1 Kings 19:9-15
9At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 11He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.
This is probably my favorite story in the Bible. The more time I spend with it the more I hear God speaking through it and each time there is a new wrinkle that wasn’t there before. For me, each new wrinkle is a reminder that God is a living God and that the Spirit speaks to us fresh and new every day.
We enter the story where, under a royal death sentence, Elijah has fled the northern kingdom of Israel and ultimately will find refuge at Mount Sinai. Now it would be great to be able to say the holy prophet Elijah sought out the holy ground of Sinai where his ancestors received the word of God. That’d be a great way of telling the story and of building up the piousness of Elijah, but that’s not even close to what happened. In this case Elijah is frustrated, mad and feeling a bit hopeless, so he does what any great man of God would do under such circumstances…he lays down under a tree and asks God to kill him.
It’s kind of pathetic when you stop to think about it. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going;” well it would seem that Elijah took the whole “get going” thing a little too literally. Elijah, the great prophet of God, sees things getting tough, see that all of his hard work and obedience to God isn’t paying off the way he wants it to so he runs away from his troubles, lies down under a tree, refuses to eat and hopes to die.
Fortunately, God has other plans and sends food for Elijah and has an angel tell him to go stand on Mount Sinai. Now with all that had gone wrong, as hopeless as he had felt, this ultimately should be good news. After being chased by a mob with no sign or help from God, Elijah clearly felt put out by God, forgotten by God, left behind by God, but then and angel of God appears (with food!, best kind of angel) and tells him to go to Sinai. The angel with food aside, the thought of Mount Sinai alone should have given him hope. It would have reminded him of a different image of God, a God who is not missing, absent, silent; but rather a God who is bold and very clearly present.
As Exodus 19 states:
Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. (Exodus 19:18-19)
On the mountain of Sinai, God was fully present and Elijah probably expected to encounter God in those three symbols from the Exodus story: wind, earthquake and fire. But quite the opposite happens to Elijah in his Sinai experience. In one of the Bible’s most surprising moments, the God of Creation, the God who destroyed the Tower of Babel, flooded the world and led Israel out of Egypt by a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night – that God let the fire pass, let the hurricane pass, let the earthquake pass and then was revealed in a still, small voice – basically, in silence – God’s voice in a still silent voice, where you would least expect it. Certainly, it was where Elijah least expected it. He thought he'd find God on the mountain top in some grand form: wind, earthquake, fire; but rather, he found God in the simplest thing.
We rarely give ourselves the opportunity to experience God that way – in silence. We surround ourselves with noises. Whether it is the Musac of an elevator, so we don’t have to suffer the 30 second ride in silence, the constant drone of the TV, or the non-stop chatter of our own minds reminding us of what we need to do next, not to forget, or to worry about some more – while we don’t like to admit it, it is all there because we are, at least somewhat, afraid of the silence.
Our story today, if we look at it closely, might also suggest the we surround ourselves with noise not just because we fear the silence, but because, despite the fact that we say we long to hear God, we busy our lives and fill them with noise so that they are neither still nor silent - and if we are lucky we can go through life believing that we are following God’s call without ever really having to hear God truly speak to us.
There is a story that, I think, comes fairly close to conveying this discomfort with hearing God, or more specifically what God might say to us: Once, there was a tourist who wandered too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon. He lost his footing and plunged over the side, clawing and scratching to save himself from certain death in the chasm below. After he went out of sight and just before he fell headlong into empty air, he encountered a scrubby bush, which he grabbed desperately with both hands. The tourist was terrified. He called out to heaven. “Is anybody up there?”. A calm, powerful voice came out of the sky. “Yes, there is.”
“Well, who knew?” thought the tourist. “Can you help me? Can you help me?”
The calm voice replied, “Yes, I probably can. What’s the problem?” The tourist replied, “I fell over a cliff, and now I’m dangling here in space holding onto a bush that’s about to come out by the roots. Help!” The voice from above said, “I’ll try. Do you believe?” “Yes, yes,” said the tourist. “I believe!” “Do you have faith?” “Yes, yes! I have strong faith!” The voice, still aggravatingly calm, said “Well, in that case, just let loose of the bush and everything will turn out fine.” There was a tense pause. Then, the tourist yelled, “Is anybody else up there?”
