Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My God IS Bigger than Your God

Season of Creation:Storm
Chatfield UMC
October 16, 2016
Psalm 29, Job 38

After hearing all the destruction that happens in the midst of a storm. Cedars breaking. Imagine all the trees in the cemetery broken crushing the gravestones.
The oaks are stripped bare. Imagine all the oak trees in town stripped. Not just leaves gently falling from their branches next spring as new buds form, but stripped. Shattered.

Where is God in all of this?
We have to be careful don’t we? We have heard it being said in recent weeks: God is using the storm to wipe clean the slate. God is bringing the storm to punish people for their sins.

That isn’t what the psalmist is saying. God’s voice is in the storm. And we are invited to listen for it. To hear God’s power. To hear the strength of a God who has the power to create as well as destroy.

We all like a cuddly God. A nice God who doesn’t give us much trouble or does whatever it is we desire. We want a God who loves us and cares for us and comforts us like a big mama figure.
Which is a great metaphor for God.

But that God isn’t quite enough. Not for what we face each and everyday. We also need a God who can be powerful and can be heard powerfully. Roaring throughout creation as the winds roar in the storms and the thunder echoes in from our bluffs. While we don’t need our trees stripped or our cedars toppled we do need a God who could do that.

So did the people to whom the Psalm was written. Their neighbors were the Canaanites who had the god Baal. Baal was the god of the thunder and rain and storm.  When the people needed rain for the crops they were tempted, and some probably did, ask Baal for the rain they needed. And when it rained. Baal was praised.

The Psalmist needed to remind the people that Baal wasn’t really God at all. The God who created the world, the God who created the wind and waves, trees and flowers, this is the God who is obeyed by creation. This God can do so much more than simply bring rain when asked. This God can make a statement!

I always think of this Psalm as a sort of playground scrabble. You know what I mean: My dad is stronger than your dad sort of thing.

My God is way stronger and more powerful and so much more to be reckoned with than your god (little ‘g’)

And like that playground scrabble no one expects their dad to go after anyone’s dad. God isn’t going to strip the oaks or break the cedars. God could. We could spend our days trembling before a terrifying God. Knees shaking worried about the great wrath we deserve. But that isn’t the God we are given.

Notice the last verse of this, otherwise terrifying Psalm: May the Lord give strength to all people! May the Lord bless all people with peace!

The gospel that is appointed with this Psalm is the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm. Remember the story. Jesus and his disciples sail out to the middle of the Sea of Galilee when suddenly one of the infamous storms that happen on that particular lake churns up the waves. The disciples are so afraid. Jesus is asleep, the first rest he has gotten in a long time. Save us the disciples cry. Calming Jesus stands up, speaks to the waves: Peace be still. Peace be still.

Peace, that is what God gives us.  God, who could give us raging storms, tree breaking and stripping winds, catastrophic devastation, and we would deserve it for all the devastation and breaking and stripping and raging that we do in this world. God could destroy us and we would deserve it.

This morning we baptized a little girl. In the next few months we will baptize other children, little Harry, the Bernard family children. I will begin the confirmation classes for 5 young people. Jack, Austin, Abbi, Anna, Joshua.

These children and young people will grow up in a world that is so different than any world we grew up in.
So different. But so much the same.
We have pledged to stand with them in growth as children of God. To love them through their struggles and triumphs. To point them toward the way that leads to life.
We are hoping that they will chose to follow the way of the Christ in all that they do and say and hope for.

And how can we be for them the Christian mentors you have agreed to be? By being people whom God wouldn’t want to destroy. By being people whom our children can look up to and see in us the love of Christ, Love of God and love of neighbor.

This week our first Lady, Michelle Obama, spoke a passionate word to our country about what our children are hearing in this election cycle.
It has been hard to hear the words and the attitudes. And Michelle brought some clarity to the table.
She reminded us that the words we use and the way we communicate about the dignity and worth of each person in our world is heard by our children. Children we hope to influence for good. Children we hope to see grow into followers of Christ.

Mrs. Obama said that if we don’t repudiate the language and attitudes we are hearing:  “We are telling our sons that it’s okay to humiliate women. We are telling our daughters that this is how they deserve to be treated. We’re telling all of our kids that bigotry and bullying is perfectly acceptable in the leader of their country.
And she asks: Is that what we want for our children?"

Is that what we want for Skylar, Harry, Fletcher, Lillian, Evy, Abbi, Anna, Jack, Austin, Joshua?
For your grandchildren, great grandchildren? Nieces and nephews?

We have all said words we are not proud of. We have all thought things about others that are shameful. We have all spoken or acted in ways that are not honoring of another’s dignity. We have.
We know that what we deserve is destruction. So we cower and remain silent afraid that our own sin will be found out and exposed.

But think of this dear ones:
Because we have done this and God has not sent down the cedars of Lebanon on our houses, has not stripped us bare like oaks driven in the winds. We are people who have hope.
We know that our mighty and powerful God is not set on destroying us.
Our mighty and powerful God is set on forgiving us.
Calming the waters that would or should drown us in our shame.
Saying Peace be still to the storms that threaten to overcome us in our guilt.
Restoring strength to our feeble attempts to speak words and do acts of reconciliation and love.

The waters God gives are not waters of destruction. The waters God give us are the waters of baptism that do not destroy us because of our sins but wash us clean of our sins. The waters God gives us are cleansing, renewing and thirst quenching waters.

Today let us remember our baptism. Remember our baptism and be thankful and courageous in our words and actions as people of God.


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