We are a caring and supportive community of faith where all are welcome!
Newaygo United Methodist Church
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

Great Expectations

Great Expectations
 
Matthew 5:13-20
 
 
When I ponder the mystery of what draws me to Jesus, I look back on those times when my parents put up with the insanity of packing the six of their kids into one car along with suitcases and a cooler, to head for the beaches of Florida. What possessed them to get up at 3:00 in the morning to start our journey remains a mystery. We did not go back to sleep once we were awake and they had to put up with endless arguments about who was looking at who, who was taking up too much space, who was car sick, who needed to go to the bathroom, who got to sit by the window, etc. I wonder what it was that made me look forward to those trips in spite of the cramped quarters of the car and the place we stayed, and being under the critical eye of my mother for three straight days on the journey to Treasure Island. It was not the journey that excited me, but what I found when we got there that drew me to be able to put up with those long, tiring days of journey. Not even waiting to unpack or claim my bed (I knew I wouldn’t get the one I wanted anyway) I flew out of the car and down to the beach. There, before my eyes was the ocean and the sound of waves crashing to the shore. I always felt home when I stood at the edge of that great expanse of constantly moving water. The mysteries of where that ocean stretched to and what secrets its depths held drew me to its shoreline time and time again. There I beheld something much bigger than I could imagine or take in. I remember the story about a small child trying to scoop up water in her arms. Over and over she repeated her scooping motion. When her mother asked her what she was trying to do, the little girl replied, “I want to hug the ocean!” Perhaps it was that impossibility that attracted me to the ocean. It was simply too big to contain.
 
I feel the same way about the stars. I wonder what causes me to pause early in the morning to gaze for a while at the countless stars above me. Perhaps it is the incredible sense of my finiteness in the face of what seems to be the endless expanse of space.  It is far beyond our ability to take it all in. Yet with both the ocean and the stars we can stand at their edges and experience what they give us in beauty and wonder and the sense of what is beyond and bigger than any of us. 
 
Then I pondered what it was that attracted me to our Creator. What is it that makes me read and pray daily and look forward to worship on Sunday morning? What is it that draws me to try to understand this mystery we call faith and what is it that makes me want to speak so passionately about it? And what was it that drew me back into relationship with God after abandoning my faith for so long?
 
As I have stated before, I believe there is in each of us an innate longing to know the unknowable, to find out as much as we can about the depths and heights and content of the deepest mysteries of life. And one of those mysteries is about the God who created us. We have an innate longing to stand on the shore of the mystery of God and find out who this God is and what this God does and who we are in relationship to our God. We don’t often think about this innate longing until someone or something awakens that curiosity in us. Most often it will be someone who already has established a deep relationship with God and guides others by their behavior and words into seeing that they have this longing too. The Israelites were a people shaped by God to be a light or a beacon to others so that all people of the earth could explore the mystery of their Creator and develop a relationship with God that would satisfy their longing for something bigger, deeper and quite beyond their ability to contain. They were to be salt and light to their world, drawing all peoples to the shores of the mystery of God, knowable and unknowable. They had the basic laws that would do that, laws that showed the love of God and the ways people were meant to live with each other. Those commandments were ones that showed people how to love one another. If we ponder those 10 commandments, we find they are designed to teach us to avoid those harmful behaviors that destroy relationships and tear the world apart.
 
In Jesus’ time, those laws had become something different than intended. They had become interpreted in ways that distorted God’s intentions for them. The interpretations of the laws had actually become barriers that excluded and distracted people form right relationship with God. So Jesus came to start a revolution, not to abolish the laws, which was good and right, but to fulfill the law, to show what its original intention was. Jesus came to put the love back into the law. Jesus came to show people how to be salt and light to the world so that its flavor would be improved and it would be illuminated as God’s good creation.
 
What drew me back to God was the strong need for God I had experienced as a young person through the love and support of some very faithful Christians who embraced me with the love they experienced form God. These people count scoop up the ocean we callthe mystery of God, but they could hug and embrace in very loving ways the very people who were part of that mystery. These people were and are the ones who catch God’s dream and express it through their actions in the everydayness of life. These are the people who love us in spite of us. These are the people who don’t see us as the enemy or as those who should be avoided. These are the people who embrace with the love of Christ.
And we are called to be those people. Just as much as those first disciples were called, so too are we called to be salt and light. We are not called to give new laws for people to live by, but to be beacons to people who are stumbling around in the dark. We are called to be examples of those who are longing for something bigger than themselves. We are called to help others scoop up bits and pieces of God for themselves to satisfy that innate longing and give meaning to life itself.

join our mailing list
* indicates required