Sunday, August 08, 2010
Click on any image above to view it in larger format and/or click on the arrow below (at end of narrative or bottom of this post) to view video of a portion of Pastor Sue Gross' sermon today. (Our site limits us to a 100 MB file per post.)
You Have Outwitted Me (God Will Take Care Of You)
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that l might enjoy all things.
I was given nothing that I asked for;
But everything that I had hoped for.
A combination of the above anonymous poem, scripture from the Old Testament prophet Hosea (11:1-11), passages from the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 13:8-13), and references to Brother Lawrence, a monk from the 1600s, who is perhaps best known for a still-in-print book about practicing the presence of God, all came together during Pastor Sue Gross' insightful sermon at Tinney Chapel today.
Brother Lawrence's conversion experience was helped along by his own understanding of viewing a tree with neither fruit nor leaves, a perfect example of the need for new birth, something that Brother Lawrence realized as part of the job description for God. During the monk's monastic and menial kitchen service, he discovered a happiness much deeper than anything he had ever before imagined possible, prompting his profound observation: Lord, You have outwitted me! You can learn more about Brother Lawrence by clicking on the live-link title at the top of this post.
What God provides is not always what we expect, emphasized Pastor Sue, who suggested that Brother Lawrence's observation, coupled with the poem above, assists us in understanding the nature of providence, which may include more than a little irony when examined carefully. But, irony in the hands of God is generally a positive thing, in that what He has in store for us usually exceeds our expectations.
As for Hosea's continued education in his prophetic role, Pastor Sue described one of the mission statements of a prophet as interpreting history and commenting on life itself, remembering that God is considered in charge of life and is assumed to be positively inclined toward us, perhaps inclined to bring abundance and affection in return for righteousness and goodness in a kind of contract relationship.
A covenant of law is often viewed as one which demands righteousness to retain God's favor, but otherwise involves divine punishment.
The Old Testament book of the prophet Hosea has provided grist for two of Pastor Sue's recent sermons, during which she has described God's relationship with Israel as one of husband and wife as well as that of parent and child. During the first example, husband and wife, one of the potential punishments for an unfaithful wife (Israel) would have been divorce or even stoning.
Yet, Hosea, in his real life relationship with an unfaithful wife, Gomer, displays mercy, suggesting that perhaps God will do the same with Israel. That is, God will never abandon us and will always remain faithful to us. It is perhaps an example of grace from the Old Testament.
At another point, Pastor Sue reads Hosea--and God--switching the relationship analogy to that of parent (God) and child (Israel). What to do with a wayward child? Out of Egypt I called My Son, quoted Pastor Sue, which puts a Christian's mind on steroids, fast-forwarding to Jesus the Christ, who fulfilled that prophecy before His ministry, crucifixion and resurrection, all of which eventually led to an outpouring of Grace and the Holy Spirit.
God is determined to keep His covenant promise to us, declared Pastor Sue. God does always keep His promises, a concept that is itself the very essence of faith. This is even true when it sometimes appears that God is not keeping His promises. But, faith, said Pastor Sue, is not about having answers to such questions. Rather, faith is courage in the face of no answers at all, security in the knowledge that God is always with us, even in time of great trial. And, that someday innocence will be justified.
It is as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians: We sometimes see through a glass darkly. That is, things are not always clear to us, and we may see things only in part.
Fortunately, in the New Covenant, the Cross is itself a Covenant, perhaps even a renewed Covenant--like the Covenant revealed in the final chapter of the Old Testament book of Hosea, one which might be summarized by a simple question and answer:
Question: What is more inevitable than death?
Answer: Overcoming death through the Cross of Christ.
Click on the arrow below to view and listen to Pastor Sue preach part of this sermon.