Sunday, June 12, 2011

“God Awaits” - Jeremiah 29:11-14 - June 12, 2011

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”  NIV

In our worship model, the whole of the worship experience is built to interpret the focal passage. But the sermon occurs this week in a very specific interpretative context where a a the missions commission of a young adult for a medical mission rip to Haiti, a testimony, and the surrounding music serve in effect as the first part of the sermon. The mission commissioning will be following by the chorus of “All of My Heart.” A testimony follows. The testimony tells the faith story of a woman in our church that faced two profoundly painful encounters with grief and loss of her marriage, but found God faithful to sustain and restore her. The church will again respond with the chorus of “With All of My Heart.” Our Sanctuary Choir then answers with “I Will Trust You” by Bruce Greer. It is a song that is based on the focal passage and brings its own testimonial nature. This shorter sermon follows.

There are moments in our life when we stand on the edge and wonder what awaits us. Sometimes what carry us to the edge are moments of excitement and anticipation. These are the moments like when we head to college, start a new job, move to a new place, begin a new life as husband and wife. We come to those moments with joy, but also a sense of uncertainty. We wonder what awaits us. Will it be all we hope? Will it work out? Will we succeed? Will we be OK? We come to this moments knowing our lives will be forever shaped by the step we now take. We know the future awaits us but we can hardly imagine what it will look like. We stand on the edge and…..

Sometimes what carries to the edge are moments born in pain. Something happens to you or someone you love that stops you in your tracks and pushes you to the edge. You do not know how you can move forward from there. We come to this moment with uncertainty. How can we move on? Will we be OK? Can we find joy again? There is a part of us that wonder what our future will hold. There is a part of us that wonders if we can even bear stepping into our future. We stand on the edge and…..

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah writes to those who like us, found themselves living on the edge. They are in a setting that was foreign to them. They were being stretch to their limits. Some of them hoped for something more. Some of them were looking for any sign of hope. Some of them were ready to give up and sit down in despair. They were standing on the edge – uncertain of the future that awaited them. The wondered if they would be OK. They wondered and needed a word. The word given for them is also the word for us. It begins, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

When we find ourselves standing on the edge God wants us to know that He has a plan and that plan is not intended to bring us despair, but hope – not to mire us down in the pain of today but to free us for a future full of hope. It is not a promise of that everything will be practically perfect in every way, but it is a promise that hope and the hand of God will prevail in our lives. Sometimes when our spirit is shaken and fear finds its way into the depths of our being the edge looks scary. It is easy to stay where we are –to hunker down – to freeze. God wants it clear when we come to edge we are not stepping off into a dark precipice but rather stepping into the future that God has created and shaped us for.

But be clear, this is not about trusting our own instincts and striking out on our own. This is not about living out of our plan but instead living out of God’s plan. But to claim that hope and future we have to tune in. The word Jeremiah brings continues; Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. The when we find ourselves on the edge – when our world is shaken – when the are trying to get our hands around our future –when we wonder what awaits us – our task is seek God’s way. The passage uses some great words: call, come, pray and tells us when we do these things that God is listening. We hear that when we seek God with the very depths of who we are that God will be found. God is not playing hide and seek with us. God is there waiting for us – ready for us to come, ready for us to call, ready for us to pray – ready to point the way.

Sara’s testimony is that she believed that God was calling her to serve in missions. She called and prayed and now we send her to Haiti in mission with Kimberly Anno in a place where she is needed and where God has prepared the way for her. Susan’s testimony is that in the midst of pain and grief, she called out and God listened and responded and lead her to a place of peace. Their testimonies join countless others that when we call out to God -when we come to God - when we pray to God - when we seek God with all of heart - that God hears and responds and carries into a future full of hope. This is more than spiritual platitudes and religious jargon, it is the promise that God is ready to work in our lives when we seek God with all that we are. God awaits!

There is one more word we need to hear. It was the word that the exiles longed to hear. It was a promise to change their todays and give them a tomorrow with Him. They heard, "I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” God knew that they were in a dark place – an uncertain place – as a result of their choices to claim their own directions – their own paths – instead of following God’s way. The word comes to them that there is a way back – back to where they were with God – back to where their songs of faith would sing out in joy. When some of you in this room stand on the edge you hesitate to call out to God because God seems a long way away. It is not that God moved but some of the choices you have made have taken you way from that place where you first heard God’s voice. You find yourself on the edge alone. This is not what God intends for you. God has made the way back for you. Through faith in Christ you can find the forgiveness and redemption you need. God awaits you as well. Call out, come to Christ, and pray – and God will listen – seek God and you will find him. God awaits!

We find ourselves standing on the edge, wondering and waiting. Some come to the edge in excitement and anticipation. Others come burdened with fear, pain and loss. The word of God speaks, “It’s OK, take the step, I have a plan for you- it is a good plan full of hope. I have a future for you. Call out to me. I am here, ready to respond. You do not have to stand there paralyzed. Come and go with me.”

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