Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Great Sermon Experiment, Take One

{Through the summer, I am asking people within our church body to take part in the creation of the Sunday sermon. This is the first installment of our project. Anybody who happens in here is welcome to join in the discussion, although a certain group of people have been asked to take the lead. Please leave your thoughts and insights in the comment box below}

Texts for Sunday, June 10

The primary text will be Psalm 146. This text begins the set of “Hallelujah!” Psalms – the final five Psalms, which all begin with “Hallelujah!” (often translated “Praise the Lord!”).

The basic structure is this:

Intro: I will praise the Lord
Command: Don’t trust human leaders
Purpose of Command: They’ll die
Statement of Blessing (with a subtle hint of expected action): Blessed are those who trust God.
Reasoning behind blessing: list of God’s attributes
Conclusion: Praise the Lord

Things to ponder:

1) What is the central point of this text? What is the Psalmist trying to say?

2) Who/what do we put our trust in, if not in God?

3) Which of the attributes of God speaks to you? Why?

4) What does this text call us to do?

5) How would you live out this text in your workplace/school/home?

Supporting texts will be:

1 Kings 17:7-16 and Luke 7:11-17

1) How do these texts support the message of the Psalm?

2) How would you describe our God, specifically based on these texts?

3) Is there an ethical duty for us to take away from these stories? Are we being called to do anything?

4) How would your reading of these texts influence the way you live your life?

Finally, what examples of these texts can you think of from your own life? From movies you’ve seen or songs you’ve heard or books you’ve read? Are there any modern-day parallels to these three texts?


Linda Anderson said...


Psalm 146 comes at a time when I have been reading Psalms daily as part of a “common prayer” routine. Over and over God has been assuring His message. When we are trusting God and looking to Him for provision (instead of to other people who have no real power to bear us up), praise is a natural response. I have personally experienced God’s sustaining power and His frustrating the plans of the wicked that would adversely affect me. While it should be expected, it is always so wondrously amazing and uplifting.

We are called to “praise God and acknowledge His provision” and to “declare His faithfulness to all”. Praise can do no less than instill joy, which inevitably overflows to others as a testimony of God’s faithfulness. This concept is substantiated by the supporting texts—that trust leads to obedience (and vice versa), which illuminates God’s faithfulness and provides a testimony to those around us that God takes care of us.

In times of great need, as a single mom with small children, have experienced containers of food, milk and the gas tank of my car fail to empty until such time as there was $$ to buy more. At that time the contents were gone. Reminds me, of course, of the manna for the children of Israel.

Shad Gates said...

Psalms 146

This scripture reading reminds me immediately of one of my favorite scriptures written by Solomon, son of the psalmist David. Both were mighty Kings who were loved and respected by their people for bringing peace and success to their nation, yet they recognized that the source of their strength was the Lord Almighty. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Prov. 3:6.

Trust… It’s a simple concept yet the complex emotions involved in actually doing it are often enough to keep it from happening. This struggle is a statement of our frailty as humans while all the while we toil and strain to refute this truth. God loves our frailty. He says, in your weakness’ I am made strong. Have you ever wondered why we love cute little babies or maybe a puppy? People just melt over the sweetness and frailty of them because they are helpless. We love to take care of them and pamper them because we have the ability to do so and it awakens in us something that we never knew we had in ourselves nor do we want to lose it once we’ve experienced it. God experiences this with us. As a matter of fact this emotion and experience is so much a part of his nature that he made it one of his names. God is Love.

Trust is something that we lose as we become self reliant. Children are born with an innate trust of others. This is why Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these (speaking of the children), and unless one receives the Kingdom of Heaven like a child he will never enter it. There are many things that can happen to a person that causes them to lose trust. Emotional damage, physical pain, and loss can all be very persuasive to the argument that we need to protect and guard ourselves and our families from others and to reject God as an evil and hateful being. On the other hand, great success, immense organizations and governments, and wealth can be just as vile of a manipulator causing us to forget our need for an omnipotent Father and to believe that we can take care of ourselves. In either case, the trust that we once knew is quickly abandoned for the false security of self reliance.

We (America) have fallen pray to this false security. Even the church of America builds organizations and structures, sets in place insurance policies and procedures that refute the very concept of trust. The Lord desires to be our first line of defense, not our last. Example upon example in scripture expresses again and again His desire to be our defender, our provider, our rear guard, our healer and our God. Americans are taught from childhood that to be responsible we are to do everything we can, within our own strength before depending on someone else. Christians are taught that we should do what is within our resources to do and then to depend on God to do what is beyond our ability. It makes sense right? David says don’t put your trust in princes and in Psalms 20 he says don’t put your trust in horses but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Isaiah 31:1 says “Woe to Those Who Rely on Egypt. Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.”

When I contemplate this idea, I always think of a father and a daughter for some reason. As a father he has a special place in his heart for his daughter and his heart just delights in bringing a smile to her face. He wants to be her closest companion, her provider, her man. As much as he loves her, he desires her love and admiration. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s heart for his children. He is YAHWEH which is pronounced kind of like the sound we make when we see the most incredible fireworks we’ve ever seen. It’s that inexpressible sound of awe and wonder that consists mostly of air moving quickly through our throat and mouth. He is truly AWESOME in nature and he so desperately wants to share that with his child. So taking my analogy one more step, how would that father feel if his daughter suddenly became attached to some stranger? What if she snuggled him and gave him her teddy bear which was off limits to everyone else and if she started calling his name every time she was hurt or scared or happy? Wouldn’t the father be pained? Wouldn’t he wish that he once again had her heart? I see this as a spiritual truth, not just a story. God, who is the giver of life, offers us everything and we choose to take instead what we can make for ourselves.

Do you see that this is more about God than it is about us? If our deepest dependence and admiration is focused on him than our physical needs will be of little matter to us and of great concern to him. Christ even said in the sermon on the mount, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. In the same sermon, Jesus gave a similar analogy by saying (paraphrased) would not a father give his child what he asks for? How much more will your Father in heaven give you what you ask.

The key to the confusion comes down to this. Do we believe that God’s desire for us is better than what we desire for ourselves? It is you know! I believe this in my heart, but do I act on it in my life? Do I do as Jesus did, “I do nothing except what I see the Father doing.” Or do I instead get up each morning with my physical needs at the front of my mind? It’s a question that all who call themselves Christians should consider and discuss with the Lord. He desires to be our ALL in ALL. He was to David. David wrote about the way he meditated and delighted in God’s laws and precepts. He fed on the Word of God and he understood that God’s Spirit lived within Him. A young preacher spoke this week about a new outpouring of the Spirit of David upon God’s people. Let’s seek God and be included in that number.

Dan said...

(I'm adding the following for Gene, who seems to be having computer trouble)

The Psalmist seems to be showing us that when we praise God we turn from our earthly thoughts to Godly thoughts. Not so easy in these times. I suppose it was not so easy then either. Just getting from village to village had to be a challenge.

In Luke Jesus raised a lady's son back to life. That certainly would have gotten some attention. But did they know this Jesus was not going to be their earthly King but would be put to death at a very young age to fulfill prophecy?

We are fortunate to have the power of the Word that enables us to see Christ just as he is now, a trustworthy God who can help us through all our needs.

The question still remains, are we willing to give up our worldly stuff and put our trust in Him??