Whether we realizes it or not, we live out the truth of that little tale. We frequently think we want to hear the voice of God... until - we actually hear the voice of God, hear what God is calling us to do. Frequently, what God wants us to do, what God is calling us to do, is not something that we want to do, is not something with which we are particularly comfortable. So we busy ourselves and our lives, in ways that make it difficult for us to actually hear God’s call.
Let’s go back to this story and considering what deeper, possibly hidden meaning, might God have waiting here for us? What new divine wrinkle might we find?
Looking closer at the story I realized that, contrary to popular belief and a slue of renaissance era paintings and etchings, Elijah was not “standing on the mountain” before God as God had told him to do, as God called him to do. The texts say that after the wind, the earthquake and the fire, and then finally the still, small voice of God, after all of that... now this is a quote, Elijah “wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” Three things to notice here about Elijah. 1) Elijah was not standing on the mountain before God as God called him to do - Elijah was cowering in the perceived protection of a cave. 2) Even after hearing the voice of God, Elijah was only willing to risk it out to the entrance of the cave – in effect still in the cave or at least where he could get back to it quickly and 3) even after hearing God’s voice, recognizing it as God, he wraps his face up as if he could hide from God like Adam and Eve in the garden.
Elijah wants to trust in God, wants to follow God, but like the person hanging in the Grand Canon, his actions say, “Is there somebody else up there?”
God called to Elijah telling him to stand on the mountain, to face the challenges of the mountain by trusting in God and doing what he heard God calling him to do. Elijah hedged his bets. Oh, he climbed the mountain and he saw the fiery storms - but only through the opening of the cave. To that God responds, “What are you doing here?”
Like I said, there’s always a new divine wrinkle in this story for me and I’d like to conclude by offering a final lesson based on the new wrinkle. In divinity school we called this particular kind of lesson, preaching against the text - because the truth sometimes lies outside of what the text seems to be telling us.
I'm going to preach against the text a bit here. You see, I think God was in the fire, the wind and the earthquake. I mean...let’s face it, those three things didn’t occur naturally one right on top of the other. And, as we heard from Exodus, God has appeared in those three modes on this very mountain before.
I believe that God was in those three things, but Elijah simply didn’t see him in them because, instead of following God’s call, he was cowering in a cave. The same is true for us. All too often, our fears of where the call of God may lead us – to places we don’t really want to go – leave us calling out, “Is there anyone else up there?” Our inability to do what God asks, the relative safety we feel in hunkering down in the same old cave rather than following God to the mountain top, prevents us from seeing God in things and places we never thought possible.
All the while - all the while, God calls to us, just like with Elijah, “what are you doing here?” From our mountain tops of power in this world we rest protected from the harsh realities that pass us by. We rest in the perceived protection of our air-conditioned, carpeted, well insulated caves that we sometimes allow to separate us from the reality of the experiences God desires for us. From time to time we may click the remote to watch the majesty and tragedy of Creation through a small opening, but – like Elijah watching from the cave - we only catch glimpses of the grandeur of God and God’s creation. All the while - all the while, God is calling us to stand fully before God and - until we do - God will ask us, “What are you doing here?”
Have you opened yourself to the full possibilities of God? Have you trusted in God’s call to you enough to step out of the cave opening so that you can fully experience the Creation of which God has chosen to make you a part? When the fiery storms of life hit you and others, do you pack it in and settle for a screen sized vision of the reality of God’s Creation or do you step out on faith and experience life the way God desires it for you?
Vandalia Presbyterian Church, what are you doing here? Is this where God wants you to be? Does the life of this church, the worship experience at this church, really reflect God’s call in today’s world? Are you stepping out on faith and trusting in God? If you will, if you are, you will find God in places you could have never imagined.
