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Posted by Cordelia Scheuermann on

Children’s Sabbath Sermon                                                                                     Cordelia Dixon Scheuermann

Title: “Who Is My Teacher?”

Nov. 5, 2017

Lake Forest Park Presbyterian Church

 

Thank you for the privilege of being invited to proclaim the GOOD NEWS this Sunday and for being trusted with your wonderful and dear children!

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, Oh Lord, our rock and our Redeemer. Amen

Right after the solar eclipse Art and I had a young family with 2 delightful kids come visit us from Texas.  I just wanted to KEEP those kids!

  1. The Dad is a space engineer Art used to work with originally from France, a country where even fewer people go to church anymore than do in Seattle.
  2. We had never met his family and they did not know that I work in the church. His wife, Lolita was born in a French speaking African country. Her mother had died suddenly and unexpectedly the very hour she had planned to tell her, by phone, that they were expecting their first child.
  3. As a new mother, in a new country, with no extended family and a less familiar language, she was LONELY and hungry to learn about parenting.
    1. They asked US a lot of great questions which indicated how good parents they already were
      1. After awhile I mentioned that the church had always been an extended family for us as we moved around. I shared that…
        1. As newly weds right out of college half a country away we were invited to Sunday and even Thanksgiving dinners by church members whose grown kids lived far away.
        2. As young career professionals we played with the kids of others before we had kids of our own and learned a lot about parenting and marriage by doing so
      2. Lolita LIT up and shared that she had decided to try “church.” She had walked into a small, inter-generational congregation with more older members than peers.
        1. The members of that church have embraced them and partially stepped in for the grandparents, aunts and uncles… the family that was far away or had passed away.
          1. She wants so desperately to do a good job as a parent
          2. She is thankful to be able to ask for parenting advice there and to be affirmed and encouraged by those with more experience.
          3. She is hoping that the teachings of this faith can be a big part of that!
        2. The number of her peers who she knows who do NOT believe, however, and who think that church is not worth their time weighs on her.
      3. She asked us BIG questions
        1. Like how do you raise kind kids who aren’t taken advantage of ?”
        2. and, even bigger, “How do you KNOW that God is really there and what does an answer to prayer actually look like?”
          1. Church people talk about God speaking to them but He seemed very quiet, subtle or even inscrutable to her...
        3. I put a lot of time into thinking about how to talk about faith with integrity to “de-churched” (i.e. previously hurt by the church) and “un-churched” people because I don’t want to lose people like Lolita and her family and I want people I talk to in the public arena to get a sense that a church might be a connection point that they could embrace! This sermon shares some of my thoughts on this and I hope they are helpful to you as well.
          1. there are a lot of people who are looking for connection who are still willing to consider looking to the church for it.
            1. They want, however, for faith to make sense and have intellectual honesty –not just emotional honesty-as important as that also is.
            2. They are not reached by phrases that they didn’t grow up with OR that sound strange to their world view especially if we can’t even explain them
              1. If they think the church is full of people who are too sure of themselves they may move from a yearning…to feeling intimidated or even suspicious; “Can that be real?”
              2. I think it is important to admit that sometimes WE have a difficult time knowing what God is telling us too! Why is that?

Part 2 Because I Believe

  1. I began by simply saying “I BELIEVE”-I believe God IS ….. as gravity just IS. Whether you believe in it or not. (Drop something from lectern) You CAN observe the effects of gravity and you can observe the effects of the love of God!
    1. It is easy to ask why God doesn’t just prove His existence to us in exactly the way WE think God should. …which is an AUDACIOUS demand of the creator of the Universe!
      1. SLIDE-BABY IN UTERO
        1. The experience of pregnancy was a helpful analogy for her. A baby cannot see it’s mother but she IS there. The baby is IN the mother’s world as WE are in GOD’s world
        2. We know that babies can hear their mother’s heartbeat and recognize their mother’s voice
        3. Can we not hear the heartbeat of God’s love in this world? God IS all around us.
      2. But why is it so hard to understand?! Let’s be honest-we…usually do not experience a clear certainty about how and why God acts or “controls” or “doesn’t” control things in our world.

A philosopher that Pastor Frank often quotes, Dallas Willard, has brought me to an understanding that makes sense to me.

Dallas described God as a kindly and gracious gentleman (I love that)

  1. What can we learn by NOTICING the kind, quiet and gracious ways in which God acts. ACTIONS speak louder than words right?....
    1. God CHOSE to come into the world as a BABY to faithful people in a quiet, humble place and brought gentleness and protective attention out in the people called to care for Him eventhough they were living a precarious life under foreign occupation. Brilliant!
    2. Jesus worked until He was ready to leave His profession to start teaching, healing and preaching. He must have saved. He left His mother well provided for. Admirable!
  • Jesus ministered without demanding attention or compensation. Impressive!
  1. He endured insult, abuse, and even betrayal with dignity and self-control. He never returned wrong for wrong. Inspiring!
  2. He came back from the dead not in revenge but with quiet confidence that human beings could and SHOULD carry on. Noteworthy!
  1. God must be a gentleman (I imagine a gentle southern drawl)….He must be an INVITING God.
    1. He never forces Himself on anyone. He asks for our consent!
    2. Dallas was convinced that God is quiet and patient because God wants us to WANT to learn from Him. Don’t we always learn better that way?

