April 14, 2019

King Jesus

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Luke 19:28-40

--

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

Last year, Shelby and I went to Scotland and London with a group from Olivet. It was an incredible experience and a beautiful trip. Neither of us had ever been big royal family fans, but we enjoyed learning about the history of the kings in England and Scotland. And in London, as we toured the Tower of London, we got to watch a clip from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the longest reigning monarch in British history. When I got home, I watched more of the coronation ceremony, intrigued by the religious and secular aspects of it and how they are intertwined in the ceremony.

The pageantry and beauty and ritual in Queen Elizabeth’s coronation were spectacular and gorgeous. And for royalty, it is expected that things will be perfectly ordered and precise, because the king or queen command the highest honor and receive only the best. They will have significant authority and responsibility, they are leaders of the highest order who will serve for a lifetime and their children and grandchildren and so on will continue the lineage of monarchial rule.

And today we read of the coronation, of sorts, of King Jesus. It is at least the first recognition, aside from the angels at his birth, that he is indeed a king. We won’t do a point by point comparison of the Queen’s coronation to Jesus’s, but suffice it to say Queen Elizabeth did not process to her coronation on a borrowed donkey colt covered in other people’s coats. In fact, we could compare Jesus’s coronation even to ones of his day: Caesars who were crowned emperor in Rome most assuredly had all the pomp and circumstance that was possible in that time and day. It is almost as if Jesus is making a point about what his kingdom will look like…

It is still startling to the Pharisees and teachers of the law when they hear the people shout about Jesus being King:

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.

Those are dangerous words.

Israel is not her own nation. Israel is not free to have her own king that is not appointed by Caesar.

We don’t live in a monarchy, so it’s a little odd for us to think of the consequences of this little parade in a Podunk town (even as a capital city in the empire) as being more than a blip on the radar for the emperor of Rome, but the local leaders were trained to squash minor insurrections quickly and efficiently because what was small one day could become a full scale rebellion and Rome was Rome because she did not allow any rebelliousness to foment out in the open.

This is about power.

Who has it. Who keeps it. And what happens when you live in an oppressive regime and you express the possibility that you might have some, too.

The pharisees have a small amount of power and they are not liking the way this Jesus fellow keeps calling them out for it. They know, too, that the best way for them to remain in that position of power is to continue fighting against those who would undermine or diminish it. They do this by aligning closely with the empire: garnering favor with those who have more power so they can keep theirs.

Contrast this with Jesus.

As king, his first responsibility is to die.

That isn’t powerful at all.

In fact, it looks as though everyone BUT Jesus and his followers is getting what they want: fake peace with Rome (and continuation of the status quo). Later, Christ followers would avoid all appearances of bowing to Caesar – because they did not follow him, they followed a different King.

Meanwhile, Jesus keeps moving toward his responsibility. Keeps doing what must be done to save us. Keeps going forward knowing that what follows the worship of today is desertion, defeat, agony, and death.

He rides the colt today, but he will be betrayed.

He is praised today, but he will be mocked.

He is hailed as King, but those who shout Hosanna today will shout Crucify Him on Friday.

He still goes.

Philippians 2:5-11, which Amy read this morning, tells us that Jesus is king, but not the kind of king we are used to: he gives up his royal status on our account. He lays all of himself on the line for us in a way we could never expect him to. He gives over all of who he is to serve us – and he does it even though he has all the rights in the world to be called king of kings.

Jesus calls us to the same level of pouring ourselves out: the first part of that passage says “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” and then it tells us what that mindset is. This King doesn’t want his subjects to seek power. This King doesn’t want us to be pointing out an us vs. them, like the pharisees did, like we still do when we talk about sins we are passionate about: do we talk about abortion as though the women who might have one are evil, as though those choices are not difficult and painful? Do we demonize gay people or Muslim people or others who are different than us? Do we talk about our political enemies as though they are not people? “All democrats lie” or “all republicans are haters”? Do we believe that following Jesus gives us the ability to denounce others while we proclaim Christ as though we were Jesus ourselves?

Jesus comes not to hold power the way the world understands having power. It is not ruthless and vindictive, this kingdom. Rather it is the upside down politics of loving others, of giving first, of serving before being served. It is always the kingdom where the King himself gave EVERYTHING for the subjects he would embrace and he asks us for nothing but delights when in return, our love moves us to do the same.

Luke’s account of Jesus’s coronation as King is one that should give us pause. His followers were all there that day, walking behind him, waving palm branches, shouting Hosanna.

On Thursday, they would all leave him alone.

Peter would deny him.

