Bible Reading Daniel 7:13-14 Sara Williams
[Daniel wrote] In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (NIV)
Message The Rock and the Other Place Revelation 1:4b-8
Our life depends upon it. People fear it and work to avoid it or they embrace it and love it. Politicians are elected by promising it. Bookstores are crammed full of guides on how to create it personally and manage it professionally. Sometimes it is the only constant our life, which makes it difficult to deal with; but others desperately want it but can't seem to muster it. It is called change, and I don't mean the coins that go in the offering plate.
On the other hand, consider the "Family Circus" comic. The family is vacationing at the beach. The little kids are out there digging in the sand with toy steam shovels, dump trucks, and other construction equipment while the listen to music in their headphones. A sign propped up beside them reads, "Digging to Australia." Father, mother and grandmother are sitting in beach chairs watching them. The father says to the mother, "We used to do the same thing with only a pail and shovel." then the grandmother says, "I used to do the same thing with a seashell."
Dig deep - build with sand
The Bible says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), or as Irene Peter put it, “Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed.” That doesn’t mean we should try to live in the past or re-create the past, or even stop the future. All we can do is embrace and shape the future the best we can as it comes to us. We can’t go back, we can’t keep the future from coming. Methods and styles and resources and situations may vary widely, and quickly -- but underneath, we all “dig for the outback” and (sometimes) we build with sand. What that means is that human nature digs down within itself to satisfy instincts and drives and passions and goals that run deep within us and remain essentially the same through the ages, -- drives like finding our rightful place in this world, before God, and among God’s people. A place where we can find purpose and happiness and to make a meaningful difference in those around us. But it is easy to try and fulfill deep needs with temporary and ultimately unfulfilling things, and when we build our lives on those things, and then those things change -- well, for example, we see our world move from walking to horses to wagons to cars and jets; or we see our world moving from telegraph to landline to cell phone, from books to radio to 8-tracks (remember those?) to cassettes to discs to TV and now computers -- and now things change faster than we can turn around, and if we have built our live of these things, it can leave us feeling empty and insecure because there is no stability to it.
Around the time the year turned to triple digits, (around 100), John wrote to a people who felt they couldn’t count on anything. The only change they were experiencing was from the oven to the frying pan, or from the rock on the one side to the hard place on the other. Life was challenging enough, and while they had found hope by faith in Christ, his coming wasn’t as soon as they expected, and now the powerful Roman Empire was settings its sights on the Church, seeing it as a threat to them.
John tries to envision for these stressed, depressed, hurting people a hope that goes beyond their topsy-turvy world. And he writes,
All the best grace and peace to you ... -- it is kind of a typical 1st century greeting but it was a Christianized version. It is not just a formal and fancy way of saying “Hi!” like we start many letters nowadays. It reminded the early Christians that God’s grace -- his undeserved favor was shown to his people, and peace was the spiritual well-being that God gives within his people as a result. And it wasn’t just from John, but given
- ... from the God who is, who was, and who is to come, from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, firstborn from the dead, ruler of earthly kings. Glory and strength to Christ, who loves us and has freed us from the sins in our lives, and has made us a kingdom, people who represent people to Him, and Him to people. To him be all power and glory forever.
- Now look! [John goes on to say] He is coming with the clouds, he'll be seen by everyone, even those who mocked and killed him. People from all nations and all times will mourn because of him. So shall it be. Our Master, Christ, declares, "I am the Alpha and the Omega (the A to Z, the beginning and the end of all things). I am the God who is, the God who was, and the God that is about to arrive -- I am the Sovereign Almighty. (Revelation 1:4b-8) (Combination of NIV and MSG)
- “There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” (Matthew 10:28) (MSG)
A simple way of looking at it is the father who took her 3-year-old to a kiddy park. She wanted to go on this ride which was the scariest ride they had for toddlers. When she got on there with her Dad and it started spinning her around and up and down and going in circles -- you know how those topsy-turvy kind of rides are -- It was throwing her everywhere and she felt like she was completely out of control and she was scared to death. The father was trying to catch her attention and finally they caught eyes on each other and she saw that the father was not terrified by being thrown around -- he was enjoying it and laughing and trying to encourage her and when she saw how confident he was that the ride was not going to hurt, she relaxed and began to enjoy the ride that once terrified her.
Sometimes we find ourselves on scary rides in life, and sometimes those parts of the ride seem to be a lot longer than we ever expected or wanted them to be. And while we may never find them "fun", if we catch a new glimpse of God's 'strong, steady, sure, confident, presence, we can relax in His control and we can trust Him, and maybe even become stronger on the other side. An uncertain future seeks a God who guides the course of history, not through coercion, not in powerful detachment, but through the spreading of his love.
