Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Sermon for This Morning

I had, before getting married, some unrealistic expectations about the state of marriage. And, like all expectations, I didn’t know that I had them until we got into our first married argument. I can’t even remember what it was about. But at some point, when we were shouting at each other, Matt said ‘why can’t you just tell me what you want?’ Can’t you just tell me what you need?’ I looked at him in horrified disbelief. ‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘I can’t do that. I don’t know what I need or want. That’s why I married you. You’re supposed to figure out what it is that I want, and then give it to me.’ He was justifiably unimpressed. But I will say that over the course of being married, he has gotten to know me pretty well. He has studied me, a little bit. After a while of being married, maybe a few months, I was sitting on the couch in a stupor, and he walked in with a carefully built sandwich of tomato, mustard, and paper thin pancetta. I was shocked. ‘What is this for?’ I asked. ‘You get cranky when you’re blood sugar is low,’ he said, ‘and I can see that you’re starting to get hungry and tired. Eat it.’ Over time he’s more or less figured out what makes me tick, often better and before I myself have figured it out. Now, this really only serves to show you the appalling degree to which I lack awareness of myself, but it also illustrates, just a little that we may know a lot about ourselves, we may know a lot about other people, but there are depths to our own selves that even we can not plumb. As we’ve said over and over again and again, sin causes a brokenness on three levels—we are broken and divided from God, we are broken and divided from each other, and we experience also a brokenness and division within ourselves. When you repent of your sin and turn to God and accept his work on the cross and he comes to live inside you, that brokenness begins to be healed—we have a new whole relationship with God, with other people and also with ourselves. Turn with me, this morning, to Psalm 139. I want to apologize for making you slog through such a long psalm section this morning. There’s usually a choice of a long section of psalm, and a short section, and 99% of the time I pick the short section, but today is an exception because I want us to look at this together. Today we are talking about God knowing you. Next week we are going to take up You knowing God.
So, Psalm 139 The psalmist here is believed to have been King David. I don’t want to say a lot about him except that in the Old Testament, he shines out as one of a handful of people who really Knew God, who got the point of God, who understood who God was in himself and loved and followed him. But that knowledge of God did not happen by itself, or out of nothing. It began with God, and God’s knowledge of David. “Lord, you have searched me out and know me.” The word search, here, is liken to a night thief who searches carefully and diligently for the desired object. Someone who comes in and undoes, who disrupts to get to the guts of a room. When I walked up to the office this Thursday, the window had been shattered and glass was everywhere, but also, the drawers were empty and all the paper dumped out. You could see into the empty shelves that hold all the paper I use to copy the bulletin. The room was both wrecked and laid bear. God’s knowledge and searching of you, from your perspective, can have this same quality. First of all, you should know that God knows you whether you know him or not. He created you, every fiber, every molecule, every brain synapse. Even if you don’t know him, or you’re trying to hide from him, or you’re trying to ignore him, he knows you and knows the why and how and the wherefore of you. But if you at once turn to Jesus and ask him to come and live inside you, even as you are turning to him and he is turning your heart and opening your heart to himself, you will begin to experience God’s perfect knowledge of you—he searches you, he undoes you, he lays you bear. He pulls everything out of the inmost places of your heart into the light and shows you the knowledge that he has of you. David describes the substance and extent of God’s searching knowledge. He knows when you sit, whether it be difficultly and pain, whether it be in sorrow or joy, whether it be in hope and expectation. When you arise. When you get up in the morning and immediately argue with everyone you love, when you rise up exhausted having lain awake and troubled, when you wake up refreshed and happy. At rest, rising up, God knows where you are. David goes on, “You discern my thoughts from afar.” Not that God is afar off, distant from you, but that your thoughts, even before they have arisen in your mind, even before you yourself know them, even when they are confounded and tangled and confused, God knows them. He knows their meaning and purpose. He understands them. Wherever you go, wherever you stop and rest, if you are running crazy and purposeless, between soccer and dance and basketball and work, if you are stopped, quiet in your house without anywhere to go, wherever you are, God is acquainted with your ways, he has studied them, he knows what you are about. Verse 4. Before you speak, God knows what you are going to say, even before you know it yourself. He knows it completely—its meaning, its purpose, the intention, how the other person hears it, he knows. David sums up, He hems you in, behind and before. Where ever you go, his hand is upon you. You can’t even begin to understand this kind of knowledge. You can’t even fathom the depth and heighth and width of God’s knowledge of you, whether you know him or not, whether you want him or not. Should you consider running from him, to heaven, to hell, to the end of the earth, to the end of the universe, you won’t be able to. He is already there, ahead of you. In the depths of your soul, in the depths of earth, he is there. What then can you do? How then will you live? Turn to Matthew, chapter 4, beginning in verse 18. As Jesus was walking by the clear blue Sea of Galilee, the Lord of Heaven and Earth saw two brothers casting a net into the lake, because they were fishermen and he said to them, “Come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men,”. You’d think that Peter and Andrew would have wanted some more information, or a promise down in writing that everything would turn out well, or a sales pitch, or something. Jesus doesn’t give any more information. But looking at him Peter and Andrew and then James and John don’t require anything else. They get up At Once and follow him. At some point Jesus, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, God who has complete and perfect and astounding knowledge of you is going to walk through your life and say ‘Come, follow me.’ Most of you have already had this experience. If you haven’t, come to me on the side altar during communion and we’ll talk about it. But most of you have. Most of you were sitting quietly with your nets, handling things on your own, dealing with the complexity of life without too many hassles. And then Jesus came to you and said ‘I love you, follow me’ and you said yes. You got out of your boat, you left your net, you left your kitchen table, or your best idea of what to do with your day and you followed him. Some of you are settled in this new life with Jesus, with God. But some of you feel like all the cupboards and drawers and closets have been emptied out and you are laid bare, before God, and it’s uncomfortable, and maybe painful, and you don’t know what the next few steps are going to be like. Take comfort, even there, his hand will guide you, his right hand will hold you fast. The God who knows you, perfectly, and who has called you and saved you, this same God has a job for you, has plans to put your life together in a new and better way. This same God loves you and is prepared to provide for you, to make you a fisher of men. It begins, today, with his knowledge of you. It will spread to your knowledge and love of him. Next week we’ll pick there, with how to know Jesus. Amen.

4 comments:

Dr. Alice said...

All I can say is, please keep publishing your sermons. They are fantastic and I can't tell you how badly I need to hear them. I haven't found another church yet, and I am sick of being 'unchurched' and rudderless.

Karen said...

Anne,
Thanks so much for posting this. It is a timely word for me. I've known and been following the Lord for 30+ years, but this is a new season when He is upending drawers and pulling lots of rubbish out of the depths of closets etc. turning everything upside down and pushing me into some new things. It's been pretty overwhelming for a few days, and this reminds me of what it's all about, and that it's OK!

How good the Lord could even a VERY hard thing like the break in at Good Shepherd and give you such a powerful sermon illustration that lights up this well known Psalm is a new & vivid way for me, and I'm sure so many others! I just love it when God does that. Thanks for sharing from your heart.

Summersnow said...

Thank you, Anne. Just the word I needed (and did not wish to listen to )today. God has my attention now. Thanks.

sjengelhardt

Geri said...

Thank you, Anne, for giving us this explanation of my favorite psalm. Every once in a while we need to be reminded that He truly does know us and chases after us. We just have to stop and remember that He does know us to the depths of our soul. It is real easy to get so involved with our lives that we forget that we belong to Him.