Judas would betray him.

And the wonder of it is that Jesus dies for them.

As you sing Hosanna this morning, as you think about what following Jesus looks like, what it looks like to claim him as your King, I ask you to consider the wonder of a King who looks like Jesus. The wonder of a King who forgives his enemies, who dies to make us live.

And consider with me the places and times where your life may not look like it is part of that Kingdom. Where you have denied him. Or betrayed him.

This week we remember the suffering of Jesus. The heartbreak and sorrow and pain. The death. We have the benefit of looking ahead and knowing that Easter is coming. But we would do well to remember that Easter does not come without Good Friday and that Good Friday was hard. Palm Sunday was joyful, but the rest of that week was a series of disappointments for the disciples.

Whatever it is that may put you in the category of Kingdom outsider, I pray that today you will examine your heart and as we move to receive our commemoration of that suffering, commit to Jesus once again your very self. Ask forgiveness for where you have missed. Ask guidance and strength to live out your faith. And remember that no matter what you have done, Jesus gave everything he has and is to be your King and he wants you in the kingdom.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Habakkuk 1:2-5, 3:17-19
--
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
Scripture is unflinching in its descriptions and tellings of people:
People have questioned, yelled at God, misunderstood God and disobeyed God and all of those things are laid out…for us to know that they happen, that God is not afraid of our questions or fist-shaking – but instead stands ready to remind us that we are not forsaken. Some of these have abandoned God completely. God tells those stories, reminding us that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” really knows God’s love, but also showing time and time again that hearts whose intention is to turn to God are able to do so, because God stands ready and willing with forgiveness and welcome. I think of Peter
Habakkuk’s prophetic book is a good one because there are several things happening in here that show us what a relationship with God looks like:
First, Habakkuk is lamenting the lack of justice in Judah (where he lives). Judah’s leaders have wandered far from God and things are not right. He stands up and looks around and sees people being mistreated and abused and he hates it. He has a complaint. It is not about him, specifically, but it is about what is happening in the world around him. And we know about this complaint because Habakkuk takes it right to the very throne of God and says: Hey – What the heck God? How long are you going to let this keep happening? Why aren’t you listening? What exactly ARE you doing? Habakkuk lays out his complaint before God. And he does not hold back anymore than he would if he was making this complaint to his neighbor or his friends.
Second, God answers him. It’s not an entirely satisfactory answer – but God doesn’t hesitate to give him some information about how the wicked will be brought to justice – again, by virtue of other wicked peoples (in this case the Babylonians). Judah will be overrun by the Babylonians, and this will end the current oppression. Remember that God always hears and God is big enough to handle any of our doubts, our fears, our challenges. God doesn’t berate Habakkuk for asking – instead God provides an answer that says the evil hasn’t gone unnoticed and that God is working.
Third, Habakkuk doesn’t stop there. He continues his complaining. We didn’t read it this morning as part of our text, but he basically asks why God will let the Babylonians prosper – they are wicked, too! Habakkuk says he’s heard lots of great things about who God is and about what God has done, but he cannot figure out why God is not just fixing ALL the evil right now and right away in a way that will end it once and for all.
It’s a difficult problem. It’s one that everyone who thinks very long about faith in God wrestles with and the reality is that understanding who God IS helps us understand what God DOES – when we know that God operates from a place of perfect love and gives us the opportunity to choose that love over evil, then we know that the evil that happens in the world is permitted only to the extent that God allows each person to make their own choices – and those who choose other than love and kindness or selfishness over selflessness – those choices will ALWAYS look like evil. But God has FINALLY abolished evil and death (which is usually the end result of all evil acts) in the person of Jesus and in the act of the resurrection.
God has moved to act against evil. God has poured out the Spirit and made it possible for those who follow Jesus to do differently, to live differently, to love completely – but even as we live in the time where we can make peace and live graciously, we, too, struggle with what we see and what we hear and what we know about what is happening around us.
And that’s where our final connection to Habakkuk can come in – he has heard God tell him to wait it out, that the new thing he is going to do is going to be amazing and miraculous, and that even the Babylonians will not finally be permanent – in fact, evil does not ever prevail forever. And Habakkuk, even in his questions, proclaims that he will never stop praising God – no matter what happens, because God has proven faithful. Listen again to Habakkuk’s words in chapter 3: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, thought there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength,”
Habakkuk recognizes that God has not left them alone. That even if starvation seems imminent, even if it looks as though all is lost, God is trustworthy and faithful and he can be joyful, resting in God’s strength, even as his own is failing.
By the way, please note that Habakkuk does not anticipate that God will fix his problem – rather, because God has answered him and promised ultimately that the evil around him will be addressed, Habakkuk knows that God is paying attention and sees what is happening. God is working, Habakkuk just can’t always see it and in the meantime, he can know that God’s hand will prevail.
We, too, live in a place where we can’t always see God’s action in the ways and times we would like. Still – we can rest in God’s faithfulness. We know that God is at work and that God is paying attention.
We know that death has been overcome. We know that Jesus is alive. We know that Jesus is the person whose life and death proclaim over and over that sin and evil and bad are not going to win. Jesus taught us that WE are part of the fight against them – when we live lives that reflect what Christ taught – when we love our neighbor, when we treat others kindly, when we give instead of take, when we do not seek revenge, when we pray, when we feed, when we clothe, when we ACT – we are agents of good who are far more effective than any DC or Marvel superhero ever concocted by a comic book writer. We have the power, in Christ, to actually impact the people around us for the good. That’s the new thing that God has done, part of what God promised Habakkuk, part of what Habakkuk and all of the Old Testament witnesses were waiting for: the promise of the living Christ working and moving in each of us to love the world and conquer evil where ever we find it in our world today.
Did you know you were a superhero in cognito? Well, you are. Love your neighbor today and use your power.
---
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Nahum 1

