Archive for June, 2012

Click here for Sermon for June 24: Now: Don’t Waste Your Grace.

Sermon Text:  2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Notes: There’s a challenge when it comes to working through Paul’s letters.  They are written to specific churches and usually in response to specific issues.  In fact, sometimes, we lose the exchange of letters and it becomes like reading half of an e-mail conversation.  In this passage from 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, I would love to read the response of the church.  I’d love to know what they had been saying to Paul, what they had been asking him to do and what they were trying to bring to his attention.  Based on Paul’s response, it seems that what they were saying was hitting him right in the heart.  Paul invested two years of his life into getting the church going at Corinth.  To hear what they were saying now had to hurt.  We always hurt when we love someone and we see them going in a direction we don’t wish them to go.

The idea of “don’t” really started to stick in my mind on Wednesday or Thursday of that week.  I had just finished telling my daughter Grace to stop climbing on the couch.  She stopped, said she was sorry and then went to trying to climb up on the counter.  She’s definitely persistent.

Don’t!  It’s the way that we try to stop behaviors or prevent them from happening.  When I thought about the Don’t, I started to see this passage as having two key parts:  First, the issue:  The church is warned that it shouldn’t take God’s grace in vain.  Second, the comparison:  Paul gives the image of what it means to live a life where grace matters.

Click here for Sermon for June 24: Now: Don’t Waste Your Grace.

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NOW: Don’t Waste Your Grace

The audio of the sermon from June 24

I believe that God speaks.  Without a doubt, I believe that God speaks.

It was dark that night.  I had turned out the lights in the room and it was overcast outside with little light shining through the windows.

I dropped to my knees in front of the recliner where I would watch TV and I buried my face in the seat and I started to pray desperately to God. I felt lost and as if I had never connected with my purpose. And, I knew I needed something, something different.

Over and over again I prayed.  Sometimes the prayer came through tears.  Sometimes it was just the words that I could get out from the depths of my heart. But, I remember what I was said. “God, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what you need.”

At this point, I had started to believe in the power of not only praying to God, but also in listening to God.  So, I waited. Quietly. And I listened.  Nothing came.

I stood up to leave the room and as soon as I stepped up the small step to the dining room, I heard it.  It was as plain as day and it was a simple word.

To this day, I can’t forget it — “Samuel.”

And I thought, no, I didn’t really hear that.  And so I heard it again.  “Samuel.”

That sent me back into the den and to my computer desk that was located in the corner.  I flipped on the light and turned quickly to 1 Samuel and came to rest on the following passage:

1-3The boy Samuel was serving God under Eli’s direction. This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen. One night Eli was sound asleep (his eyesight was very bad—he could hardly see). It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning. Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested.

4-5 Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” Then he ran to Eli saying, “I heard you call. Here I am.” Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” And so he did.

6-7 God called again, “Samuel, Samuel!”Samuel got up and went to Eli, “I heard you call. Here I am.” Again Eli said, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” (This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.)

8-9 God called again, “Samuel!”—the third time! Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, “Yes? I heard you call me. Here I am.”That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy. So Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.'” Samuel returned to his bed.

10 Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.”

In those early morning hours, I realized that the prayer had been answered.  In those words from Samuel, I realized that God had, indeed, been speaking to me so many times in my life, but I had not heard.  And, for the first time in my life, I was able to pray, “Lord, speak, I’m your servant and I’m ready to listen.”

This week is my last week as a Provisional Elder in the SC Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  This Sunday, I stand in front of the clergy session of the conference seeking to be voted into full connection as an elder.  Then, next Wednesday morning, I’m looking forward to hearing the words of Bishop Taylor as I am ordained as an elder.

Still, I hear the name… “Samuel.”

Speak Lord. I am your servant and I’m listening.