 

  1. It is true that Jesus often chose to say things in mysterious, hard to understand and profound ways but they have stood the test of time, haven’t they?
    1. We can “let them roll off” or we can ponder them as Jesus intended. When we TAKE the time God’s economics come into play- whatever you give HIM ALWAYS reaps far more dividends than are humanly possible.
      1. This is why we call the Bible the LIVING WORD!

 

  1. SLIDE of line drawing of Jesus with a toddler that is learning to walk

I told her about 2 of my favorite visualizations of how God TEACHES me.

  1. This depicts what I believe the NATURE of God IS. Not the angry judgmental boss she has already heard too much about ….or even just a big, uninterested, impersonal being as some scientifically minded people believe but a loving, interested, attentive Father.
    1. I remember the day that I decided that it is TRUE that God loves me as this kind of parent. That FREED me to quit worrying about whether I deserve love or not.
    2. That FREED me to feel safe with God.
  • You would never stop loving your own child. It is YOURS! Think of God loving YOU that way but magnified! TRY IT! It means a lot and makes a big difference in your head!
  1. God’s love just IS-Remember? (pick up dropped item)....God IS love!(1 John 4:8)...as gravity IS. You can’t change it or lose it!
  1. My dad once pointed out to me that no one can SEE LOVE and no one can prove that they love you…love is something that at some point you have to BELIEVE. Believe that you ARE loved and that makes all the difference-LIVE out of LOVE! That is what beloved, secure children do!
    1. The child-like faith that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 19 is not a childISH faith but a TRUSTING-QUESTIONING-LEARNING faith. That was a new idea for Lolita.
    2. Lolita, as many of us are, seemed to be afraid of being a disappointment to God. HOW can I relax when I make so many mistakes?
  2. I told her that since God created us AS learners and God KNOWS INTIMATELY HOW He created our minds and bodies it only makes sense that God must EXPECT that we WILL make mistakes (“I have seen and forgiven that mistake a ga-jillion times already.”)
    1. THIS Jesus is walking right behind that toddler because He KNOWS she isn’t totally steady on her feet yet. He KNOWS that she might misjudge the terrain. He’s not going to get mad about those realities!
    2. There is a difference between a sin and a mistake
      1. Making mistakes is part of most learning processes
      2. A sin is choosing to do wrong when we know better….when we HAVE learned or SHOULD HAVE learned.
      3. Love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)
    3. Jesus is steadying her from behind. Guiding and picking her back up when she slips or falls.  THAT IS the picture that I CHOOSE to keep in my head of the God we can trust who delights in watching us learn, strengthen and become more skilled. That image made sense to a mother whose child was recently a toddler too!
  • I think we are often harder on ourselves than God is and that keeps us from doing what God wants and would be delighted for us to do.
    1. Stress and anxiety keep us down and pre-occupied. Sometimes the devil makes awfully good use of them.
    2. What picture do you keep in your head? Does it square with what YOU know about the Jesus of the Gospels?

 

