Sunday, Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pentecost Two
1 Samuel 8:4-15 or Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 138 or Psalm 130
1 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

I will give thee thanks with my whole heart: Before the gods will I sing praises unto thee.

Think about the people of authority you have known in your life. Think about the teachers, pastors, bosses or elders in your life. Which ones have had the greatest impact? Do you remember the leaders who were strong, powerful, successful, important, unbeaten, controlling, tough? What adjectives would you use to describe those people of authority?

I had a teacher in High School. Actually, he wasnít one of my teachers, but he was the man who served as our class sponsor. He was a special education teacher, teaching reading recovery and helped provide tutoring. He helped troubled students; he helped those who needed extra help. He had student helpers, like me, who went into his room during our breaks and lunch. We helped him help others.

Iím not sure I would have become involved as a tutor if it werenít for that teacher. He was a joy to be around. He was considerate, compassionate and kind. He made everyone feel important and worthy. He was a man of authority, but he never made you feel powerless. He gave tutors and tutees the space to make decisions. He rejoiced with every success and had a way of encouraging us all through our times of trouble. He was easy to talk to, had good advice, and never acted superior. He allowed us to make bad decisions, and then helped us through the consequences. He was a humble man, a man who was courteously respectful of all the students.

Humble people are often misunderstood to be weak. As a matter of fact, there are those who thought that my teacher was weak. He didnít always succeed. Some kids still dropped out, even after he tried to make their life better with his undemanding style. They thought if he were more demanding, he would succeed with those kids. But some students just didnít want to be helped. Some were too far gone for a program in a regular school. Some students were beyond his help, so he failed with them. But he succeeded with so many more.

The best authority figures are those who are unassuming. They are not arrogant. They understand the need for making those whom they lead to feel like they have some power and control. A good leader is one who gives those they lead freedom to do what they do well, to make choices, to take control of their own work and life. Now, that good leader will also provide good guidance; they will help those leaders make the right choices. That teacher left us alone to do what we could do, but he did provide a foundation on which we could base our choices. He was always willing to do what needed to be done, but he gave us the room to do what we could. We all benefited from his humble attitude; we shared in his joy and his successes.

Those of us who loved this teacher could not understand those who did not. We could see all the good he could do for them; we could see how their lives could be changed. Yet, they rejected him because he did not give them what they wanted. Sadly, they often did not even know what they wanted.

Do you see some parallels between my teacher and our God? You canít be more powerful than the Creator God who makes the earth go round. You canít be more authoritative than the God who rules over kings. You canít be more majestic than the God who dwells above the heavens. Yet, that very same God is humble. He gives us the freedom to be who we are; He lets us make choices and live as we want to live. He provides guidance, laws, encouragement, and hopes that we will live as we are called to live, but He allows us to go our own way. He humbly accepts our rejection and waits patiently for our cry for help. Then He helps us through the consequences of our poor decisions.

The elders of Israel saw the leaders of the world and thought that it would be a good idea for Israel to have a king. They did not realize they needed no king but God; they thought that a human king would make everything right for their nation. We might think that the God of the universe should reject such a request and insist that the people call Him King. He certainly has the authority, power and majesty to be the only King. Yet, this God who moves heaven and earth humbly accepted the peopleís choice. He let them have a human king. He warned them of the pitfalls and then let them go. Samuel was upset by the rejection. He thought they were rejecting him as their judge, but God knew that they were rejecting His authority.

They werenít the first to reject Godís word and will. Adam and Eve rejected God in the garden. They believed the word of the serpent. Human beings have done the same ever since. We want what we want, even if what we want is not what is best for us. Just as those students who refused the help of my teacher, so too we can refuse the help of God. We can go our own way, make our own choices. Unfortunately, our way is rarely the best way, and we often have to suffer the consequences of those choices. However, the humble God that allowed us to go our own way is nearby and ready to help us through those consequences.

The first half of the church year focuses on the story of God. We hear what God has done for us. We hear about Jesus, His birth, ministry, death and resurrection. We hear about the history of His relationship with His people. We hear about why we need Jesus. Beginning with this Sunday, the focus turns to us. Now that we know what God has done for us, we consider what we will do in response. Pentecost is about growing in our faith and action. It is about listening to Godís call and going forth in faith. It is good and right to study the story of God, but it is meaningless if we arenít changed. It is worthless if we do not respond to Godís grace.

While we will look at the call to action in the world, it is helpful to begin this season with the most important response we can give: thanksgiving. St. Paul writes, ďFor all things are for your sakes, that the grace being multipled through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.Ē This is our first purpose. This is our first response.

As we study the text over the next few months, weíll look at our own lives of faith. We think about what God is calling us to do. We will think about our gifts and the opportunities that God is providing for us to share His kingdom with others. For today, however, let us consider first the Lord God Almighty and our place in His kingdom. Are you fulfilling the purpose for which you were created? Are you glorifying God with your life? Everything else will fall into place perfectly and completely when you realize that it is in humbleness and submission to the humble God who created the universe that you will truly fulfill the purpose for which you were designed and ordained in this world. Praise God and youíll see clearly the direction He is leading you to go.

It was hard to believe that there were students who did not appreciate the work that teacher was trying to do for them. They didnít want to have a better life. They didnít want to succeed in school. They rejected his kindness and ultimately failed. Although some may have thought that it was the failure of the teacher that they were sent to another school or dropped out, it was their own choice to walk away. The same is true of those who do not believe in Jesus. They reject the reality of what Jesus has done and choose to go their own way.

We might think that it would be better for Jesus to follow after those who reject Him, to convince them that He is the Lord, but Jesus does not force anyone to believe. He offers Himself and embraces those who follow, letting the others find their way to Him. We understand the rejection from the leaders of the Jews, because we know they had their own reasons for seeing Jesus as an interloper not a Savior. We find it harder to understand that Jesusí own family would reject Him. They wanted to take Him home, to keep Him from making a fool of Himself. They thought He was mad. He wasnít eating right, He was teaching great crowds. He was not acting as they thought He should act.

God does not do what we want Him to do, He acts according to His will. But though His will is good, and right, and perfect, He does not force us to comply. He gives us the freedom to live in the faith He offers or to reject Him and go our own way. As we enter into this season of Pentecost, blessed by Godís grace and sealed by the Holy Spirit, let us begin by singing thanksgiving to God and we will be as those who do the will of God, and be to Jesus brother, sister and mother.

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