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SERMON ON WEEK: Reading God's spiritual signposts: Go on, or else!

Because opportunities to attend services may be limited for several weeks, the newspaper has invited local clergy to submit sermons for publication here.

Pastor, Trinity Mennonite Church

Percy Ross wrote a “Thanks a Million” newspaper column. He wanted to give away his millions before he died. He received 12,000 letters a week and printed some of these in his syndicated column.

Here’s one he received from Newark, New Jersey:

“Dear Mr. Percy Ross: You are so generous to help so many people. I am poor, too, but I get by. I don’t need money. I live under a bridge, and it has a steam pipe under so I am warm in winter. There is a diner close by and the Dumpster has always got food in it that truckers don’t eat.

“So I got every thing and don’t need money. But I see you in the papers and I think if I was rich like you I would help people, too.

“The other day I helped somebody and he gave me $20. That is nice but there is somebody who needs it more than I do, I’m sure. $20 makes me rich, so I share and try to help you to do good.

“Please give this $20 to somebody who really needs it.

“Yours truly, Wilson Demarest”

What is the first emotion Demarest’s letter evokes from you?

Is it anger and outrage at a society that allows people to live such a marginalized existence?

Is it pity for a man who has come to expect so little from life that he cannot even take advantage of good fortune when it is handed to him?

Is it sadness at the realization that, for some people, having $20 is to be “rich,” while for others it is hardly worth noticing in their pockets?

How about a strange, gnawing knowledge at the corner of your conscience that you are somehow strangely jealous of this man who has nothing yet wants nothing?

There is a sign at a service station on the edge of the Mohave Desert. It proclaims the startlingly simple message of “Stop here, or else!”

It is a great marketing tool. Everyone stops, even those with full tanks of gas and empty bladders. Everyone knows that what lies ahead is dangerous and uncertain, so they trust the sign’s warning.

Strange, then, that few of us are wise enough to take Peter at his word and genuinely believe that our trust and our hope is in the Lord.

True security is to be found in reverence for God and in holy love for each other, Peter announces. Most of us are content enough to mouth “our hope is in the name of the Lord” in church on Sunday.

On Monday our hope is in our physical and emotional strengths and abilities. Our weekday faith is set in the knowledge we worked hard to master and the niche we carved out for our life and lifestyle. Instead of trusting God, we trust that which we can hold in our hands or fold into our wallets.

Just this week, when the groceries I ordered came to our door, I left a check on the porch. Carlsons’ charges $1 for delivery. That hardly seems enough for all of Nick’s driving and work bagging and delivering what I order.

The first time I paid double my amount of groceries, hoping to cover someone else who couldn’t pay.

The next time I only rounded up to the next dollar because I had just done our finances and was a little insecure.

This gnawing sense of insecurity is what makes Demarest’s generosity and simplicity stir such a chord within us. Demarest’s soul knows deprivation. But it also knows contentment.

In I Peter 1:17-23, Peter testifies that Christ ransomed us from our own futile ways.

Our expressions of love are not a work that turns God to us, but a fruit of our turning to God.

Will this guarantee we will experience no hardships? There will always be storms of one kind or another.

A few years ago NASA decided to build a shelter for its huge rockets to keep them protected from frequent rains.

But the hangar was so gigantic it generated its own weather, creating a steady climate of clouds and rainstorms so the rockets got rained on in their “shelter.”

Peter knew that for Christians, there would be no escape from the storms of persecution. What Peter could assert with joy, however, was that Christians can fully trust the God who ransomed them, no matter how violent the storm.

What would it mean if the Christian churches of Marion County took Peter’s counsel just as seriously as did those first century believers?

If God could raise Jesus from the dead, isn’t it possible God could be trusted to raise the church from its declining state?

What in this pandemic has required your faith and trust in God?

The storms of life will come. We can fully trust that the God who ransomed us through the blood of Christ stands beside us still, no matter how violent the storm.

Last modified July 29, 2020

 

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