September 20 Reflections

One of the news stories that is getting a lot of attention are the political races that are happening all over the country from the highest office in the land to County Sheriffs. I do not talk politics from the pulpit because I am called to proclaim Good News not the latest Gallop poll. I think God is God; neither a Democrat nor Republican, though God could be the ultimate independent. I believe we make idols when we think an object, a person, or group of people or an ideology is “god.” It speaks for God.
In our country we make idols out of donkeys and elephants. