- St. Paul's
Sermon - 13 Pentecost
Updated: Sep 13, 2020
In the Name...
A manager arrives at his new office and the departing manager tells him, "I have left three numbered envelopes in the desk drawer. If you encounter a crisis, open one." A couple of months later there is a major drama, everything goes wrong and the manager opens the first envelope. The message inside says "Blame your predecessor!" He does this and gets off the hook. A few months later, the company has another crisis. The manager opens the second envelope and the message reads, "Reorganize!" This he does, and the company quickly rebounds. A few months later, at his next crisis, he opens the third envelope. The message inside says "Prepare three envelopes."
On May 11th, 1932, a crowd of over 10,000 gathered at an army base near San Diego, California, to welcome the arrival of the USS Akron, at 785 feet long the latest zeppelin in the American Air Fleet. The docking cable was lowered and attached to the mooring mast, 200 men on the ground holding ropes began guiding the airship towards the mast when the cable snapped and the airship began to rise. Most of the ground crew were lifted ten to twenty feet off the ground before falling off. But, three men were carried several hundred feet up as the crowds screamed. Two of the men plummeted to their deaths. Only one remained and as the aircrew brought the ship under control it seemed only a matter of time before this last man fell to his death, but, 1/2 hour later he was still there when the aircrew began to haul him aboard. When asked how could he hold on to a rope for so long he replied, "I didn't hold on. I just wrapped the ropes around me and let them hold me up."
Often, we hear people say that in times of stress we need to get a grip, but, often, if we try to rely on our own power to grip we will, like those unfortunate airmen, tire out and fall. It was the man who didn't try, who let the ropes hold him up, who survived and we too need to trust in God and let Him hold us up.
The Bible tells us that there are three kinds of crises in life. First, those we bring on ourselves; second, the kind caused by other people; and third, the kind caused by our reaction to events.
Now, each week we usually read something from an O.T. prophet, like Jeremiah, and a N.T. apostle, like Paul, and from one of the Gospels, such as Matthew, but, every week we hear something from King David - the Psalms. In fact, we hear more from David than any other writer in the Bible.
So what can we learn from David about dealing with life crises? Well, the classic example of the kind he brought on himself was his affair with Bathsheba. It started when he was somewhere that he shouldn't have been. Instead of going out with his armies, he stayed at the palace. He was avoiding his duties as leader of the people. That was where his trouble began. Then he abused his position to seduce her. Then, to compound it all, he had her husband, a loyal soldier, put in harm's way and killed. In the end, he was publically humiliated and for a king that's worse than death.
Then, of course, there were the problems caused by other people and these would include the times when Saul tried to have David killed out of jealousy for his popularity and skill.
And, there were the problems caused by his reaction to events. For example, when word came that his son Absalom had risen up in rebellion, David packed his bags and fled. This was the guy who defeated Goliath and had won battles against all sorts of powerful kings. And he ran away from a family confrontation. Well, eventually he was restored, but, after a needless civil war and the death of Absalom.
Now, when we experience a crisis brought on by ourselves, in response to things we have done, we can usually identify the changes we need to make to set things right. And when we experience a crisis brought on by others, the others are usually easy to identify and we can deal with them.
But, the most dangerous crisis we can often face as individuals is in our reaction to events. Because it can be hard for us to identify what is going on, it is easy for us to react with anger, panic, fear, prejudice, and a host of other destructive emotions. Well this morning I want to share with you a few ways that we can react with productive emotions and Biblical principles.
First, in any crisis, we need to identify the real enemy we face. It's Satan himself. He is called, in classical theology, "the master of the art of disturbing the soul". The master of the art of disturbing the soul. Satan wants us to be disturbed and turn away from God, or even blame God for our problems. Even people who don’t believe in God blame him for things and it drives me crazy when I hear religious people say that God sends us bad things to test us. No, no, and no, again. There's only one source of bad things and God is the one who helps us fight them.
Second, we need to be sure that the confidence we seek is based on our relationship with God. Very often, the Israelites had a lot of material blessings. They had a strong government, a good economy, secure borders. But, they had become spiritually weak. They had lost sight of the role which God should have been playing in their personal lives and in the life of the nation. So when material adversity hit, they were spiritually devastated. They thought God had abandoned them when it was just the opposite.
And Third, we need to be sure who it is in whom we trust. In today's Gospel, Peter reacts the way he does because he has just identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He doesn’t understand everything that means, but he’s sure about who Jesus is.
So, if we are clear about these three things. The identity of the Enemy, our relationship with God, and the identity of Jesus then we won't be the victims of events. If David had been clear at that moment, he would not have run away from Absalom. He would have realized it was not his son, but, Satan who was behind the revolt. He would have confronted Absalom confident that God had promised he would not be deposed. And although he did not know Jesus, he knew the Father and should have trusted in Him.
So, when you face a crisis don’t react in human terms. React as one who believes that he who has the Son has life. What more could we hope for?
In the Name...