  1. YOKED OXEN pic-Joshua-The second picture is the one we have been focusing on. What does it mean to be yoked to Jesus?
    1. Being a grown up isn’t always easy but  JESUS HIMSELF says that HE will train us so that we are able to take on increasingly more challenging and mature responsibilities as He calls us to do when we are ready
    2. Yokes were an agricultural image familiar and POWERFUL to His listeners
      1. Some in His time might have found it incredible to think that such a good farmer exists that would take the time and effort to be THIS thoughtful and accommodating
        1. Just as people today have experience different kinds of parents or bosses
      2. Tom Waggener’s Yoke Carving Visual Aid
        1. Notice that one side is bigger than the other and that the oxbows are adjustable so they will fit comfortably.
          1. Extra time was put in to sand it smooth so as not to chafe or hurt
        2. Notice that the point at which the load is to be attached is closer to the larger side of the yoke
          1. The bigger animal pulled more of the weight.
        3. Jesus did not say “I will TAKE your burdens away.”
          1. By being yoked with us He was offering to bear them WITH us and bear the greater part!
          2. Maybe YOU would like to draw YOURSELF into the picture on your insert-yoked to Jesus?
            1. If that scares you please NOTE the way Jesus treated His disciples when they didn’t “get it.” Think of how Jesus accepted and even accommodated John when He said “Do you love me?  Tend my sheep.”
          3. So don’t beat yourself up too much when you “plow a crooked row” in whatever field you are working in. BUT we all benefit from going back and looking at the rows we have plowed to ask ourselves WHO was I learning from when I plowed that. (INSERT)
            1. All of us HAVE observed how others have borne life’s burdens and (for good or bad) may have patterned our own “bearing” from what we have learned from them instead of from Jesus. The reason some names are listed in your bulletin is that it is good to think about what we have learned from different people/experiences.
              1. How did our parents handle grief, …disappointment…., ….anger,… betrayal, ….competition, …friendship,…. having more than enough or not enough of….(fill in the blank). Did that example point us to Jesus?
              2. What expectations have our employers and co-workers taught us about the value of honesty, collegiality, work-life balance?
                1. Were they all healthy lessons you thrive with or do you have to work against them?
              3. Jesus exposed himself to a wide variety of people. Have you had the experience of learning from anyone with a very different life experience? If not what might you not know about or not understand? Or who else might you benefit from learning from.
            2. But there is at least one more honest question. “Christ’s yoke” doesn’t actually hold us tight where we can’t go astray as a parent might hold our hand so tightly that we can’t pull away.
              1. Is it possible that God sometimes does NOT give us a clear direction or answer for a reason?
                1. I have to mention that sometimes we should KNOW what the answer to a particular question would be. (Example-Christian friend who called me while having an affair to ask if I thought it would be OK for her to divorce.)
                  1. If you keep asking God if it is OK to do something you know you should NOT do maybe God isn’t “answering” because God is waiting for you to be honest with yourself and to check your request against the list of already answered questions!! i.e. the 10 Commandments?? (It broke my heart when she admitted that she had never even prayed about her temptations much less this)
                2. Sometimes even when we really DO WANT to learn from God we struggle to “feel His yoke.”
                  1. God has given us a lot of RESPECT and with that FREEDOM and TRUST and LATITUDE
                  2. God is not a micromanager.
  • I think that sometimes God lays His hand on us gently.
  1. Have you ever considered that God might approve of a number of acceptable good choices to a particular question that YOU are praying about?
    1. Not “what kind of ice cream should I choose?”
    2. But: What job should I take next? Which school should I choose? How should I invest my money?
    3. God is the one who gave you your many gifts
  2. For the sake of the metaphor: God has “many fields.”
    1. Is it possible that God is standing by… waiting for you to decide which field to plow? And then God will come alongside with you to help you plow it well?
  3. Does God sometimes not direct us because He wants us to “do the work” so that some learning will take place and we will better accept and understand the answer?
    1. Our math and science teachers forced us to figure things out for our own good and even to prove and show our work
      1. Only then could we move on to greater and more interesting challenges and applications
      2. The International Space Station was apparently not built by those who flunked algebra.
    2. What might God have planned for you to do next IF you figure THIS problem out?? What problem that God knows is coming up might you NOT be ready to tackle if you don’t figure this one out?
      1. Note to self: “Make the time to study, pray and think”
  • Is it also possible that God might sometimes just LOVE to see what we will do?
    1. I tell the kids: God is not like a teacher that only allows you 3 colors of crayons out of the box of 64 …or that only allows you to draw certain kinds of pictures
    2. God gives you the whole box because He is DELIGHTED to see what creativity might come out of you!
      1. Perhaps a part of how we reflect our Creator’s image is in what and how we create!
      2. God the greatest scientist and artist has built mysteries into this earth and possibilities into our mind. Perhaps He is delighted to watch us as we thrill to learn more and apply what we have learned.
        1. I wonder if the heavenly host wasn’t exchanging high fives as scientists a few weeks ago figured out how to sense gravitational waves in space and point their telescopes to the right spot and then were able to OBSERVE the creation of earth-mass sized particles of heavy metals!

 

SUMMARY

  1. Allow yourself to ask difficult questions but don’t get stuck in the unanswerables. God IS… Just BELIEVE
    1. TRUST that a GOOD God is there even when He is quiet- willing to struggle and work and bear burdens WITH you in any field that He is willing for you to work in.
      1. Whether it be the challenging but satisfying work of bringing to fertility hard packed earth that has never before been plowed
      2. Or whether it is a well tended plot of garden that will produce much fruit because you have worked it so long and intimately that you know its every need
  • Or whether it is a tired and overworked field that needs to have things plowed under and given rest.
  1. RELAX and forgive yourself in the knowledge that MANY great people of faith have realized that they had been listening or following the wrong teachers ( the apostle Paul)
    1. God knows the soil and what it needs. TAKE THE TIME –STUDY, PRAY and LISTEN
  2. IF YOU ARE WAITNG for an answer-Remember that MANY great Christians have experienced “dark nights of the soul” or extended periods where they did not sense God’s presence
    1. Just keep going, keep praying, keep listening, keep doing good and checking your choices against the previously written instructions
    2. Remember that every field needs time to bring forth a harvest
  3. This God, our creative creator, who seems more to desire to PARTNER with those who are willing to work with Him than to rule or direct us, is the One whom the prophet Zephaniah described as “dancing over” His beloved in joy.
  4. Rejoice, live and rest in that easy burden.

PICTURES

 

 



 

 

 

 

Tags: yoke, children's sabbath

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