Sermon Notes 102322
Joel 2:23-32, Psalm 65, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:9-14
23 O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. 24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25 I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 28 Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. 30 I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. 32 Then everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.
1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed, 2 O you who answer prayer! To you, all flesh shall come. 3 When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions. 4 Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple. 5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. 6 By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might. 7 You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples. 8 Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy. 9 You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. 10 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. 11 You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. 12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, 13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, and equipped for every good work. 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5 As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and carry out your ministry fully.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
As we move into this week’s Scripture passages, I find many connections that are tied together with these ideas: One God, Love God, Know God, Accept God’s Grace, Be Faithful, Be Persistent
Last week, we read: In Jeremiah31:34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Our OT passage today, 27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 28 Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
God will pour out his spirit. Through the spirit, we are the makers of music and the dreamers of dreams. As believers, we are called to share our blessings. As we give ourselves away, we will find ourselves. We hold on to our true essence when we spend ourselves in the cause of Christ. As Christ poured himself out for us, we are poured out, so that glory is given to the one for whom we pour. And there we find the joy in living fully.
Be persistent: Keep up the fight, Not earning grace, Given freely to us, All we do for others is in response to our grace.
James 1: 22 You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. 23 Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. 24 They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. 25 But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.
Keep proclaiming, keep offering, keep pointing. Be persistent.
I solemnly urge you: 2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.
Imagine being asked to speak in front of a group of people or even speaking to one person. Some of you might be filled with fear, while others will embrace the moment!
- Teachers will tell you the best days are when their students are actively listening.
- It feels great when your listeners are on the edge of their seats, following your every word. (Blue eyes story)
- Sadly, this is often not the case. We’ve all been in a space where someone is speaking, and no one is listening. It’s uncomfortable.
- Times when as you speak to someone, you wonder if anyone is home.
- Winnie the Pooh:
- Is anybody at home?
- Winnie the Pooh:
- What I said was, “Is anybody at home?”
- Winnie the Pooh:
- Bother. Isn’t there anybody here at all?
- Winnie the Pooh:
- Must be somebody there because somebody must have said “Nobody.”
3 For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears,
What great language: itching ears! Why would our ears itch? When something itches we are compelled to check it out. In this case, Paul is speaking about those who don’t listen.
There could be many reasons that people don’t listen.
- Don’t want to listen. I’ve heard it before, Why would I want to hear it again? Or I’ve got it (even when you don’t), I don’t need to listen.
- Distracted by Squirrels (daydreaming)
- Trying to do one thing, leads to another thing, and to another thing, and then you realized that you didn’t finish the first thing. Cues that relate to our senses. (smell) One cue conjures up a memory to which we happily go.
- Misunderstood Meanings -sometimes because we have only heard part of the words while we were off chasing the squirrels. We must remember that just because we know what we mean, doesn’t mean others do. (remember the story of Thomas and the incomplete directions to follow Jesus)
Our brains are so complex that we are capable of multitasking. Perhaps capable is the keyword. In our technology-infused worlds, we are surrounded by bits of information flying in and out of our consciousness every minute of the day. I imagine that we are all guilty of purposely escaping from our tasks by playing games on devices or purposely /accidentally falling down the proverbial rabbit hole. We start out being task-oriented, but after we make too many wrong turns, we lose our way and no longer remember for what we were searching.
Another problem with our access to the infinite information highway is that when we don’t like what we read (the answer is not what we wanted or doesn’t match our agenda), we keep searching until we find the answer we like. Paul couldn’t have possibly imagined our world today, but his words still ring true. they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.
We, God’s children, are quick to join the latest fad. Think of the quick, easy, diet schemes, now think of these upstart church groups. When that doesn’t work out, we wander along until we find another great fad.
Let’s back up for a moment and reconsider the opening of our passage in 2 Timothy. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, and equipped for every good work.
Think of a beloved book! Did you read it once and then just put it aside? No, we read it again and again. Do you remember the first time you read a Bible story? First readings are when we fall in love with the text. As we read and reread the same words, we are drawn into the deeper meanings that lie beneath the surface. When we read, we are anxious to share the treasures that we have uncovered with others.