--

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

Do any of you remember Carnac the Magnificent? I don’t remember him, per se, but I have heard of him. Johnny Carson would dress up in a crazy costume and make fun of psychics. Psychics make a living by predicting the future. Usually the really good ones will be able to stand in a room of 50 or 60 people and do what my husband has taught me is called “a cold read” meaning, they can get you to tell them enough about themselves to give you back that information in a way that makes it seem like they know it, when what they are really doing is guessing and you are telling them they guessed correctly. “Anyone here have an Aunt? I’m hearing from Aunt Jane, no Jessie, no Julie…” they might say and then someone will gasp because they have an Aunt Julie and the “psychic” will go and guess more things about Aunt Julie.

Today as we read about Nahum, I started getting that picture in my mind of a psychic telling you something that is based on intuition and a reading of the circumstances, but it makes you feel better if you want it to. Nahum isn’t guessing about what is going to happen to Ninevah and Assyria, he’s getting his oracles and the prophecies in them from God, BUT their intention is not so much a warning for the ones it is about (because they’ll never hear it) as much as a comfort to the ones that are hearing it: God doesn’t care for injustice, especially when it is coming from the hands of an entire nation.

And eventually, those nations will no longer be powerful and mighty, but instead will be destroyed by others. It is only a matter of time. In this case, God has sent prophets to Ninevah before – remember the story of Jonah? But that was 200 years ago, and now Ninevah (the capital of Assyria) has essentially dispersed the Northern Kingdom of Israel into oblivion. The remaining Southern Kingdom of Judah is quaking in fear over the possibility that the Assyrians will come for them, too. They will, of course, eventually be destroyed and captured and held in Babylon, but they will ultimately return (those are some of the stories we’ve talked about already in this series: remember Ezra and Nehemiah and Daniel) but God wants them to know that it is not ok for a nation to be oppressive and abusive and horrible to everyone around them – eventually a nation like that will come to a not so great end.

It might seem like a prophesy such as this has no bearing on us, but although we are not a great nation, it ties in quite a bit to our message last week: Act justly is one of the commands God has for us. And why? Because it is in God’s very character to demand justice. God’s justice requires righteousness. God’s justice insists that the poor and the widow and the orphan are to be cared for – no matter what. God’s justice asks us to wait on God for retribution – we don’t have to punish our enemies, in God’s time they will see the results of their actions. Instead, God’s justice says be kind to those who are against you, love those whom you would fear and stand firm, because GOD will fight for you.

God has promised to Judah that the good news of God’s justice is coming for them and they do not have to wait long to see it develop in Ninevah. God is already watching the world powers of the day align to make the prophetic true in their time and God is already protecting the people of Judah.

God’s justice also has something to say about how we treat others. About how we judge others. In Matthew, chapter 7, part of the sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us exactly how God feels about US meting out justice:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 

In other words: let God deliver judgement. God is pretty good at this justice thing – it’s part of who God is. And we know that God’s judgement always comes with this caveat: if you repent, if you believe, if you turn from what you were doing – mercy triumphs over judgement: God will forgive, God will offer grace.

It is because God loves the whole world that judgement is reserved for him. God’s ability to see into the hearts and minds, to see the whole of circumstance, to know all of the parts and pieces to every person’s actions: that is why God reserves justice for himself. God is the only one who can be just. God is the only one who knows the truth of every situation and circumstance.

