Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This Week's Sermon: Following by Faith

Luke 1:26-56.
The Angel came and told Mary that she was to carry the promised Messiah, the Son of God. This was probably both the most exciting and most terrifying thing she had ever heard. To be pregnant out of wedlock was a sign of adultery and if she were found in that condition, she could be stoned. It is no wonder then, that she chose to go and visit her cousin Elizabeth. The Angel had told her that Elizabeth was going to have a baby, and if that were true, then it would confirm the things the Angel had told would happen to Mary as well.

While Mary was with Elizabeth, she would get a taste of what it meant to be pregnant, and may have even been there for the birth of John the Baptist. These are all speculations but what we know is that the state of her heart is told in her song: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” She was waiting for a sign that what God had promised her was true, she did not have the fulfillment yet, she was still facing possible execution on her return home, yet she glorified God and rejoiced in the one she called her savior. And why? Because he had done great things for her. He had remembered her in her low estate and from now on she would be called blessed. She didn’t know these things for sure. She had no proof. She only had the word of an angel.

In her song, she also declares that in this act of remembering her, he was fulfilling his promise to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever. She is confirming that she understands that the child she will bear is to be the promised Messiah. She doesn’t know how God is going to work. She doesn’t know how he is going to come through for her, but she is declaring God’s faithfulness in advance.

Matthew 1:18-25.
God provided for Mary and for his Son and for his plan to be accomplished by paying a visit to Joseph. God gave Joseph a dream of an angel to tell him that God was behind Mary’s pregnancy and that the baby she was carrying was God’s salvation for his people. In essence the Angel hinted very strongly to Joseph that Mary’s baby was the Messiah. Joseph was a righteous man, so when God told him to go ahead and take Mary home as his wife, he obeyed. He didn’t have any proof that what God had said was true, but he was willing to trust that if God had a plan, He would carry it out.

It is hard sometimes when God calls us to do something risky. But really the only stories we have from scripture are those of God asking people to do scary things. Noah had to put himself out there to build a boat before it had ever rained. Abraham had to trust that if God said he would give him a son, he would fulfill his promise. Joseph had to go out on a limb to interpret Pharoah’s dream. Moses had to risk everything to bring God’s people out of captivity, to part the red sea, to receive the ten commandments. The Children of Israel had to actually go in and put their feet on the land that God had promised them in spite of the fact that there were still others who claimed it as their own. In the New Testament, Jesus asked the disciples to follow him. He asked a little boy to give up his lunch—maybe all the food he had for the day. He asked Peter to come out on the water. He asked Thomas to touch his wounds after his resurrection.

All big risky things that God called people to do, but it was worth it.

Because Noah built the ark, he and his family were saved. Because Abraham trusted God, he fathered a nation. Because Joseph interpreted Pharoah’s dreams, he gained power, Egypt survived one of the biggest droughts in history, and he was reconciled with his family. Because Moses obeyed, the children of Israel were set free and made it through the desert. Because the people set their feet on the land, it became theirs. Because the disciples left everything to follow Jesus, they witnessed God on earth. Because that little boy gave his lunch, 5,000 people were fed. Because Peter walked out on the water, he got to see that even when we sink, God pulls us up again. Because Thomas touched his wounds, he learned the truth, that God had raised Christ from the dead.

God asked Mary to take a risk in accepting the role as Mother to Jesus. God asked Joseph to be a care-giver, protector and earthly father. Because they obeyed, Jesus came, prophecy was fulfilled and the world now has access to the God of the Universe in spite of all our screw-ups.
God may call you to do something risky for him. He may have already done so, and you have been weighing the cost. That is ok. Weigh the cost. But trust him and obey. Trust him that if he has called you, he will be faithful to bring about whatever plan he has for you to accomplish. When we trust we get to see God at work. We get to see him do amazing things! If we refuse, we might stay safe in our comfort zone, but safe is not the same as fulfilled. Safe is not the same as joyful. Safe is not the same as amazing. Very rarely can you be safe and stand in awe before the majesty of God. That takes risk. I encourage you this morning, to take the risk. Take the leap. Be obedient. And stand back and watch the Creator of the Universe do amazing things in and through you.

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