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A sermon by Matt Fitzpatrick

Septemer 22, 2019

It is good to see you all this morning. I would love for us to start our conversation with God this morning by recognizing that we are sinners, and He is the justifier of our sin. If you can turn with me to our prayer of confession, we will stand as we confess to God who we are to him.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in thought word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.

Almighty God in His mercy has given his son to die for you and for his sake forgives you all your sins. Amen.

Heavenly Father, I ask that you open up our hearts and our ears to hear from you today, so that we can receive your word which puts to death the broken things in us and raises to life something new and beautiful. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Our first reading for today is Psalm chapter 113.

Psalm 113Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!”

Our second reading is found in 1 Timothy chapter 2 verses 1 through 7.

1 Timothy 2:1-7First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

This ends the reading of God’s word. Let’s pray.

Lord, thank you for revealing yourself to us. Thank you for giving us your word, where you make yourself known, where we actually get to know our Creator. Lord, I ask that we can get to know you a little better today, that we can understand your heart a little more today. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

God is creating us into a people of peace, peace makers, people who can live peaceful and quiet lives. That is his dream, his heart for us. That’s who we are. The first requirement for us to have peaceful lives, for us to be people of peace, is for us to talk with God. That’s what he wants.

The very first verse of this chapter in Chapter 2, verse 1, he says, “First of all, then I urge that supplications, prayers, intersessions and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Paul is saying, “God wants you to talk to him. He wants a relationship where we converse with our Creator.” God is picking back up the conversation that was left off in the garden of Eden when he created everything perfect. He wants a life where Adam and Eve work the land with him, and then in the cool of the evening, they walk together in the garden and discuss the day. The creatures would discuss their day with the Creator, and they’d be free to share their specific needs and desires, their hopes and dreams for the creation, and then celebrate everything that God had made and its goodness. This is the relationship that God is recreating in us. He’s saying, “Hey, I want to talk to you. I want to know what’s going on. I want to be involved in your daily lives. Bring me into the conversation.” But our problem, the very first problem, is we have a communication breakdown with God. This is what happens with Adam and Eve in the garden. There’s a communication breakdown.

They hear the words of Satan in the garden saying, “I think God’s holding out on you, and I think there’s more for you.” And instead of bringing God into the conversation and saying, “Hey God, your servant over here is saying some weird stuff, can you come into this conversation? We want to invite you into this conversation to find out what’s real.” Instead, they say, “Let’s figure this out on our own real quick. Let’s try to figure this out. Maybe God is holding out on us. All right, let’s test it. Let’s see what’s going on here for ourselves.” And they tried to work it out on their own without involving God.

And they work it out. They eat the fruit. The glory of the Spirit leaves them and they realize, “Oh, we’re naked.” And instead of running to God, they’re say again, “Let’s fix this. We’ve got to fix it.” So, they sew fig leaves and make clothes for themselves. And then they hear God walking in the cool of the evening and they hide.

This is our base instinct. We do this all the time. We will break something, and then try to fix it on our own. If we can, we shout, “Huzzah, we fixed it! No one knew. It’s like it didn’t happen.” That is our dream scenario. But so often it’s way messier than we can imagine, and our fix is haphazard. Then all you can do is hide from the person. You hide and hope that they never find out.

So, my dad’s laughing, and I want to use a story that he loved telling us. Growing up, he spent a lot of time in his aunt and uncle’s home messing around with his cousins. Big Trouble in Little China had just come out so, he and his cousins were running around the house wearing lampshades on their heads and karate chopping each other. Then someone falls onto his aunt’s coffee table and and the table leg’s give out underneath the weight. Now the table was tilting to one side. My dad and his counsins are now frantically trying to figure out what to do. “How do we fix this before Aunt Ruthie finds out?” They pushed the table back to its original position, and it stayed in an upright position. They’re in the clear. As long as no one says anything or touches the table, everything will be ok.

Of course, later on Aunt Ruthie is going through the house cleaning. She gets to her beloved coffee table and begins to wipe it down. As she does, the legs buckled and table crashed to one side. Her shrill voice pierced the house, “Larry!” Her husband Larry entered the room, “Yes?” She asked, “What happened to my coffee table?” He replied, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe you should ask the boys.” Where are the boys? Oh, they’re hiding. They’re hiding.

This is our natural instinct. When something goes wrong, fix it, and if we don’t fix it, hide, pretend like it didn’t happen, and hope you never have to run into that person again. That’s just how you’re going to live your life now. You see that person walking down the aisle at Target and you become a gymnast. You tuck and roll into the next aisle because you can’t face them. I can’t have that conversation. I can’t fix it. Abort mission.

But God says, “This is not the relationship I want with you. I’m not asking you to fix your messes. I’m asking you to bring them to me. This is what I want. This is my desire for you. Bring them to me. Invite me in!” I mean, what would the story have been if after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, realized they made a mistake and then went to their Creator and said, “Lord, forgive us. Forgive us.”

Instead they do what we’ve all now been programmed to do, “Well, Lord, if you hadn’t given me this woman, everything would have been okay. Well, Lord, if you haven’t hadn’t placed this snake in the garden, everything would’ve been fine and nothing would have been broken to begin with.” We accuse God and try to justify our own actions. This is not the relationship God has for us. He wants us to talk to him. He wants us to share our hopes and dreams with him. He wants us to share our needs with him. He wants us to thank him for all the stuff that is going right in our lives.