As life constantly changes, as we peel back the layers of life we will discover God sometimes in the fiery storms and sometimes in the still small voice – but, if we can step out of our caves, if we can fully follow the call of God, what we can be assured of is that every time - every time we find God, it will be a fuller experience and we…we will find ourselves growing in ways that our caves could have never contained.
Genesis 1:1-5 (JPS)
1 IN THE beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.
2 Now the earth was unformed and void (tohu wabohu), and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the waters.
3 And G-d said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light.
4 And G-d saw the light, that it was good; and G-d divided the light from the darkness.
5 And G-d called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
Edward Lorenz is a meteorologist. He fills his days with observing and predicting the weather. Over time, he developed a computer model to show how weather systems react to outside variables. Now, if you were like me and got caught in the rain in Thursday afternoon’s spring shower, you are very aware that Mr. Lorenz did not create a model that could actually predict the weather, he only modeled how weather works.
At this point you may very well be asking yourself, “Why are we talking about a meteorologist in church?” Fair enough question. We are talking about him for the same reasons they talk about him in med school, MBA classes, advanced flight school, and maybe even in space camp. How could this guy you’ve never heard of be so important? Well, he discovered something in 1961 that has changed the world. Ok, maybe not actually changed the world, but it has changed how we understand the world. He discovered “chaos.” …sort of.
He discovered what is now known as “Chaos Theory.” At that point it was simply called it “The Butterfly Affect.” Up until his model, it had been purely theoretical. It went something like this… “a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia could affect the weather in New York a few days or weeks later.” Lorenz’s model simply proved that minute differences in initial weather conditions produced drastic changes in the outcome. That, in effect, is a simple model of chaos…small nearly untraceable changes can effect systems in unpredictable ways.
The surprising thing about this Chaos Theory or Butterfly Effect is what happened when he mapped out these changes. He put the formulas and equations in a computer and set the computer out plotting the effects 3-dimentionally. You have a picture of the results in your bulletin labeled “tohu wabohu.” (In the picture at the top beginning of this sermon). The results are remarkably less than chaotic. Oddly enough, they sort of look like the originally theorized butterfly. Chaos, it would seem, is not so chaotic. It actually has order.
Not only does chaos have order, it is also better equipped for the world in which we live. Let’s really over simplify this. As an example of a chaotic system we will use a shuffled deck of cards. Las Vegas banks on the fact that this deck behaves in unpredictable ways – chaotically so to speak. As an example of an ordered system let’s use a laptop computer. While some of us may find computers to be less than predictable, the truth is to those with the knowledge, a computer is excruciatingly ordered and predictable. Just tell me what you are going to do to it and I’ll tell you how it will respond. Now, what if I introduce change by dropping the cards (drop cards to one side)…are they any less shuffled or any more predictable? No. Even though they have experienced and extraordinary amount of change they are just as functional as they were in the beginning. Now (hold up computer)…yes, I am going to do it,…what if I introduce change, what if I drop this laptop? Some of you already know what is going to happen. It is very likely that it will stop functioning. (Drop laptop). The question is, which system is less affected by change – a so-called chaotic system or an ordered system?
What does all that talk about chaos have to do with a sermon on Genesis? Surprisingly enough, quite a bit. In part, Chaos Theory, deals with how one thing effects another. We have to do the same thing to get to the heart of the first Genesis creation story. We need to consider how the surroundings effect the story.
It is widely accepted by Biblical scholars that Genesis was recorded during the Babylonian exile. Which is important to us in our study because of how it affects the story. The people of Israel were relegated to the outskirts of society – Babylonian society. Necessarily, they had to understand who they were as a people over and against the Babylonian culture. Looking at Genesis then, we are particularly interested in the Babylonian conceptualization of Genesis – of the beginning.
It is called the Enuma Elish. In it the god of the deep, Tiamat – also know as the Chaos Dragon Monster picks a fight with the Über god – the ultimate god (alluring, sparkling, exalted, perfect, described as Lord of lords and King of kings). The Battle to Defeat Chaos ensues – he captures Tiamat in a net – she opens her mouth to eat him – he sends a wind, blows her up, shoots her with an arrow – out of the pieces of her chaotic body he creates the world. In their creation story the universe was created out of chaos.