He will never fail even when we do fail
He may express that love in many different ways, but his love and power are constants that we can always rely on as the anchor even in a chaotic life -- in fact, sometimes the more chaotic, the more deeply we may be able to sense his steadying hand. And well, another way to put it is another story…
A psychiatrist asked a mother which of her 3 children she loved the most. Wouldn’t you love somebody to ask you that question? She said she loved them all equally, which is the right answer to give to anyone who asks that question. The answer came too quickly and easily; so the psychiatrist tried to push her a little bit, “Psychologically, it is impossible to love everybody equally, so come on, really, who do you like the best?”
She finally relented to his pressure and said, “All right, I don't love them the same - when one of them is sick, I love that one more. When one of them is in pain, I love that one more. When one is confused, I love that one more. And when one of them is bad - and I don't mean just naughty, I mean really, really bad - I love that child more - except for those exceptions, I love all of them about the same.”
God knows and loves us; and all the more when we are sick or hurting or lost or confused or in pain or wandering off course. That doesn't mean we should run out and be bad or confused or sick or in pain so we get more love... but it does mean, that if do happen to experience those things, we can count on him - he hasn't deserted us, his love hasn’t faded and his power hasn’t grown weak. His power and love never failed in the past; has not grown weak now, nor will it ever in the future. His presence and grace and peace and hope can be felt all the stronger, and we can overcome and work through our struggles if we can keep from focusing on the power of our problems our focus on the purpose, and the power, and the undying love of our Lord and king Jesus Christ, because he is a King who knows our pain, walked in our shoes, and showed us how to really love others even when the world threw its worst at him, be able to forgive even while he was being tormented on a cross -- and he invites us to be part of those kingdom values even when it’s really hard and unpopular -- on the hope that someday that king who always was, and is, and always will be -- will come in way that we can fully experience his “grace and peace” to you.
Despite what John's reader's precarious situation told them, and perhaps, what our situation is telling us; Jesus loves us, frees us, and makes us his special people who are called to serve him according to how he has blessed and gifted us.
Find your place under Christ’s rule
When I was young, I considered a lot of options. Went through a lot of jobs as I was going to jr high, high school, college and seminary. I was the kind of person that was interested in and loved to do everything. As as matter of fact, in a creative writing class we were told to cut out pictures and paste them on the outside of the shoe box -- pictures that made a collage would indicate “something about who we are or what we did” -- and then we wrote what the pictures were indicating inside the box. The teacher took the completed shoe boxes and named the pictures and then we were to guess what that person was saying about themselves. I pasted all kinds of different pictures on the box. The teacher named many of them and decided I must have misunderstood the assignment. When he opened it up, he saw the phrase “do it all”. Because I loved everything! So as I weighed my options about what to do with my life, when people said things like “Follow your passions” and “Do what you love to do” that didn’t help me eliminate anything. I enjoyed meeting and serving people by waiting tables. I loved my various janitor and custodian and maintenance and construction jobs. I tried a couple sales things very briefly, but I didn’t like job. Mainly because I didn’t really believe in what I was selling -- I was being asked to convince people that they needed a product they couldn’t afford or need, for prices that I thought was too much, and I didn’t like the business model. I simply didn’t believe what I was doing was good for others, and therefore wasn’t good for me.
Some churches have frustrated me, and people at various times have disappointed me and let me down in all avenues, even betrayed me. But Albert Einstein wrote “that we cannot despair of humanity since we ourselves are human beings.” In other words, I have no right to complain, since I have done my share of disappointing others as well. I’ve failed many times. But since at a very young age, I chose that I wanted Christ and good to win in my heart; I have never experienced God letting me down, his rightness still stands. In every struggle, in every disappointment, in every pain and angry situation, even when I don’t sense him, I am convinced that he has been there, from beginning to end, doing what he has promised to do. Not magically helping me to fix everything but helping me to grow through everything. His unfailing consistency and my belief that the spiritual journey is the only journey worth taking -- a journey in which everyone can find great value -- is what led this introvert to force himself to get up in front of people each week and say, “we have a God that won’t let us down.” -- and not to point out anyone’s failings or differences, but to help and encourage and help all of us move one step further along in our relationship with this amazing God that we have.
And I hope that in your families, jobs, schools, recreation, volunteerism or free time, you can find your place in Christ’s kingdom of representatives, helping people to God, and interceding to God for people -- the one person whose rule and agenda and gracious love will never, ever fail.
Closing Prayer and Blessing
Let’s stand for the closing prayer, blessing and hymn…
Lord, may it be that while everything quickly changes around us, you may enable us to faithfully love and serve others as your loyal representatives and finding that special place you have designed for us where we can find purpose and happiness -- and to make a meaningful difference in us and those around us – that we can bring you the honor you deserve.
Now send us from this place but never from your presence or from each other in spirit as we continue on our journey of faithful discipleship, finding our place in faith among your people, before you, and in your world, and in your kingdom. Amen.
Closing Hymn # 715 (vv 1,2,3) Rejoice, the Lord is King