So God gives us pretty clear instructions that our justice is not to be God’s justice – rather our justice comes when we are fair and reasonable and kind and thoughtful: not just to those we care most about, but to everyone we encounter. We should try to put ourselves in another’s shoes and think compassionately even about those we do not agree with. Acting justly for us is going to most often look like standing with those who are treated un-justly, rather than enacting any kind of specific justice for them.

So, maybe you have a friend who has been laid off from work, so your just act might be buying them groceries.

Maybe someone has been mistreated at school or work. You can stand with them against those who are bullying or mean.

Maybe someone is struggling with depression. You can walk with them to fight the darkness that threatens to overpower them.

Maybe someone is sick. You can walk with them to fight their illness or disease.

Sometimes there is real injustice in the world – false accusations, false imprisonments, mistreatment by governments and authorities – sometimes there is racism that needs to be confronted from a systemic perspective. Sometimes there are places where we can see cruelty and hardship that needs a strong voice to rise against.

Recently, in New Zealand, armed gunmen shot up a mosque and killed many people.

Christian justice demands that we not stay quiet about these things. In some places, churches have written letters or offered protection to their local Muslim neighbors. In some places, Christians have gathered around their Muslim neighbors to protect them while they pray.

God asks us to be just in a world that is often unjust. God asks us to discount injustices done to us in this world, because our Kingdom responsibilities offer us the opportunity to be just even when the other is not. God is a just God and he asks that we respond justly in every circumstance and every moment. Because God loves the

This is not an easy thing. This is not a thing done without great discipline. We don’t always get it right. We don’t always follow through, but if we have trusted Jesus with our lives, we can trust Jesus to build in us not only the desire for justice, but the ability to create it and live it and offer it where ever we can.

---

 

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

--

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

 

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Jonah 3:3-3:10
--
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
Some of you may remember the Paul Harvey radio broadcast piece called “The Rest of the Story”. If you don’t, Paul Harvey would tell stories about people and leave their identity unrevealed in its entirety until the end – telling the trivial information that made celebrities or historical figures seem much more human and less extraordinary. For example, the young man Al who was so terrible at household finance that his wife managed their budget with much chagrin and hand wringing, was the first treasury secretary of the United States, Alexander Hamilton.
Or the vicar of Epworth whose son was saved from a burning house just in the nick of time was Sam Wesley – the father of John Wesley, who was saved from the fire.
These rest of the stories give us a glimpse into the persons and in many ways for some of us, the story of Jonah is the kind of story that we need to know the rest of in order to make sense of it. Most of us have heard the story of the guy who was told to go to Ninevah and instead got on a boat. We know that the boat was hit by a big storm and we know that the sailors asked everyone what was happening or who was the cause of the storm, except Jonah, who was sound asleep! Eventually they woke him and he admitted that he was responsible for the storm because of his disobedience. He advised them to throw him overboard to stop the storm. They reluctantly did so, and the seas calmed, and all was well – except Jonah was swallowed by a big fish (you may have heard whale, but scripture never really says and we just tend to make generic terms specific over time)
Jonah was inside the big fish for 3 days.
He prayed a prayer of repentance and remorse and the fist vomited him out.
Then Jonah does what he was told and goes to Ninevah.
There, usually, ends the children’s version of the story of Jonah – because we focus on the disobedience and repentance. Those are the easy parts of the story to focus on, because they are obvious. And definitely, we should remember that, as one commentary I read this week said, “Everyone is either headed to Tarshish (the disobedient way) or Ninevah (the obedient way) because God has called everyone to follow and proclaim the gospel”
But the rest of the story of Jonah is pretty interesting too, and one of the key things that we can take away from it is that God’s love is for everyone and God’s mercy is always available. The verses we read from chapter 3 make it apparent that God sent Jonah at just the right time, with just the right words to the people of Ninevah.
Jonah turns out to be the most effective and efficient preacher ever.
He walks one day into a city that takes three days to walk through and preaches the shortest message ever “Forty more days and Ninevah will be overturned” and everyone responds with repentance – from the king to the peasant. And God relented.
Jonah should have been thrilled. God used him, God redeemed those around him, and God worked in the lives of an entire city.
But Jonah was not excited. Jonah was not happy. Jonah was TICKED!
Jonah had some reasons for not going to Ninevah in the first place. He came from a country that feared the Assyrians as a constant threat to them (Ninevah was the capital of Assyria) so having God wipe them out would have worked out just fine in Jonah’s opinion. So when he refused to go, he was trying to save his home. And when he went and the city repented, he was annoyed, because he expected God to exact retribution on them, not grant them mercy.
To Jonah’s mind, allowing Ninevah the chance to repent was probably something like allowing Sadaam Hussein to repent or Osama Bin Laden to receive mercy. Ninevah was pretty good at being horrific to those they defeated – they would wear body parts of the leaders of countries they had overthrown and spike heads of conquered kings to their city gates. They were cruel and mean and God spared them because they repented in the face of Jonah’s prophesy.
And Jonah was angry.
God still looked on these cruel and harsh people and loved them.
And Jonah could not understand that kind of love. Jonah could not understand why God would want to give them even the chance at repentance, let alone actually stay the execution.
So Jonah storms off and pouts. And we learn once again that God has a great love for even the most heinous among us. Even the most hateful are given opportunity to gain mercy. Jonah’s book and Jonah’s proclamation about who God is are one and the same – we read it in Jonah 4:2:
He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
The entire book of Jonah is about a God who loves and is gracious and compassionate. This God cares deeply about those who are not even in covenant relationship with him, those who have so many marks leveled against them. The people of Ninevah have no expectations of mercy, they have certainly never given it. But God offers it and they accept it.
And Jonah is angry because he doesn’t like that God is willing to love even these.
But we are fortunate that God is a God of slow anger and long compassion. Because we too, even as Jonah did, have received the benefit of God’s grace. We too, have sinned and turned and been granted a reprieve from the devastation of a sinful heart. We have heard Jesus cry “repent” and have turned away from what we once were to become what God has called us to. We have received mercy we didn’t deserve in times when we have been reluctant to give it. We have scoffed at God’s mercy to others – and wished for a different outcome.
And still, God calls us to love. God calls us to live in right relationship with God and with each other. God asks us to let go of the things that have held us back from loving one another and others around us.
We can find ourselves in this story as Jonah – unwilling to recognize the depth of God’s mercy and its extension to those who seem most unworthy.
Or we can find ourselves in this story as the Ninevahites – recognizing the very depths of our own mistakes and sins and longing for the better news, the good news, of redemption.
Either way – here’s the rest of the story – God is slow to anger, gracious and compassionate, abounding in love. And in every instance, you can find that God waiting with open arms for you.