Now lets turn to the first Genesis creation story. When the earth was tohu wabohu (as it is described in the regional Hebrew). Think of that as “wild and waste,” “helter scelter,” “mixed mess” …or maybe you prefer the more simple “chaotic.” When the earth was tohu wabohu darkness was over the “face of the deep.” At this point, it is worth remembering that Tiamat, the Chaos Dragon Monster was the Babylonian god of the deep. When the earth was tohu wabohu darkness was over the face of the deep. Then God speaks - God does not lift a finger – God speaks. To defeat the Chaos Dragon Monster, the Babylonian god had to go to battle. The people of Israel, in defining themselves against their oppressors, say, “Our God is so great the only thing Elohim has to do to overcome chaos…is speak.”
The writers of the first creation story in Genesis have gone to great lengths to put God in relationship with tohu wabohu – chaos. If chaos was so important to them in understanding God then I believe we need to understand it as important to us. After all much like the Babylonian creation story, the Enuma Elish, in our creation story, the only thing from which God has to form the things of this world is tohu wabohu – chaos. Ultimately, it is an ordered chaos, but chaos none-the-less. So even in our creation story the universe is created out of chaos.
Don’t we see it every day? As much as we’d like our lives to be ordered, they really aren’t. Life throws curves at us that we could have never predicted. In my life, among other things, I have found a dead friend, stopped someone from committing suicide, been divorced, been unemployed, wondered where I'd get food for my kids to eat and even struggled with depression. My parents are with us today. Do you think when that young couple had their first baby boy they could have imagined his life would be so chaotic at times?
Now I just use me as an example. We all have experienced the tohu wabohu of this life. They don’t have to be major events like finding a dead friend; even the small moments of chaos are enough to point to the tohu wabohu of the world. But here is the rather odd thing to think about…God designed it that way.
My first reaction to that thought was “how dare God!” Do you mean that this life was designed so that chaotic events like slavery, the invasion of Native American land, the Holocaust, and 9/11 could happen? How dare God! But then I had to learn to hear that question differently. Think back to our brief discussion on Chaotic and Ordered systems. Of the two systems, which one was capable of handling a change to the system but still function? The so-called chaotic system was… Do you mean that this life was designed so that chaotic events like slavery, the invasion of Native American land, the Holocaust, and 9/11 could happen? Yes.
It was designed so that they could happen. It had to be. In giving us freedom of choice God knew that humanity was being gifted with a terrible power and responsibility, and that some would abuse that power – God knew that Holocausts would happen. If God had designed an ordered system, like the laptop computer, Holocausts would have resulted in total, everlasting pandemonium – perminate and real chaos. In God’s infinite wisdom, however, God designed a world that was ordered tohu wabohu. It is part of what we are just learning in Chaos Theory. It is precisely the chaos that allows a system, God’s creation, to respond to sever changes to the system. God’s creation is able to respond to real chaos, without being destroyed. The chaos of this world seems to be necessary.
We need to trust God’s resilient system of ordered tohu wabohu. After all, when finished creating it, God called it exceedingly good. We have to stop insisting on working out of the same old systems. They are not resilient enough for the complexities of the world God created. Ordering things based on the way they have always been done or on a set of specific rules or on cultural expectations can be a very dangerous thing. God created a flexible universe precisely by ordering the tohu wabohu, not destroying it. I can’t help but wonder if it was more than just designing a system that could respond to change. Maybe it also is a God made design that makes us more dependent on God, more dependent on faith. If the world was completely ordered and we knew what to expect around every corner…who would need God? There would be no need for faith.