I love that Paul says, “Make supplications, intersessions, prayers, thanksgivings for all people, including your government.” He goes straight to the top level of where we try to solve our own problems. Pray for your rulers, your kings, your presidents, your governors, pray for them. God wants to be involved in these things. God says, “I want to hear what’s going on and what you desire for your lives. I want to be involved. Please include me.” And of course, the instant questions that bubble up in us are, “What if they’re bad leaders? What if we don’t like them? Can we instead pray that you get rid of them. Do we have to pray for those people? They say racist things and tweet stupid stuff. Do we have to pray for them?” Well, I’m going to say yes, because you know who Paul’s ruler was at this time, Nero. And you can say what you want to say about Trump, but he’s at least not lighting the yard of the White House with the bodies of his enemies. That’s what Nero was doing with all the Christians. Paul is saying that God wants to be included in the conversation, even with the bad leaders.

You want to know why God allows bad leaders? I was talking with God about this. I asked, “Why? Why do you allow bad leaders?” Because God is killing our natural wish and desire for our governments to save us. We have this innate tendency to look to them and comment, “Man, if they were just good, if they were just better, my life would be so much easier. Man. If we just got the right person in office everything would be so great. Everything was be so perfect, and we would finally have peace. God is saying “No, I give peace. The authority and power that they have is something I’ve given them. Don’t look to them. They will let you down. They do not listen to you like I listen to you. They do not care about you like I care about you. Look to me. Don’t look to them.” That’s super offensive, and I know it’s offensive because I’ve had conversations with people that were getting onto me because last election I was pretty laissez faire about the whole deal. I couldn’t engage it because it only made me angry, and people were saying, “You can’t live like that. You got to engage it. You’re not engaging. You got to get into it. You got to know who you’re going voted for.” My response was, “Look, I don’t care who gets in office. All I care and all I know is Jesus is my king and no matter who’s in office, that doesn’t change. I’m still going to be praying to Jesus no matter who is in control.” And the response I received was, “You cannot live like that. How dare you?”

King Jesus is an offensive idea. It is an offensive idea, but this is the relationship God’s calling us into. He says, “I order and structure your lives. I can bring peace. The only hope your governments have for bringing peace is if I’m engaged in the conversation. This is literally what Paul was doing. When he was writing this letter to Timothy to read to his new church, he was in prison for preaching the Gospel. And he kept appealing his case up the government system, because he wanted to go before Nero. He wanted to tell Nero about Jesus. Why? Because he wanted to bring God into the conversation at the highest level. He went to these little house churches and told them, “God wants to have a relationship with you.” And then before every government official that he stood before he said the same thing, “We have a god who wants to know us. Who wants to be involved in our lives and our structures of order.”

So, pray for our leaders, pray for them. You can be honest. You’re allowed to be honest and say, “Lord, I don’t fully understand what our leaders are doing right now. I don’t agree with them.” You can be honest. God’s not telling us to fake it. He’s saying, “Be honest. I want to know. Let me know. Don’t try to fix it first. Let me know, because I can turn the hearts of leaders. If we read the story, we’ll see that God does that all the time. God turns the hearts of government officials all the time, because he can do that. God is saying, “Ask me. Pray about it. Lift them up. Include me in the conversation. I want to be a part of it. I care about you guys. I want to know about these things.” We have a God who is encouraging us to admit when we can’t do something, to admit when we failed, when we’ve made mistakes, when we’ve hurt people. God says, “Come to me. Confess those things to me.”

What leader can we go and say, “Hey, I’ve committed a crime,” and then expect anything else but imprisonment. We have a God who says, “Come and confess your sins to me, and I will forgive you.” We can go before him and not expect punishment, but instead, expect freedom.

You want to know why prayer is so offensive right now? We drive by billboards that say, “Don’t just pray about it. Do something.” Why is prayer so offensive? Prayer is offensive, because it’s admitting that we can’t do something about it. It’s an admission of being powerless, that the world is so broken there’s nothing we can do to fix it. The only thing we can do is say, “Lord, can you do something about it? Because we can’t. We are in over our heads. We cannot do this.” Our God responds, “I will destroy this broken world, this broken system, and I will recreate a new one. That’s what I have for you. I’m going to lift off the anxiety of having to be the solution to the world’s problems, to your jobs, to your households, to your neighbors, to your personal troubles. I’m lifting the anxiety from you and I’m putting it on myself, on my son, on the cross. My solution is death to the broken systems, and then I am going to bring to life something new and something better.”

We have these three amazing photos in our sanctuary. Troy put them together for us, and we kind of knew what we were doing, but I think the Spirit had a better idea of what was going on. I was looking at the order of these three photos and the phrases on them and realized they proclaim the relationship that God is calling us into. Ther first says, “In your mercy, hear our prayer.” We have a God who in His mercy actually hears us. He doesn’t have to. He just wants to. He hears us, and then he speaks to us the words on the second picture, “Be still and know that I am God. Be Still. Stop trying to figure it out. Stop trying to be the solution. Let me be God, and you just be a person, a creature. And I need you to hear me in this because where we’re headed looks a lot like death and it’s scary. But I need you to hear me, because where we’re going, [the words on the third picture] we will rise again new and be ushered into a perfect relationship with me, with the earth, with one another, and with yourselves. You will live out peaceful and quiet lives, and can just be.”

That’s the life that God, our Creator, is calling us into. It’s a life that I desperately want. Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, I ask that you forgive us for the ways we constantly try to be the solution to our problems. We do not deserve your mercy, but you listen to us and you gave it to us. Lord, allow us to hear you say, be still and know that I am God. Allow us to hear you say, “I love you, I care about you, and I’m going to raise you up. I’m going to create something new, something better, something eternal.” Lord, allow us to hear that in faith and rest in the peace of being a creature with a good, forgiving Creator. We rest in that piece today in Jesus name. Amen.