Sunday’s sermon: Stepping Up in a Big Way

stepping up

Texts used – Psalm 130 and Hebrews 10:19-25

  • Started talking last week about Lent being a boot camp for our souls
    • Time of testing and brutal honesty – can’t hide anything in a boot camp situation (military boot camp, fitness boot camp, corporate boot camp, or otherwise)
    • Time of intense and intentional work – enter boot camp experience looking to be changed and change takes work → Boot camp experiences may be a lot of things but they are NOT passive!
      • Intense work on and within ourselves
      • Intense work on our relationship with other people
      • Intense work on our relationship with God
    • We also talked about how challenging that can be. It can be scary. It can be daunting. It can be intimidating. There’s no doubt that any boot camp experience – whether we’re talking about military boot camp, fitness boot camp, or some other boot camp context – requires those going through it to step up … to set aside all their fears, worries, and intimidations and just go all-in. And faith is no different. God has claimed us. Now it’s our turn to respond – to go all-in, to step up in a big way, to invest in this faith this with all that we have and all that we are.
  • One of the ways we can respond in faith is to put our absolute trust in God because no matter what – whether we’re feeling isolated or overwhelmed, boxed in or stretched too thin, under-appreciated or inexperienced – God remains our hope. → both passages for today talk about having hope in the Lord
    • Ps – we find hope in the Scriptures: I hope, LORD. My whole being hopes, and I wait for God’s promise.[1]
      • “I wait for God’s promise.” I bet that if I polled everyone sitting here this morning, you could probably tell me about a passage – some portion of God’s promise in Scripture – that makes your whole being hope in tough times.
        • Psalm 23 – Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me.[2]
        • John 3:16 – God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.
        • James – My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.[3]
        • Jesus in the Gospels – Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.[4]
        • Maybe one of these is the Scripture you use as a source of strength and hope. Or maybe you look to a different passage. The point is that our hope is alive in the Word and promises of God, and it’s just waiting for us to encounter it, waiting for us to be open to its light.
    • Our passage from Hebrews touches on another place we find hope, and that is in God’s forgiveness. – text: Let’s draw near with a genuine heart with the certainty that our faith gives us, since our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies are washed with pure water. Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who made the promises is reliable.[5]
      • “Our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies are washed with pure water.” There’s no mincing of words here. Clean and pure … we have been made clean and pure by the forgiveness provided through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Our sins – no matter how big or dark they are – have been obliterated by God’s forgiveness. And before even knowing what those sins would be, Jesus stepped up and took our punishment on himself.
        • We are able to find our hope in God’s forgiveness because of Christ. – Heb. text: We have confidence that we can enter the holy of holies by means of Jesus’ blood, through a new and living way that he opened up for us through the curtain, which is his body … Therefore, let’s draw near.[6]
        • Scholar: No place or circumstance is beyond the reach of God’s forgiving, loving, redeeming presence and power.[7]
    • Also see forgiveness in Ps: I cry out to you from the depths, LORD— … If you kept track of sins, LORD— my Lord, who would stand a chance? But forgiveness is with you— that’s why you are honored.[8]
      • If you kept track of my sins, Lord, who would stand a chance? If you, O Lord, were tallying up my every stumble, my every mistake, my every sin, Lord, who would stand a chance? This part is actually kind of opposite of what often ends up happening in a boot camp scenario.
        • Boot camps: tendency to draw attention to mistakes as an extreme way to correct them → part of that whole break-you-down-to-build-you-up-better mentality
        • And when we’re being honest with ourselves, God has every right to do that … to point out all of our missteps – all of the ways that we have turned away, fallen away, been led away. But that’s not the way it works with God. The psalmist says, “IF you kept track of my sins, Lord, who would stand a chance?” → means that, contrary to many of those ideas and off-center theologies that have St. Peter waiting with a grand “in or out” list at the pearly gates, there is no grand list of our sins in some massive book in the sky