If you watch from a bridge as a leaf floats down the stream, you may see it trapped by a small whirlpool, whirl around a few times, and escape, only to be trapped again further down the stream. Trying to guess what will happen to the leaf is as futile as trying to insist on keeping things the way they have always been. You see, the tiniest shift in the leaf's position can completely change its future course. The same is true with us. It is something that Chaos Theory points out for us. Small changes lead to bigger changes later. This behavior is the signature of chaos and chaos, tohu wabohu, is the stuff from which the universe was created. Small changes are unavoidable. Small changes necessarily lead to bigger changes. So why do we resist it so hard? It is a God given design that works for our own benefit. It allows us to react to and survive changes to the system that happen in life. It encourages us to be active parts of the continuing creating of God.
We need to be willing to change, to respond to the chaotically changing needs of the world around us. Even the smallest change can, over time, lead to bigger changes. The good news is that God has designed the world to work best that way. Just like the deck of card, we are capable of experiencing an extraordinary amount of change and still remain just as functional as we were in the beginning –it just takes a little faith…not in ourselves, but in God.
Not all change is bad. It can lead us to places beyond our imagination. There is one thing that is true about all change, and maybe it is the thing that holds us back and frightens us. As Lorenz learned in mapping out the Butterfly Effect, we cannot predict where change will take us. That is when the faith comes in. We are fooling ourselves if we think by keeping things the same that we can predict where we are going. Inevitably things will change. Even the smallest change can, over time, lead to bigger changes. So why not trust in God and try something new. Have faith that the system God created is capable of experiencing an extraordinary amount of change and still remain just as functional as it was in the beginning. It will be an amazing journey, if we only learn to trust in God.
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
After reading today's scripture, I've arrived at a conclusion that will probably not sit well with some folk. It is this: by human measurements, God is nuts. Seriously. That seems to be one of the implications of today's scripture.
I mean, haven't you ever heard the saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?” Well, these parables seem to flip that saying on it's head. Looking at the sheep parable, it seems to be saying a bird in the bush is worth 99 in the hand. Well, I hardly think that saying is going to catch on.
No reasonable shepherd, more-or-less reasonable person, would have left 99 sheep to go find one. And also, don't miss the fact that the unwatched sheep were left in the "wilderness.” They weren't in a protected area or fenced in – they were left in the wilderness.
It would seem that the shepherd is willing to risk loosing everything for the sake of the one. It would also seem that God, as the shepherd, often acts in ways that just make no sense...at least to us. As I said, it would seem that (by human standards) God is nuts. And if we believe we were made in the image of God, it would seem that sometimes, we (like God) have to be a little bit nuts, have to be willing to give up the things that are most dear to us in order to gain what should be the most important us.
The point is, God is radical. And at some point, we've managed to begin believing that being a good Christian means not rocking the boat, not making waves, rolling with the ebb and flow of the dominate cultural tide. Essentially, being so 'nice' that we render ourselves irrelevant.
This is particularly true for those who see themselves as liberals or progressives. We've taken the idea of passiveness so literally that we don't actually do anything but point out the flaws in other people's logic. (The whole thing's a bit funny, because passivity seems to be the only thing we actually do take literally).
We need to learn to recognize that God is not passive to the point of irrelevance, rather God is willing to to go to the point of acting out radically if it could mean the difference for one soul.
I've always favored the quiet rational approach to problems.
Think it through.
Talk it out.
Wait and see.
But today's scripture has inspired me to find a new path. It's not really new, people like Martin Luther King and Ghandi have all walked this path, but all too frequently, it is no longer the path that we Christians chose.
We need to learn to recognize that God is not passive to the point of irrelevance, rather God is willing to to go to the point of acting out radically if it could mean the difference for one soul.
OK, if the first parable in our scripture is about the radicalness of following God, the second parable seems to be about re-enforcing what it is that is worth being that radical about. In the parable of The Lost Coin we have a fairly straight forward story: a woman has 10 coins, loses one, and set about to find it.
Sandwiched between the richness of the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable that follows (The Lost Son or the Prodigal Son), the parable of The Lost Coin is very easy to overlook, but as it sits in the center of the three parables, it serves the purpose of centering us on what is so important that it is worth giving up the things that are most dear to us in order to gain what should be the most important us. It reminds us of what it is that God believes is so valuable that it is worth doing something that seems senseless; of what it is that God believe is so valuable that we should be willing to do something radical to get it.