Paul tells us that reading the Bible isn’t a solitary activity. We read, question, wrestle, talk with others, and look for understanding. Methodism is founded upon Wesley’s (Albert Outler) quadrilateral which tells us to read Scripture through the lens of tradition, experience, and reason. These traditions, experiences, and the ability to reason come from rich conversations with other believers. Paul shares with Timothy and with us that to live a holy life means that we embrace not just the content, but also the spirit of God’s Word. This is not new! This idea presents itself through the early prophets in the Old Testament. Each generation is called to pass on wisdom and live life as Christ taught us.
We are called to embrace the totality of the scriptures, even the parts we wrestle with that confuse us. Don’t just hold on to that which agrees with your current preference and inclination. Don’t get distracted by the squirrels. Keep reading, be challenged, be stretched, and be troubled by this word. And keep asking this question: how does this text help me know Jesus better? How is the Word made flesh revealed in this written word? Because the more you know this Jesus, the more you can share the Word to make disciples as you preach this gospel.
Woah! Wait a minute, did you see that squirrel, you might be thinking, did I miss something, I’m not a preacher. We are called to preach in different ways as our gifts direct us. You may preach through the delicious food that you cook and share with others. Others may preach by being there to listen when someone needs a friend. It is for all of us, any of us. All of us are charged with sharing our most precious relationship. All of us are called to reveal that which defines us, the one who shapes us. All of us are called to tell our story in ways that issue invitations and gather up those who have been left out. Repeat: Present yourself to God by letting every word from your lips be words of praise and invitation. Now Paul reminds us that this isn’t always going to work. There aren’t always going to be responses that let us know we’re on the right track. Think back to that teacher trying to teach in the midst of the chaos and squirrels.
Remember the parable where Jesus told us: Remember the sower who went out to sow? And some of the seed and some of the seed and some of the seed? (Matthew 13, if you need a reminder.) In that story, three times out of four, it seems like a wasted effort. If one out of four seeds sprouts, that’s a start. The more seeds we cast, the more sprouts. Be persistent: keep casting the seed. Keep proclaiming the word. It is needed. Ears are itching.
Are itching ears a good thing? This affliction can lead us down rabbit holes, or distract us from our tasks. Can good news be found because of our affliction? In the ultimate tale of falling down a rabbit hole,
“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.‘”
Have we lost our ability to believe in impossible things?
We read the Good News in Luke 1:37 nothing is impossible with God and that his word will not fail. What about these itching ears? And then there are those distracting squirrels? Some might see the itching ears and following squirrels as failure because we lose our listeners, but there is more good news lurking among the wrestling and questioning. Great truths (things that seem impossible or unfathomable to our hobbled minds) permeate the Bible and God is waiting to reveal the deeper meanings as we are ready.
Even more Good NEWS! The Bible contains the greatest story ever told: a story of love, grace, peace, hope, joy, and the transformation of God’s children. We are called to make this story come alive and be relevant to today’s people. The story of Jesus is a story of authentic love that provides us with the tools to live a life of hope and joy, even in the midst of heartache, suffering, and distractions.
Are your ears itching to hear more? It is time to return to the Bible, to read, to listen, to be still, and to wrestle. The story awaits!
Prayer: Holy God, Jesus reminded us that the best of us will be the servants, will be those who are willing to help and witness to others, not for their own honor but for God’s honor and praise. Far too long, we have decided that we know what is best for the whole world. O God, may we accept the pouring of Your spirit on our flesh. May we, your sons and your daughters prophesy, and may we dream dreams and see visions. Help us listen and be your joyful servants instead of imposing our will on others. We have gotten way off the track of discipleship. Bring us back, patient God. Shake the dust of arrogance from us and nourish us with humility and joy. Help us to be the kind of disciples that serve you faithfully. For we ask these things in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
Benediction: You have been called to serve the Lord with gladness. Go from this place knowing that God’s blessings have been poured on you so that you may be a blessing to others. Be at peace and bring the good news of God’s love and peace to all whom you meet. AMEN.