The week? Fantastic. The theme? Noah's Ark. The Sermon????? Yes, I wrote and delivered a sermon. While I can't say for sure how it went for everyone else and I admit I had to resist the urge to pull out the southern-style-evangilizing-preacher-man in me, hee hee hee, it felt pretty darn natural, as if I were writing for you guys and then actually delivering the post to you personally, albeit a little too fast. Anyway, below is what I wrote for my first attempt at filling the pulpit. This is also the reason you haven't seen any blog posts recently....apparently it takes all the writing energy I can muster (as well as any cleaning energy too, sorry Kurt!) to lead a church for an hour. ;)
Walking With God
Now I must confess, I have been critiquing sermons for decades. When I was a child, I used to compare various preachers with different composers depending on how long they went on past what seemed like a reasonable stopping point. And apparently my ego was bigger than my britches because I had always thought, if given the opportunity, it would be a piece of cake to write and deliver a good sermon. After all, both my grandfathers, and three out of four uncles, were ministers, surely it’s in the blood, right?
That's what I thought until a few weeks back when Rev. Ken asked if I would put together and run the VBS service. He told me I could organize it however I pleased but that if there was to be a sermon, I was the one who would have to preach it. And apparently I missed the word “if” because I immediately jumped to:
What? Why would anyone want to listen to anything I have to say? Certainly there are plenty of people in this church far more qualified for this job. He assured me it would be a piece of cake, “After all, Karen," he said, "it’s only Noah.”
Only Noah? Now, just a minute. I have read the story of Noah many times and although we have this beautiful, almost Disneyfied children’s version that is so fitting for VBS, that is not quite the entire story. You see, we gloss over some of the finer details. I’d even go as far to say that the whole story, starting in the beginning, with humanity disappointing God, pushing him to his breaking point, you know, the point where he decides to BLOT OUT ALL OF CREATION, remember that part? Well, that is downright scary if you ask me. This is what has been tossing and turning in my head for a few weeks: How to preach a sermon on Noah that stays true to the story without giving all of our children (and perhaps a few of us adults) nightmares!
So, I sat down one morning to read and reread Gensis 6-9. I was filled with questions and decided to sit on it for a little while until one night, around 2:00 in the morning, I sat bolt upright in my bed and thought, “What have I agreed to this time?! What was I thinking?” and then another question came to me, “And what does it mean to walk with God anyway?”
And so I prayed. I prayed that God would guide my thoughts and that God would fill my heart with His goodness and word so that I would know where to take Noah. But I kept coming back to the same question: What does it mean to walk with God? Do I walk with God? Because sometimes it certainly doesn’t feel like it. And you can ask my husband, I certainly don't act like it sometimes either!
What does it mean to walk with God: You know, we talked a lot about this with the kids this week at VBS. When asked what does it mean to walk with God, they had some great answers: to follow Jesus, to be good, to share, be nice and then of course there were a few conversations that veared into raccoons and African ball pythons……
In short walking with God means doing what God intends for us to do, not what I want, or my friends want or society wants but what God wants. Keeping God central to our lives while we live out His will for us. It means that when we awake in the middle of the night struggling with something, whether that be big or small, that we take the time to pray, to talk to God, asking Him what He wants us to say, or do; how God wants us to act in the various circumstances of our lives.
So there I was, two o’clock in the morning, attempting to walk with God. And I asked, "God, what do you want me to say to my friends at Minnetonka United Methodist?" Oddly, it remained very, very quiet. And with five kids in the house even at 2:00 in the morning, silence is very odd indeed! Perhaps I should have taken that as a hint because there was no sudden answer, no thundering voice, or tiny whisper; no light bulb going off in my head, no big A-ha. I felt truly alone.
But then I am guessing even Noah himself at times felt alone. While we know he walked with God and by all accounts, he had pretty clear instructions about what was coming and what he needed to do, I can only imagine that if the future of the world rested on my shoulders, if all of creation were counting on me and they didn't even know it, if I were building a massive boat in the middle of a desert most likely being mocked all the while, if I were Noah and about to face world wide devastation, and no one would listen to me, I am guessing I would feel awfully alone. And don’t we all feel that way at times? Don't you sometimes feel alone? You can be in a room crowded full of people, full of friends and family even, but if you have just been handed a devastating diagnosis, or lost a job, or a loved one, or are in the midst of a struggling or broken relationship; if you are being bullied at school or at work; when the stress you carry each and every day dwarfs that of building of an ark, you are likely to feel very much alone.
