Sunday, September 13, 2015

Laying hold of the Greatness of God

Pastor Jeff began a new sermon series this morning on who God is. Perhaps I should confess that whenever I find pastors these days proliferating their ongoing series of sermons, I always find myself wondering who I am hearing  - Pastor, or John Maxwell, or Bill Hybels, or Max Lucado, or . . .

I can’t say I never borrowed a sermon I heard preached or lifted from a book, but I generally edited the outline so as to make it my sermon without putting up quote marks. So, this conversation is probably one-sided and unfair. I find Jeff an excellent teaching pastor, Whatever it is worth, Plato the Greek Philosopher, also left us a small jewel of wisdom worthy of the ages, when he concluded that “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.”  

It could be reasonably claimed that our information age is the most psychologized, analyzed, and criticized (critiqued) of any age in modern history. However, over indulgence and preoccupation, with self-examination, can make life more difficult. I would even go so far as to suggest that life without examination most surely leaves life with an inadequate sense of meaning.

Various theorists are committed to selling the general public on the idea of unlimited human achievement and self-directed living. That fits into the mindset of most secularists and humanists, for our formerly Christianized culture is rapidly turning rabidly secularist, humanist, and democratic.

Such persons argue that we have no limits, that we can change our lives, and that we are only held back by the limitations of our own belief system. On one hand, numerous new-age thinkers promise us we can be in total control of our own destinies. Some few will confess, however, that despite the best efforts at our being TAed, TMed, Rolfed, assertiveness –trained, consciousness-raised, and blissed out, they frequently find living more difficult than ever.  

A while back, I read a small volume of sermons entitled A Glory In It All. Written by John Knox in 1985 and published by Word at Waco, it contained the post-eighty reflections of a man wanting to live-out his remaining days with as much intention as possible. Knox recalled the biblical story of the Rich Young Ruler meeting Jesus and concluded, “We all come to life running and eager; too often we limp out of it sorrowful and disillusioned.”

Sooner or later, most of us will, like Knox, encounter the fact that we will never achieve the dreams of our youth. A few fall short of expectations. Others experience disappointment with their achievements. As a youth, I envisioned a certain level of greatness. Decades later, I find myself a well-seasoned senior, and the years continue piling high on life’s beach at high tide during a storm. As the waves continue rolling in with unrelenting frequency, I find myself forced more and more to accept the limitations of both my human abilities and the inevitability of my pending mortality.

Experiencing that truth, suggests Knox, is one of the “most serious crises of our lives,” yet out of it comes new opportunities. Seldom does crisis ever enter our lives without bringing with it a positive opportunity  for discovering a new and better possibility. These come as gifts from God.
Rather than waiting until life is about to conclude; they come throughout life bringing equal opportunity to each and every individual, freely and without discrimination. They come offering all of the “greatness” of God that our hearts can possibly hold.

Thus, Sidney Lanier’s verse in “The Marshes of Glynn” becomes highly suggestive and meaningfully expressive for me when he writes,
     As the marsh hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
     Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God.  
     I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
     In the freedom that fills all the space ‘twixt the marsh and the skies.
     By so many roots as the marsh-hen sends in the sod
     I will heartily lay me ahold on the greatness of God.

But, back to Pastor Jeff’s sermon on the God Who Is. Remember when God called Moses at the burning bush? Remember what Moses heard when he demanded to know who was calling him? God said, “I am who I am!” - I am is Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end ...  

When Moses learned who was calling, he discovered who he was: not just another Hebrew slave baby headed for extinction, he was the Hebrew Prince that a mother’s faith led into the House of Pharoah where he would grow up and become the Messiah of the Exodus.

In laying “ahold of the greatness of God” we discover the truth of life thyat is stuffed full with the abundance and greatness of The God Who Is. . .

I am


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