire crumbled. I believe that it is all of a piece - the troubles in the Middle East, our civic crises here, immigration problems, anti-Semitism returning to Europe. It is the colonial culture of Western Europe, adopted and further developed by the U.S. into a near-global empire, which is falling apart.

But what does this really mean? People have been predicting the demise of western culture at least since the First World War, and probably back to the time of Napoleon. Yet all empires do collapse. Is it that difficult to see what is really happening? Yes! It is. And it has been since the time of Abraham and Sarah. What else is the Bible except a long, drawn-out history of people not understanding what is going on, yet thinking that they’ve got it all figured out?

- Abraham & Sarah were beyond their reproductive years, yet God insisted, and demonstrated that they might be the parents of whole nations.

- In today’s scripture, Jacob and Esau are about to re-unite after a long separation which was caused by Jacob cheating Esau out of inheriting the family wealth. Jacob is shaking in his boots. He hears that Esau is approaching with 400 men, probably armed to the teeth. Yet what occurs is this: “[Jacob] bowed himself to the ground 7 times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” Who would have expected that?

- Joseph was sold into slavery by his elder brothers because he was the world’s most irritating adolescent. He became prime minister of Egypt and rescued his family from famine.

-In each of these cases, someone was in mystical union with God. Abraham had the voice of God tell him to go to a new country where he would become the father of nations. Jacob had dreams and wrestled with an angel all night long. Joseph was led by dreams as well.

-God called many people to prophesy to the people of Israel when they forgot their need of God. They were reminded that

- God pays attention to what we do.

-God cares how we do things.

-God will make a way for us.

-We must follow God along God’s way or our lives will be  empty.

-Jesus came and told people, “You’ve misunderstood what God wants! It is not complicated or tricky. Simply treat God as you would a loving father. God wants a real relationship with you.”

-Beyond that, Jesus showed the way to live well, whether the situation is miserable or happy.

1. Don’t be afraid.

2. Love the people around you.

3. Don’t worry about social convention or family expectations; love everyone the same.

4. Ask God for what you need, and then go look for it.

5. Team up with others and live as Jesus did.

-Did people understand what Jesus was about? Not very many. They were too focused on the loaves & fishes, and on the walking on water. Even today.

 - After the first few generations people lost interest in how Jesus lived and what he actually said, and began to argue about who Jesus was and all sorts of doctrinal matters that Jesus never mentioned. Christianity came to focus on correct belief rather than Jesus’ way of life. Correct belief is not much help in tough times, but Jesus’ 5-point way of life got his disciples and several following generations of Christians through some very tough times.

But what about our human potential? Our minds are important! Even with our limited wisdom we can see the hidden potential for meeting our needs around us. We can solve problems, learn how to do our part, but not meddle in what we don’t/can’t understand: - find surprising cures to diseases - learn how to get what we need without harm to self/other/nature - discover how to live w/o cultivating envy or resentment.

Are we still not understanding what is going on yet thinking that we’ve got it all figured out? All the information and knowledge we’ve invested our lives in accumulating is helpful, but it is not deep enough.

- We can tell the number of electrons in an atom, but we have no real idea what an electron is.

- We can see live video of a war in Gaza, but be helpless to stop it or cure its causes. - We have studied the human brain for a long time, but are just now realizing that our mind is different from the brain and is distributed all through our bodies.

- Nobody has ever captured a soul.

Are we today at the beginning of the end of humanity or approaching real wisdom? This is a time when we risk falling into despair, because our learning does not match the depth of our problems. It is a time when we must do that which we have kidded ourselves that we are doing, but which we have avoided like the plague; and that is to depend fully upon God’s mercy and direction. This is a time when only Jesus can show us how to live without debilitating fear, how to live with joy and compassion as he did.

Repeat 5 steps. Reference “Come to the Water”