Sunday, March 2, 2014

Judgment and Hope RUMC Chapter 15 THE STORY

Judgment and Hope
RUMC Chapter 15 THE STORY       
In this corner, Biblical lightweights, but with all the weight of Queen Jezebel behind them the 450 priests of BAAAAAL!
And in this corner, the challenger weighing a mere 140 pounds, but quick as can be, the prophet of God ELIJAHHHHHH!
There’s the coin toss, and Elijah wins and defers to the second round. The referee signals that the priests of Baal will receive the first bull. With the wind at their back, they begin to dance. They begin to whirl and wale. We expect that there will be a lot of cutting of themselves today, a lot of shedding of blood but they have not started that way.
It doesn’t appear that anything is happening, but Elijah begins to taunt them. He better be careful or he’ll draw a technical. They dance harder and cut themselves even more, but still nothing.
Finally, the priests take the bench and Elijah takes the field. What do you think his strategy will be today? Rumor has it that he has some tricks up his sleeve. Oh man he does, he has just dumped 4 jars of water on the offering. And another 4, and another 4. Oh, this is going to be a disaster. The field is drenched. Why doesn’t the referee call it off right now? It is obvious that Elijah is just grandstanding. He’s just showing off, but he’s going to end up shooting himself in the foot is what he is going to do.
Wait, he stands back and motions for silence. The crowd falls silent. Even the priests of Baal hold their breath waiting to see what Elijah has up his sleeve. He is muttering to himself, or maybe he is praying to God. The question is, will he get an answer? Will the lone prophet be able to pull off the upset of the century?
Everyone waits… an air of expectation fills the stadium. But nothing seems to happen…
OH BABY… did you see that. A blinding flash of fire descended and consumed not only the bull and the wood, but the water and the soil too. There isn’t even a rock left in the altar. It is all completely gone. What a show. What a tremendous effort on the part of God.
It looks like the priests are storming the field. No, I think they are fleeing for their lives. Now the real bloodbath begins. Reporting from Mount Carmel, for KGOD, back to our studios.

 There is no denying that it would have been a great show, probably higher rated than the super bowl, but it was more than a show.
You see the contest in the story was not really between the Priests of Baal and Elijah. It was not an earthly contest at all. It was a contest between the very real God and all too real idol worshippers. In the end, as anyone who knows anything about God could guess, God won and Elijah was vindicated.

This story is a great example of the work of the Biblical prophet.
Now when I say “prophet” how many of you think of someone telling the future. Some prophets did, but that was never the crux of their message.
When I say the word prophet how many of you think of doomsayers, always talking about sad, bad, and scary things? Some prophets did, but that is not the purpose of the prophet.
I chose this story today because it reveals what I see as the true nature of the Biblical prophet. The Biblical prophet was a warrior. Elijah was a warrior for God battling the worship of the Idol Baal.

Now other prophets fought other battles. Other prophets had other opponents including unrighteousness and injustice, greed and luxury, oppression and poverty, immorality and idol worship. Other prophets fought their battles with words rather than contests on Mount Carmel. But here you see the true nature of the Biblical prophet.
Some would say that the Biblical prophet was all about judgment. If you lived on the side of the idol worshippers, the unrighteous, the greedy, and the immoral I suppose you would be right. But if you read carefully and if you live on the side of God, you can see a word of hope.
Let’s back up just a little and zoom out to look at the prophetic themes in the Bible. Page 215 of THE STORY has a great passage that reflects all 4 prophetic themes
Hate evil, love good;
 maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
 on the remnant of Joseph. Amos 5:14-15

The first prophetic theme is righteousness. Righteousness is more than being right or living right. Righteousness is measuring up to the one who is perfectly right.
At the National Institute of Standards & Technology in Washington DC, they store perfect sample of weights and measures. They have what they call prototypes of pounds and Kilograms, inches and centimeters and so forth. Prototype #27 is a reinforced bar of platinum alloyed with exactly 10% iridium. When they want to know the exact measurement of a “meter,” they cool this bar down to 0 degrees Celsius at a sea level and 45 degrees latitude then they know they will have the exact tip to tip measurement of a meter.[i]
Righteousness is measuring up to our perfect measuring rod. Not a meter, but the ultimate, unwavering perfection that is Jesus Christ.
The prophets called the people to righteousness to measure up to the one who is perfectly right.

The second prophetic theme is Justice.
We all think we know what Justice is, but do we? Justice is not revenge or retribution. Justice is not punishment. Justice is not making them pay the price.
Justice is a voice that tips the scale of a community’s life toward righteousness.
Let me tell you a fable.
“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a coal-mouse asked a wild dove.
“Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.
“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the coal-mouse said.
“I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, it began to snow-not heavily, not in a raging blizzard-no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say-the branch broke off.”
Having said that, the coal-mouse flitted away.
The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for awhile, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for justice [ii]
You might not be able to define justice, but you know injustice when you see it. Justice is being that voice that tips the scales toward righteousness.

            The third prophetic theme is Mercy. If you find yourself on the side of unrighteousness, or if you happen to find yourself on the side of injustice, the prophets are quick to point that out. They are also quick to point out God’s mercy.
As Christians, we have no right to look down our noses with disdain on sinners. We can and should be offended at sin, but not personally offended – offended for God and His holiness. But we have to get it in our heads and in our hearts that
·                    All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
·                    When we sinned were dead to God in sin, He gave us life,
·                    when we were without hope He gave us faith,
·                    When we were enemies of righteousness, He came down to us to make peace with us by the blood of his cross.
And when we realize that, we will realize the depths of God’s mercy and the prophetic call for mercy in our lives too.

The fourth prophetic theme is the Remnant. The Bilical remnant, like a carpet remnant means that we haven’t reached the end of the roll. No matter how lacking in Righteousness, no matter how lacking in justice we have not reached the end of the roll. God’s mercy always leaves a remnant. In the fire of the Musserville church, all was completely destroyed on the North end of the building, leaving only the fellowship hall. Not wanting to admit that everything was gone, we spent some time digging around in the ashes to see if there was anything… anything left. Finally, the claw came up with some unsinged material. Scrambling to the other side of the hole, we discovered two boxes of pencils. You know those little red pencils that go in the pews at some churches. Except these weren’t just any pencils. They had inscriptions on them. They each red “Have faith in God. Coincidence? I don’t know… but I do know that that I saved that little remnant and distributed them to everyone on a Sunday when everyone was discouraged. They meant more to us than you can imagine.
God‘s judgment always leaves a remnant.

Righteousness, Justice, Mercy and remnant.
Those are the prophetic themes
Sure, there is judgment for those who are unrighteous.
Sure, there is judgment for those who are unjust.
Sure, there is judgment for those who are merciless.
Judgment but not complete destruction... In God’s eyes, there is always a chance. And that is what the remnant represents. The chance for people to live in righteousness, The chance for people to live in justice and The chance for people to live in mercy
As we commune today. Come. Come to seek righteousness in your relationship with God.
Come seeking to live justly in your relationship with others.
Come seeking to live mercifully among one another.

[i] Jeff Strite, Church of Christ at Logansport
[ii] retold by Joseph Jaworski in the closing of his book, Synchronicity

No comments:

Post a Comment