I actually think that part of why this parable is so easy to overlook is because loses something in translation. There is a beautiful play on words here that would have been hard to overlook if you had been there that day Jesus told this story. You see, the word “coins” in Hebrew (and probably in Aramaic), is “zuzim,” and zuzim also means those who are wandering, lost or roaming.
Make no doubt about it, today's texts are a call to be willing to risk the things that are most dear to us in order to gain what should be the most important us. And they tell us that for God the thing that is so valuable that we should be willing to do something radical to get it...is those who are wandering, lost or roaming.
I suspect that most of us like the way that sounds, but having to putting into action...well, that might be an all-together different story. So, this week, after studying these text, I did just that. I looked for a sheep that seemed to be lost...honestly, it only took a few seconds.
You may have heard of him, the Rev. Terry Jones – the man down in Florida who had planned to burn Korans. I've taken to calling him the Koran Burning Man or KBM for short. In my book, and as far as I can see by the standards of the Good Book, KBM is a lost man. So, I said to myself, “Self, what can you do that might distract old KBM from his message of hate and radically jar him into God's call to love.”
Realizing, from studying today's scripture, that I might have to give up something dear to me to gain what should be the most important to me, I made a choice. I wrote KBM a letter. I'd like to read it to you:
"Dear Rev. Jones,
Please find the enclosed Bible. It has been with me since 1974. It, as you can see, is well worn – it has served me well.
I am asking you to include it in your book burning on 9/11. I realize your plan is to only burn Korans, but I think this would be a wonderful statement of love.
I know you may have concerns about burning a Bible, but I promise you, God is big enough to handle it and God's love is large enough to stand with those who claim Abraham as a religious relative."
I FedExed my letter and the Bible I had since I was 6 out to KBM on Wednesday and I wrote a blog about my decision and posted it online. Now I know, it seems a bit radical sending the Bible that was most dear to me to a man who was dead set on burning books, but I couldn't help but feel led by the spirit that this was an appropriately radical response to helping find one of the fold that was lost in the wilderness of hate.
As a friend would later say to me, “See what can start when you stand for something.” I was just making a personal statement about love. Trying to practice what I preached...but something interesting happened. Other people started picking up on it. There were other blogs promoting the idea, a religious radio station out of Charlotte encouraged their listeners to do the same, the Rev. Chuck Currie (a national and leading voice in the United Church of Christ) called it a “thoughtful, respectful and loving response to an act of hate,” a national Christian news organization for the Baptist church picked the story up as well.
I don't know how many Bibles KBM received, but I do know the message of love and acceptance and the repudiation of hate had to ring loud and clear. You see, from what I gather, most people didn't send any old Bible, most sent a Bible that mattered to them. They risked something dear to them in order to gain what is the most important thing to them.
One divinity school student gave up the Bible his brother gave him when he was 15. Shortly after receiving it he decided to become a minister. Another young lady sent the Bible she bought when she converted from Islam to Christianity, she also later became a minister. It was powerful stuff – bold statements of love that seem almost completely nuts...just like today's scripture teaches us.
For the sake of love, God throws what humanity would believe to be sensibility out the window and recklessly peruses the lost. Maybe there's a lesson there. Recklessly perusing the lost. If it makes sense to God...
Well...if it makes sense to God then, it should make sense to us. We must be willing to risk the things that are most dear to us in order to gain what should be most important to us – finding those who are lost.
Are we, the church, willing to recklessly peruse the lost? What are we willing to risk? Our history? Our money? Our pride? Our comfort? Our traditions?
As a friend would later say to me, “See what can start when you stand for something.” Vandalia Presbyterian Church, what will you stand for? The things that are most dear to us? Or the thing that should be the most important to us? I say, let's trust in God and recklessly peruse the Lost. I can tell you from first hand experience, if you will, you will be surprised by the blessings God will bring.