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Obadiah
--
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
It felt like she had been pregnant forever. The constant movement of the babies in her womb felt like her own body was at war within her. God had even told her that they were two nations!
But the pains finally had come and her water broke and now the midwife was on her way. The children were coming. Perhaps the war was nearly at an end…
It was not. The boys, Esau and Jacob were born to Rebekah that day, but only with more fighting – Esau was born first, but Jacob was holding his brother’s heel. The brothers were very different – Esau was hairy and a hunter. He was an outdoorsman. Jacob was a homebody. Esau was Isaac’s favorite and Jacob was Rebekah’s.
Esau gave up his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew.
Jacob tricked his father into giving him Esau’s blessing.
Esau became Edom.
Jacob became Israel.
These nations (as they eventually grew to be) were not generally at war, they were neighboring countries, but neither was large enough to protect or attack the other – so they were mostly indifferent. The Edomites were well But when the Babylonians came and defeated the Israelites, and sacked Jerusalem – the Edomites gloated and boasted and rejoiced over their demise. We don’t know the exact date and time that Obadiah wrote this oracle, but it is essentially God’s denouncement of Edom’s actions, God’s pronouncement of judgement on the nation, and the promise from God (as always) of redemption and salvation for all nations.
That is the whole story of Obadiah’s oracle – Esau’s descendants not only don’t help Jacob’s descendants – they essentially dance on the grave of Israel. Eventually running in and looting whatever bits and pieces the Babylonians had left behind and God holds them accountable for this and tells them that they will pay.
Obadiah is not usually a book that preachers spend a bunch of time on. As we talk about minor prophets (which is a classification that is based on the length of the book, not what the prophets have to say) Obadiah would be the minorest. It’s a little tough to take an application from a book that is so specifically directed at a specific nation for a specific set of circumstances and that doesn’t really have a lot of other ideas in it.
But there are two things that we can look at in Obadiah: God is not a fan of those who are prideful and actions have consequences.
God’s love still extends to those who mess up – if you were to look back through the story of Jacob/Israel and Esau/Edom you would think that the wrong guy was the recipient of the blessing – he was a cheater and a trickster. And he did experience the consequences of his actions.
But God’s plan always includes the idea of redemption: when we repent, we are offered a way out. We’ll talk about this more next week as we move on to Jonah, but one of the key takeaways for us from this Obadiah text is that even though our actions have consequences – and by the way, salvation doesn’t necessarily remove them – God is always waiting for us to return to him and move away from what we used to be to what God has called us to be.
This week, we will begin a season of fasting and reflection called Lent. It covers the 45 days prior to Easter and throughout, it is an opportunity for us to explore the places where we need to repent. Many people fast during lent – finding ways to realign their hearts and spirits with the work that God is doing in their lives. Remember that God has called us away from a life of rebellion to a life of renewal and transformation: Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, Paul writes in Romans. We need this season every year to help us identify new places God is at work in ourselves.
The kick off for this season of reflection is Ash Wednesday. We will celebrate it this year, as I announced earlier. I encourage you to come. As we prepare our hearts for Lent, we have a devotional on the back table that each family is encouraged to take and use for this period. I would also ask everyone to get a post-it note and a pen from the back.
In one of our songs today, Come Thou Fount, there is a line that says “Here I raise my Ebenezer” it is a symbol that Samuel used to remind the people of the work of God in their lives. In our lives sometimes we need symbolism to remind us of the work of God in our lives, too – and today we will do that by writing on our post-it note the one area we need to pray about and ask God to be at work in our lives – this could be a sin that you need to repent of, a life issue that is a burden, or anything at all. I’m going to ask everyone to pray about it for a moment and then write it down.
Once you have it written, we have this red jar here on the altar. Please come forward and put your note in it. Once everyone has put their notes in (don’t worry we won’t be reading them!) I am going to take them outside and burn them. The ashes will be used with some olive oil and spices on Ash Wednesday here for further symbolism – to remind us of our need for repentance and redemption and our hope that has created in us the beauty of lifelong transformation as Christ works in us and through us.
As we work through this, we will also speak together our weekly confirmation of God’s love for us…
---
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Amos 5:7-15, 21-24

