Sunday’s sermon: Where We’re At

God meets us

Text used – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

  • [PLAY SONG] → For a few weeks now, we’ve been listening to this song – “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles[1] – and hearing messages of Lent through its
    • Talked about what it feels like to be running on empty → how God can relate to that feeling through Jesus’ own, very human struggles
    • Talked about sometimes feeling like we are too far gone – beyond God’s grasp → how God’s love and grace extend to us no matter how far away we think we are
    • This week: focus a little on one particular stanza – 3rd stanza:

It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew

  • I don’t know about you, but I hear such resignation in this stanza. There seems to be such a feeling of submission to the circumstances of life – both in the lyrics themselves and the way in which they’re sung, particularly those two lines in the middle: “And now I’ve got you, And you’re not what I asked for.”
    • Feel her lack of motivation and inspiration
    • “This is where my life has ended up. So be it.”
    • So lackluster, so flat, so subdued
    • Needs someone or something to come in and intervene
      • Shake her up
      • Wake her up
      • Bring some spark and some joy and some purpose
  • Sometimes get into cycles like this with our faith
    • So familiar with a passage in Scripture that we stop hearing it → usually ends up happening with some of the most powerful and impactful passages
    • Times when we’ve gone through the motions so many times – this ritual practice, that traditional saying – that we become immune to the majesty and the mystery that inspired those motions in the first place
      • E.g. – “sursum corda”[2] → Did you know that our common liturgy – a piece of the worship that we repeat at least once a month without fail – is in fact an ancient formula that has been used by Christians in worship since the early 3rd century?
        • Echoes even more ancient words of Scripture throughout the Old Testament
        • Serves as a summons to heaven – calls the faithful not only to prayerful concentration but to heavenly-mindedness and drives home need for sincerity in prayer
        • Literally being called into God’s presence
        • Friends, we will say these very words once again today. Soon, we will all raise our voices together, inviting each other to heavenly contemplation and into the very presence of God. This bit of liturgy is called the “sursum corda.”

God be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to God Most High.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

  • How many times have you repeated these words? And how often have you taken these words for granted – simply resigned to thinking they are what they are, immune to the majesty and the mystery that inspired those sacred words in the first place? Going through the motions …
  • As I said, last week: talked about feeling too far gone – being in a place too dark, too painful, too challenging, too messed up, too fear-filled, too doubtful, too weak, too wrong for God to find us … And then we were reminded through the words of the prophet Isaiah that such a place does not exist – that God can always get to us: Seek the LORD when he can still be found; call him while he is yet near. Let the wicked abandon their ways and the sinful their schemes. Let them return to the LORD so that he may have mercy on them, to our God, because he is generous with forgiveness.[3] → This week, I want to build on that idea. You see, not only is there no place that God can’t reach, there’s also no place that God won’t go to find us.
    • Popular phrase in practical theology, pastoral care, and other Christian writings = God meets us where we’re at → conveys God’s willingness and ability to slog through whatever is surrounding us in order to walk our path alongside us
      • Not drag us back to “the right way”
      • Not force us to slog through everything alone – watching us desperately and arduously work our way back to God’s side while God waits safely and serenely in the clear
      • God meets us where we’re at
      • Think of it this way … inversion goggles experiment[4]
        • 1950
        • Professor Theodor Erismann and Ivo Kohler (student and assistant)
        • Erismann hand-made goggles with special mirrors that flipped wearer’s vision upside-down
        • Kohler (being the lowly student and guinea pig) wore goggles
          • First 3 days – disastrous → needed a cane to keep from falling over while walking, constantly running into things, missed grabbing things held directly in front of him, dumping cups of tea when he realized the water was flowing upside down … You get the picture!
          • Odd thing: over the period of a week, Kohler’s brain started to adapt to even that drastically altered state → after 10 days was functioning perfectly normally again even while wearing the inversion goggles
            • State of his reality had been altered – up ⟷ down and vice versa … So much so that when Kohler finally removed the goggles at the end of the experiment, it took him another week or so just to adjust back again. Without the goggles, his world looked upside-down!
          • There are plenty of times throughout life when we feel like things are upside-down at best, and instead of waiting for our realities to readjust on their own, God steps right in in the midst of our disorientation and frustration and panic and whatever else and says, “I’m here.”
    • Hear this in Scripture this morning
      • Elements of disorientation: So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived![5] → Not recognizing people by human standards? New creation? Some new thing that’s arrived? We can imagine how disorienting and confusing this might have been for early Christians … indeed, now disorienting and confusing it can still be for us! What is this new thing? What does it mean for my life? What do I have to do? Where do I have to go? And yet …
      • Text (following): All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them.[6] → Did you catch that? “All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ.” God does that. Not us. None of the action in these verses is on our part. God willingly intervenes – shakes us up, wakes us up, bring us that spark, that joy, that purpose.
        • Could be actively struggling — OR —
        • Could be in a state of dispiritedness like the woman in the song: “If I’m honest I know I would give it all back, For a chance to start over, And rewrite an ending or two, For the girl that I knew” → God’s response: So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! … God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.[7]
          • Also part of our communion liturgy: No matter who you are … no matter where you come from this morning … no matter what you bring with you, you are welcome here at this table and in this community. Amen.

[1] “She Used to Be Mine,” written and performed by Sara Bareilles. From What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress, Epic Records, released Sept. 25, 2015.

[2] Dr. Jack Kinneer. “Roots of Reformed Worship, No. 6” from the Echo Hills Christian Study Center (Indian Head, PA), 1998. https://centralpresworship.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/roots-of-reformed-worship-6-calvin-and-sursum-corda.pdf, accessed Mar. 5, 2016.

[3] Is 55:6-7.

[4] Marc Abrahams. “Experiments show we quickly adjust to seeing everything upside-down” from The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/nov/12/improbable-research-seeing-upside-down. Posted Monday 12 November 2012, accessed Mar. 5, 2016.

[5] 2 Cor 5:16-17.

[6] 2 Cor 5:18-19a.

[7] 2 Cor 5:17, 21.

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One response to “Sunday’s sermon: Where We’re At

  1. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Preciousness in Brokenness | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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