Saturday, April 26, 2008

In God We Trust: Sermon Psalm 31:1-5; 15-16

Dear God, take our minds and think through them; take our hands and feet and work through them; take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire for you. Amen

Most of us have taken out a dollar bill or a coin and given it a closer look. If you have not, give it a try the next time you have a free minute. You will likely find the image of a former president or founding father; you will see the value of the piece, the words United States of America, E Pluribus Unum, and the phrase “In God We Trust”. All of us are familiar with that last phrase; we see it not only on our money, but also on government buildings and certain government papers. When did “In God We Trust” become our national motto? 1776? 1856? No, it was actually 1956 when Congress adopted the phrase as our national motto. The phrase’s history on our coinage goes back further than that first appearing on a coin in 1864 and then off and on under 1954 when it was permanently placed on all money. That is your history lesson for today. I will not charge extra for that.

This phrase is on our money, it is one some of our most important buildings, but have you ever stopped to think what this phrase really means? What does it mean to place our trust in God? We do not have trouble doing that when times are rough, when tragedy strikes we are always ready to place our trust in God to see us through the hard times. We come together in prayer vigils, we come to church, and we sing songs to help us place our focus and trust in God. There is nothing wrong with this. God is our rock and our fortress in times of turmoil and suffering. As our hearts wax and wane, God remains steadfast and faithful. When we hurt, it is good to turn to the Father who loves us.

Where do we turn the rest of the time? What happens when things are good? Everyday we get up, make some coffee, read the newspaper, eat breakfast, and go about our day. In those moments, do we still place our whole trust in God, or do we have a tendency to place God on the backburner? “It’s ok Lord, I’ve got everything under control here, and I’ll let you know if I need you.” The truth is that trust does not cut on or off and the same God that we cling to when times are bad is the same God that is with us when times are good. We have to trust God all the time or none of the time. God is not our 911 service or clean up crew when things in our lives get messy. God is God for all times and in all situations. Maybe the bad times would not seem so bad or take us completely off guard if we place our trust fully in God all the time. So we come back to the original question, what does it mean to trust God?

First, it means that we have to let go of control. There is a bumper sticker I have seen, I have also seen it on church signs, “Let God be your steering wheel, not your spare tire.” Well they got the saying at least half right, God should not be just for emergency relief. However, we should not be steering God, instead God should be steering us. Have any of you seen the show Seinfeld? If you have then you are familiar with the kooky character of Kramer. One episode Kramer got a job for the FDNY driving a ladder truck. In bigger cities like NYC they have bigger fire trucks that require two drivers one in the front and one in the back. Naturally this requires some serious communication and coordination. Well Kramer decided that he knew a faster route to a fire than the guy in the front and so Kramer starts steering the back of the fire truck in a different direction than the guy in the front and hilarity ensues. Or it might be like the parent teaching the teenager how to drive and they both have their hands on the steering wheel tugging in different directions. If you are going to trust God and let God guide your life, you can’t steer one half of you in another direction. Often God and we are going in two different directions, we go one way and God goes in the right way. We’ve got to be on the same page with God and better yet we have to let go of the steering wheel all together.

David writes in Psalm 31, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” We are familiar with that verse because we have heard it before. We recognize those words as some of the last words spoken by Jesus on the cross. Those words were also spoken by Stephen before he was stoned to death. In the context of Jesus and Stephen these words are a final statement of trust before death. Jesus and Stephen are telling the world that they commit their very lives to God even to death. They are also trusting God to care for their spirits after death, they trust that God is more powerful than death and that death will not have the final victory. I am willing to bet that both Jesus and Stephen committed their lives to God long before that moment of death.

We say something like this every Sunday, maybe even everyday, “thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We are committing not to our own way, but to God’s way. The way of life is not God support my way and what I am doing, but it is God show me your way and what you would have me do for you with my life. I commit my life, my work, my soul, my spirit to you and your work God. That is a hard thing to do for us. We are taught from a young age to be self-reliant not God-reliant. We should do things our own way and hope that it is also God’s way. I am pretty sure that I have told this story before and if I have bear with me. I was at the gym one morning and I was pumped. The exercising seemed to be going really well. I was pumping on the treadmill. I was pumping on the exercise machines and then I came to the bench press. I was so pumped and ready to go that I put and extra 30 pounds…on each side. I got down, ready to go. One…no problem. Two…ok this is a little heavy. Three…uh oh. There was no four. I had this weight bearing down on my chest and all I could say was HELP! Luckily for me this rather large man came and effortlessly placed the bar back on the rack and told me that if I needed a spotter all I had to do was ask. How many times has the weight of life bore down on our chests all because we haven’t trusted God to be our spotter? God will be there for us, but we have to place our trust in God.

When we let go of the wheel and begin to trust God to direct us, we have to understand and listen to where God is directing us. But how do we know what God’s will is? One way we know is through prayer. We pray each day for guidance in our lives and it everything we do. You never know where God might be directing you today. I know that I mention prayer a lot in my sermons, but I do it because I know that it is vital to our spiritual lives. We also study Scripture. We have to look from cover to cover and see the themes that God is communicating over and over. These themes are love. We see God’s love from Genesis to Revelation. We see the theme of justice. God’s laws require justice for the poor, God’s prophets scolded the people for their neglect of the poor and helpless, and Jesus spent his entire ministry preaching the good news to the poor. There is a theme of mercy. God’s mercy is demonstrated throughout the Old Testament and most acutely on the cross of Calvary. The path that God has laid out for each of us is a path of love, justice, and mercy for all people. If we walk this path then we begin to let God guide us.

When we follow down God’s path, when we humble ourselves to that end, when we begin to love and do justice then we receive good things. You see God is so good that when we trust him, he gives us so many good things. These things are joy, happiness, peace, and strength, not our strength, but God’s strength. When we trust God then we begin to have a closer walk with God and a closer relationship with God.

God is our rock and our fortress, our strength and our redeemer, God is everywhere and for all time. We will have no better friend and no better protector. God is faithful to the end. I want to close with a prayer written by John Wesley called the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer. This is what I am talking about today, a complete trust in God. As I pray this prayer, close your eyes, listen to the words, repeat them in your mind and think about what they mean.

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,

exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.



At 7:56 AM, Blogger pete's page said...

I like this.... I like the books you are reading. I read other getting closer to God themes and yours was the best... do the web search, the others were too new agey and worldly... you went right to scripture... very nicely done.

At 5:05 AM, Blogger Jgrossman said...

I love this prayer.

At 5:05 AM, Blogger Jgrossman said...

I love this prayer.


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