There are those who turn justice into bitterness
    and cast righteousness to the ground.

He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
    who turns midnight into dawn
    and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
    and pours them out over the face of the land—
    the Lord is his name.
With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold
    and brings the fortified city to ruin.

10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth. 11 You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. 13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil. 14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. 21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

--

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

A nation established, firmly and completely, by God. A nation with actual divine rights whose words and wisdoms were gifts from God specifically for them…a nation that watched dishonest people gain, that watched the oppressed become more oppressed. A nation that waited in their self-righteous white washed castles and denounced the devastation while doing nothing about it – a nation that knew God was going to come and punish the bad ones and give the good ones blessing and they couldn’t WAIT because they were sure it would be them blessed and everyone they didn’t like, didn’t accept – they would see.

God has nothing but harsh words for this attitude. These are people who refused to see that God did not love them exclusively and did not love them to the point of desiring evil to their neighbors or others. Instead, these are people who are in for a rude awakening as to just how much they have missed the point about who God is and what God expects. Amos writes it out pretty clearly – God is not interested in your religious festivals and whatnot. GOD is interested in your sincere efforts to bring justice now, to promote righteousness now, to hate evil, love good, and maintain justice.

Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream – these are the beautiful sounds in God’s kingdom.

God has asked us to stop being self-righteous, sure of our positions and our rightness. God tells the Israelites here and all of us today – are you sure you are in a Godly nation? Are you SURE? Because what I see is the continued evil of those who hate justice. Because what I see is the oppression of the poor who can’t eat because you tax them. You say you are righteous but you take every opportunity to get yours from those who have less.

God does not approve of this behavior.

God does not like it when babies are separated from their mamas at the border.

God does not like it when families are ripped apart because we’re afraid.

God does not like it when people are treated poorly because of the color of their skin, the country they come from, or the language they speak. God expects and demands that our love for God become love for those around us who look different, who didn’t come here the way we insist they come here, who don’t have the privilege we do.

You might say “Pastor, I don’t have any privilege. I’m poor myself” and you are right you don’t have the same privilege as someone who is wealthy, but you do have privilege – even if you can’t see it. If you were born with a different color skin, sometimes you get mistaken for a thief even if you aren’t one, just because you walk into a store. If you don’t worry about being arrested or accused of some crime every time you leave your house – you do have privilege – the privilege of not having to worry about something you can’t control changing how other people react to you.  I understand this isn’t always a popular opinion, and I get that we may not agree, but the reality is that when one group of people is treated differently for the color of their skin or their language or where they come from or even their religion, it doesn’t matter what we think about it – it matters how we behave. It matters how we speak and act on someone else’s behalf simply because we see them being mistreated or treated differently.