Actually, I’m not sure what I was expecting sitting there awake at two o'clock in the morning, but as I sat there, unable to sleep and a wee bit stressed over the thought of standing here before you today, my baby stirred in his crib and I suddenly remembered, I wasn’t alone. And that's when it hit me: Noah walked with God. Noah wasn’t alone.
And fortunately for us, although there is a flood a’comin’ (and there is always a flood coming) although life is full of storms, and it may even rain for 40 days and 40 nights and we may feel as if we are all alone on that boat, a boat we’re not sure is even going to stay a float and although we might feel like getting down on our knees, begging to know when this storm will come to pass, although we might find ourselves there, talking to God, even angry and desperate to GET OFF THE BOAT, we are lucky because God has made his covenant with us. And not only has he set his rainbow in the storm clouds of our life but he has sent us a guide, a teacher, a friend to walk along the road with us, to hold us up when we feel like giving up, to hold us tight when we’ve lost our grip and to hold us together when everything seems to be falling apart. And no, I am not talking about my good friend Lisa, though she’s pretty great, or your brother John, or your mom or dad or spouse. I’m talking about God loving us so much that even though we have blundered time and again and even though we are broken and even though we can’t quite get it all together, He loves us so much that He sent His Son to act as our ark, and bring us to safety.
Friends, we as God’s children have been given a lifeboat. God has remembered us; Just as He remembered Noah, God the creator of all things great and small, has remembered us: He has remembered you _____ and you _____ and you _____ and He has sent us His son so that we may truly live. You see, God is not in the business of forgetting His creation. And I believe God’s intention for us is that we will remember Him as He has remembered us and that we will turn to Him, in good times and bad, and seek out His will for us. That we, like Noah, will walk with God for we, like Noah, HAVE found favor in His eyes. That we, like Noah will be blameless, because we, like Noah will do all God commands: We will love God with all our hearts, souls and minds and we will love our neighbors; our friends and family, and yes even our enemies and in doing so we will prepare our own lives, we will conduct our own lives in such a way that our children will know God and that our children will find themselves held in God’s ark through the storms that come up in their lives. Noah may have built the original ark but you and I must continue to build, we must build, to bring all God’s children into relationship with Him.
And when we walk with God, we are ready when He calls. When we walk with God, we prepare ourselves to be called and yes we can expect to be called, called to build something of enormous proportions: perhaps God's Kingdom here on Earth.
The ark Noah built may have been large; it may have taken a lifetime to build and the storm may have been treacherous but Noah was definitely not alone and neither are we. He couldn’t have done it alone, and neither can we.
Friends, I couldn’t even put four pieces of lumber together by myself to build my kids a sandbox, much less build a boat the size of 4 football fields, or a Kingdom fit for God. Yet God is telling me I have to build, He’s telling us we have to help build His Kingdom right here on Earth, and lucky for us, just as God was in control of the building way back then, He still is now.
I have a friend who told me recently that he wasn’t sure in those first couple of years of marriage that he and his wife would make it. He struggled with what they call "anger management issues"; he had quite a hot head and a very short fuse and it lead him and his wife onto some pretty rocky grounds. He went on to say, 15 years and 4 children later, “Thank goodness we have the Bible for I don’t know how we would have figured it out without God’s help.” What a witness to the power of walking with God! Thank goodness we have the Bible. Thank goodness we are not alone. Thank goodness we have a loving and forgiving God who not only wants to be in relationship with us but who also provides guidance so we know how to find Him. So that we know how to keep walking with Him even when we are on rocky ground, even in stormy weather. God calls us into relationship and instead of leaving us stranded in the flood waters, He offers us a way to keep a float, our very own ark. Thank goodness. Thank God.
Have a wonderful week!