        • We all make mistakes. We all hurt people in ways that are intentional and unintentional. Paul reminds us that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And so we all cry out to God for forgiveness, and God responds with grace upon grace. Maybe that’s exactly why the psalmist follows such a difficult, sobering question – Who would stand a chance? – by a reassurance of God’s forgiveness … because we all need to hear it. We all need hope.
  • And there are plenty of other places that we encounter hope in this world. Unexpected places. → “God Moments” board in the hallway at LS Pres
    • Hope in unexpected places seems to be something that Jesus counted on – something that fed and supported his earthly ministry.
      • Pastor Barb Lindgren: “Jesus has a knack for transforming lives as he’s passing through to somewhere else.” → Many of Jesus’ most profound encounters happened “while he was on the way” to this place or that place.
        • E.g.s. – Zacchaeus[9], the woman healed by simply touching the fringe of Jesus’ clothing[10] → people who encountered hope when they least expected it
    • Do you want to hear something truly mind-blowing? Every day we have the chance to be someone else’s “unexpected place” to encounter hope. This is why we need to step up and claim our faith – to swallow our fears, our hesitations, our pride and have the courage and the strength to step up. The world is full of darkness, but as Christians – as those who find our hope in God’s word and forgiveness – we carry a special light that we need to have the courage to bear. You never know whose day you’re going to touch … whose life you’re going to change.
      • Play Newsboys song[11] → Doesn’t this song sound a lot like our psalm for today? It begins with a cry to God from the depths, a cry from someone who feels like he or she may have been forgotten by God – one who desperately wants to return to God’s presence. “Will you take me back again?” This is someone looking for hope but in all the wrong places.
        • The song drives home the point that hope is always available. God will never stop waiting for us – 24 hours a day … 7 days a week … while the TV screen flashes and the night becomes history. Even when we feel cut off from God, God remains our hope. We just have to recognize it … and that’s the hard part.
        • Now, I don’t know about you, but I hear a sense of regret in this song. It’s talking about life passing us by. But there’s also hope because in the next breath, it encourages us to figure out how to step up and shine Christ’s light in the dark and difficult corners of our lives before it’s too late.
    • Heb. passages encourages this, too
      • “Let us draw near with a genuine heart” = Gr. “let us draw near with a true heart, a dependable heart, a real heart” → These are the hearts that have been overwhelmed by anxiety and doubt. These are the same hearts that have been broken by pain and betrayal. These are the same hearts that flutter in fear at the thought of sharing our faith with someone new. But these are also the same hearts that we’re told have been sprinkled clean by God. These are the same hearts that experience the relief, comfort, joy, and reassurance of eternal hope. And these are the same hearts that should be bursting to express and share that hope with those around us.
        • Spelled out pretty clearly toward the end of the passage: And let us consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds. Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.[12] → Spark one another to love and good deeds. Encourage one another to live into Christ’s example of transforming lives. Remind one another to express and share the hope that banishes all darkness.
  • With all the dark and difficult corners that we encounter today – in our own lives and in the live of those we know and love – how can we not step up? How can we not let the light of Christ shine in us and through us? How can we not share the source of our hope?
    • Think of how immobilizing it can be to be afraid of the dark.
      • People young and old alike = afraid of the dark because everything – even the tamest and most familiar things – look scarier and more menacing when bathed in shadows
    • We don’t want to struggle among the shadows, and because of the hope we find in God’s Word and forgiveness, we don’t have to. We do have the responsibility to share that hope with those who desperately need it. So step up. Don’t let the moment pass you by. Don’t let the night become history. Amen.

[1] Ps 130:5a-b.

[2] Ps 23:4.

[3] Jas 1:2-3.

[4] Matt 11:28 (NRSV).

[5] Heb 10:22-23.

[6] Heb 10:19-20, 22.

[7] J. Clinton McCann, Jr. “The Book of Psalms: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), 1207.

[8] Ps 130:1, 3-4.

[9] Lk 19:5.

[10] Mt 9:20.

[11] Newsboys. “Entertaining Angels” from Step Up to the Microphone album, 1998.

[12] Heb 10:24-25.

One response to “Sunday’s sermon: Stepping Up in a Big Way

  1. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Dead Ends and Dramatic Comebacks | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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