The bottom line is this: if we don’t stand up for those who are being oppressed, we are no different than these children of Israel all those years ago, who let justice slide because they were convinced that they had the right of it with God’s blessing.

Because at the end of the day, God had called the children of Israel to live differently so they could show others God’s love. And they missed the mark over and over. In this case, they were so certain they were righteous, they were actually making it seem that God’s love was not a positive to be sought after, but a detriment to kindness and grace.

And when Jesus came and showed us all how to live lives of kindness and grace and generosity and mercy, we still divided the world into categories of us vs. them and spent a lot of time congratulating ourselves on being the usses who were on the good side and not the thems who were on the bad side. And meanwhile Jesus keeps saying “hey, love them. Love them. Love everyone.” Because God loves. Because Jesus loves.

Listen to Jesus again, as we read in Luke today, as he tells us how to love:

Luke 6:27-38 New International Version (NIV)

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

I heard an old Brad Paisley song yesterday called bigger fish to fry. In it he talks about us vs. them, too (there is other bad theology in the lyrics, but today I read them just to point out this ONE theological error):

I said a bad word when I was a kid
Mama said that I'd be sorry for the sin that I did
My daddy whooped me and the preacher said shame
And I tried like hell to change

I cuss, I smoke
I laugh at dirty jokes
Minor vices man I know 'em well
I've closed down bars
And I've lusted in my heart
My exes think I oughta burn in hell
But the devil, he won't notice when I die
Don't you figure
He's got bigger fish to fry
Oh yeah

Politicians taking corporate bribes
Crooked CEOs are getting off with no time
Christmas eve burglars stealin' good children's toys
(Can't say Christmas)
Holiday burglars stealin' good children's toys

I cuss, I smoke
I laugh at dirty jokes
The minor vices, man I know I'm well
I've closed down bars
I've lusted in my heart
My exes…

I’m not as bad as the REALLY bad people, so obviously they are the ones who need to be worried.

But the reality is that God has said we are all sinners. We all need the grace and mercy of Jesus. We all need the redemption and freedom offered. And we all need to stop thinking the other guy is worse and recognize that our own mistakes and errors and sins are compounded by the fact that we know better and ought to be more easily convinced to love first, because we have been loved. It is our repeated mantra – God loved us enough, so we can love others. It is the simplest way to frame the gospel and it is GOOD news – we don’t have to wallow in an us vs them mindset and keep trying to build bigger walls to keep everyone else out. Instead we can welcome everyone to the table, loving them no matter what they’ve done or how much we’re different, because the very same God who loved us enough loves THEM enough too.

 

---

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Joel 2:12-2:32

--

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

These next 11 weeks, we will be walking through the last of the Old Testament on our way to the arrival of Jesus. As we do, we are exploring what are called the “minor prophets”. These are minor, not because what they have to say is not as important, or because they are somehow less than other prophets, but because they do not have as many prophecies to share. Their books give us insight still into who God is, and how much he loves.

---

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Hosea 1:2-2:1

--

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

She only knew how to do one thing to earn money. It is the world’s oldest profession. The one that involves the desire for another that can parade as love, but is really lust. She knew nothing else and was able to tell herself that it was empowering.

He came and took her from that. He loved her, despite what she had once done.

She went back to it.

He came and got her.

She went back to it.

He came and got her.

And in the end, she realized that his love was not about what she did, but about who she was to him.

And she stopped running.

It sounds like a nice Hollywood story. But it is more aligned with this story of prophetic action, moments in Scripture when God asks a prophet to speak truth to power in the midst of doing something unexpected.

Hosea is asked to marry a woman who is, in the words of the Bible, ‘promiscuous’.

It is meant to be a picture of who we are before we accept the love God has for us and turn our backs on the sin that chains us to our own desires.

We live for ourselves.

And then God says, “I love you. You are my beloved. Come away from those chains. Leave that hurt. Surrender that pain. Give it to me.”

We think we leave it.

And then we go back to it, because we cannot believe that the God who made us can love us enough to actually forgive our past. We cling to our shame and our guilt as though they were badges of honor, ready to clip our arms back in the shackles that hold us captive to distress and despair.

We live for ourselves, staying in the mud that God would have us leave.

And then God says, “I love you. You are my beloved.”

This is what the Israelites did over and over

This is what every person in the world does, over and over.

Many times we convince ourselves that we are better off in the mud, that what we do when we live for ourselves makes us free. Keeps us uninhibited. Turns us loose from some wrath being who would strike us dead with the slightest misstep.

