Sunday, September 4, 2016

BELIEVE- chapter 2 “God cares” Reinbeck UMC 9/4/16

BELIEVE- chapter 2 “God cares”
Reinbeck UMC
 (First slide is introductory video)
 I imagine most of you know the story of the three blind men and the elephant.
1.            You know the first Touched the side and said and elephant is LIKE A WALL
2.            The second wrapped his arms around a leg and declared that an elephant is like a TREE TRUNK.
3.            The third touched the Squirming trunk and said “No, and elephant is more LIKE A SNAKE.”
What you probably haven’t heard is the story of the three blind elephants who were discussing what men were like. After arguing for a while, they decided to find a person and determine what it was like by direct experience. The first blind elephant took felt of the man by taking his big foot and pushing down as hard as he could to feel what he was like.   Immediately he declared that a man is like a pancake. After the other blind elephants felt the man in the same way, they all agreed.
All were partly right, partly wrong.

But isn’t that typical? Especially when it comes to God, people experience or read about one thing and assume that defines the wholeness of God’s nature. Just as an elephant is not a rope, or a tree, or a wall, and just like human beings like pancakes, God is more than most of us think or imagine.
 Last week we started this series called BELIEVE. We started not with whether God exists, but which God we will serve. We declared “I BELIEVE THE GOD OF THE BIBLE IS THE ONLY TRUE GOD, FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT.”
  The question this week is, “What is the nature of that God?” We know that God is creator. God is bigger than we can imagine. God is more than we can describe. God is eternal, and all-powerful, and ever-present, and all-knowing, and all-encompassing, and all that doesn’t even begin to describe God. We already know that. What we are really interested in this week is, “Is God good. And if God is good is he involved in my life?” In other word, “Does God care about me?”
 I want you to hear three things today.
             God is good
             God does Care
             God cares for you

Some of you are convinced that God is not good or God does not care because your life has been pretty messed up. There has been sickness, and death, and cancer, and accidents, and addiction, and jail, and divorce, and car wrecks, and failed businesses, and unfair job terminations. I can see that. My life has been messed up too. Our lives are not that different. And I understand because sometimes it feels as though God doesn’t care. That feeling does not mean it is true. Our messed up lives are not evidence that God is not good or that God does not care.
Still others look at the condition of the world: terrorism, wars, famines, earthquakes, shootings, and all the rest and say, “Obviously God is not good or God does not care.” Again, none of those problems disproves God’s goodness or God’s caring.
Through history, Christian theologians have struggled with this. Some claiming that one of two things is true. Either
1.            God is good and doesn’t care what happens to us or creation,
2.            Or God cares about us but is not good enough (or powerful enough) to do anything about it.

We all have stories like this… When amber was about 4 years old, she fell down the steps of the Geneseo church and cracked her head open on the doorframe. I picked her up and determined it was more then we could handle so we went off to the emergency room.
Since Robyn and I had a deal that if she did the vomit, I would take care of the blood, it was my job to hold Amber still and comfort her while the doctor stitched her up.
Robyn went all the way to the other end of covenant hospital trying to get away from her screams of “Owie, he’s pulling my hair, Owie, he’s pulling my hair.” Of course, what Amber was feeling was the suture thread being pulled through her skin. In her four-year-old mind, however, Amber believed the Doctor either was good and didn’t care, or if he cared, he wasn’t good. I knew that the doctor was good, that he cared, and he was doing everything he could for Amber.
Sometimes a doctor has to lead a patient through pain to bring them to health. Pain does not prove that the doctor isn’t good. Pain does not prove that the doctor doesn’t care.
Similarly, our messed up world does not prove that God is not good. Your messed up life does not prove that God does not care for you.
 CS Lewis wrote
If a thing is, free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating.

What this means is that because God is a God of relationships, there must be freedom to choose or refuse that relationship. This is one of the ways in which God is good. Evil, injustice, and suffering in the world do not come from God. They do not prove that God is not good and they do not prove that God does not care.
 Paul writes, “For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” 
God is very good and God cares for us more than we can imagine.

 But you might say, “I’m not important enough for God to care about me.” I know. Neither am I. The Psalmist felt the same way, if you turn to page 33 of your books and look at the bold type, you see the Psalmist saying exactly the same thing. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon & the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
The truth is we aren’t important enough for God to love us, but that doesn’t stop him! Why? Because he wants to. That’s all God wants; to care for us.
 Going back to the Gospel reading, If God cares for the silly bird that kept flying into our bedroom window this spring… if God cares for the flowering weeds that grow in the ditches. Do you really think that does not care for you? Are you less important than they are? Of course not… God cares for you too.
Too often, we use this passage to beat up on ourselves for worrying. Even though many of us might deserve that, is that what the passage really teaches? NO. It is about God’s goodness // about God caring // and about the fact that God cares for each and every one of us as though we are the only one in the world.
That seems hard to comprehend, but it really isn’t so hard.
 Randy Frazee tells about an app on his iphone called “RUNKEEPER” that tracks everywhere he has run. He says that it is pretty amazing. It keeps track of every step he takes and he can go back and see his everywhere he has been. What is even more amazing is that it is doing the same thing for 10 million runners simultaneously. Really? That is a man made computer program. If a person can make that, is it really so hard to believe that God who is so much greater than any human or any iphone app, can keep track of a measly 6 billion of us.
More than that, God goes one-step further… the app just keeps data it doesn’t care about anyone… GOD CARES.
Why does God care about me? Why does care about you? As hard as it is to grasp, the answer is simple: He cares for us because he chooses to. Just because he wants to.

             When Adam and Eve sinned - did God care? God found them hiding in the Garden and he cared enough to bring them clothes and a promise of a fresh start
             When the world was disgusting, - evil beyond imagination - did God care? God found a good man named Noah - and cared enough to give a sinful world a fresh start!
             When Goliath intimidated the children of God in valley of Elah - did God care? God cared enough to use David, a shepherd boy, to slay a giant, and rescue a nation!
             When a woman arrived at a well, at midday, embarrassed by her circumstances, disappointed with the men in her life, and discouraged by her choices, - did God care? He cared enough that he came as Jesus for a private visit and he gave her water so she would never thirst again!
             When Mary was heartbroken, sitting in the garden wondering where they had taken Jesus, did God care? He cared enough to stand in front of her and speak her name. He cared enough to take her by the hand and restore her hope.
             When Peter failed the Lord 3 times in one night - did God Care? He cared enough to invite Peter for breakfast and asked him three times - Do YOU care!
             When Amber had her heart surgery and I was beating my head against the wall wondering if we made the right decision. God cared enough to send Dr Bubbles to make her laugh and here she is today.
             When I was broken and hopeless, and so mad at God that I thought I would never step foot in a church again, God cared enough to be patient with me and gently brought me back into ministry
             When my dad was dying and I wanted more than anything else, to hear his voice one more time, God spoke “This is the day that the Lord has made.” As he received my father into his loving arms of eternal life.
             When I have been at my lowest, and wondered why God would care for me because I certainly didn’t, God has always cared enough to walk with me through those darkest times and use someone (usually Robyn) to remind me how much he cares and show me a glimmer of hope.
 Those things would not have happened if God were not good.
Those things would not have happened if God didn’t care
Those things would not have happened if God didn’t care deeply and personally for me.
How about you? I’ll bet if you think for a moment you can find places where God has stepped in and surprised you by showing you and your family:
             That God is good
             God cares
             And God cares for you.
Think for just a moment and think of a time when God who cared for you more than you imagined. If you can’t think of one… watch for one… maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon you will experience God’s care.

Will you say the key idea with me?


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