And God says “I AM. I love. I love you. You are my beloved. I came for you. I run after you. I will not stop.”

And we think we don’t we deserve the kind of abundant life God wants to offer. We think that following Jesus ties us to rules and don’ts that hold us captive. We think we are missing something others have when we surrender to God.

And then God says “You don’t deserve it, but I offer it anyway. It’s called grace. It’s called love. It is what I have for you – boundless love. You are my beloved.”

And when the day comes, when we finally relinquish our chains and follow Jesus, we find that the freedom we thought we had was simply slavery to desires we had no control over. And the wrath-filled being who would end us doesn’t exist, is in fact an imaginary being made from the expectations of who God is, but it is NOT in fact, who God is. We find freedom in the ability to forgive our enemies, to love our neighbors, to pray for those who persecute us. To be kind and gentle and peaceable and patient. There is freedom in knowing that nothing is bigger than the God who loves.

Over and over God says “I am love. I love you. You are my beloved” And when we finally believe it, when we finally embrace it, we find that the truth of what that love looks like, not only from God’s side but from our experiences and opportunities to give it away is even bigger and more magnificent that we could have expected.

We can read Hosea and the stories of the children of Israel and all the wanderings and unfaithfulness and shake our heads and cluck our tongues, but the truth is we are all just as prone to wander, just as likely to be unfaithful – it is only in our obedience, in our following that we can see our own foolish similarity to those who wandered so far. When we do, when we recognize our own limitations, when we let go of our need to be in control and our need to do our own thing, to rule ourselves then we stop running. We stop going back to the faithlessness. Instead, we cling to the One who gave himself for us, and finally we can hear God speak, can hear God say “welcome home, you are my beloved”

---

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Daniel 3:17-18

--

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

Babylon.

It is not what they wanted. It was not where they thought they were going to be. But they knew God had promised to be faithful.

Daniel 1

Refusing to eat the food.

Daniel 3

Believing God hates idols.

Daniel 6

Praying anyway.

How does this apply to us:

We might feel like we live in a place that is against us. Looking at things like laws that increase abortion or that hurts children by keeping them from their parents or any number of things that are anti-God, anti-compassion, anti-Christian. They don’t have to be laws, sometimes it is just the attitudes of people around us, or the sense that there is a lot of animosity generally toward us as believers in the One who rescues. After all, this world is NOT our final destination. We do live here now, and we do have the opportunity to help see it become more like the Kingdom we belong to, because following Jesus makes the Kingdom come to life where ever we are.

But we can look at Daniel and his friends and notice some things about how they respond in the face of adversity:

  1. They are respectful. They don’t storm off or stomp their feet. They listen to what the Babylonians want and they simply say no. They say no to eating defiled foods, they say no to bowing to an idol, they say no to ending prayer and ultimately, they are respected for it.

 

  1. They are not offended – they are simply true to what they believe. They don’t denounce the other, they don’t create an us vs. them scenario, they don’t condemn anyone else – they simply stand firm for what they believe and do otherwise. They don’t call for an end to all food offered to idols for everyone, they don’t embarrass any other Israelites in exile who did bow to the Nebuchadnezzar statue, they don’t call out the ones who told them couldn’t pray – they just stick to what they believe and firmly refuse to do anything else. I was reminded just last night how important this is. Sometimes when we get outraged, it looks like we hate those who are against us. That may not be what we intend, but if we look closely at what these exiles living in a strange land did, we can remember the less angry way to stand firm and know that our outrage, our anger, our insistence that everyone believes the way we do only hurts our witness.

We don’t have to prove we’re right to be right.

  1. They trust God for the outcome. They know that things could go wrong in each of these instances: but they trust that God has got their backs and will be faithful no matter what they face

We can learn a lot from how they handle themselves. We can stop being disrespectful to those who oppose us. We can stop being offended or outraged about other people’s behavior – just stay in your lane and do what you are accountable for: Stand firm, but don’t whup and holler about, just do it.

And we can trust God for the outcome. Sometimes we might have to say with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

It’s not likely we will face a literal furnace. But we might have to walk through job loss, financial devastation, family derision, all kinds of things. And even if God doesn’t rescue us from those things specifically, we can absolutely trust that EVEN IF he does not, you can trust him to be faithful, to be who God is, and to walk through it with you, no matter what your battle looks like.

In Babylon, our best witness is us being true to God and letting God be faithful, no matter the opposition. We may live here, but we don’t have to serve the god of this place; we 100% know better.

---

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

Load more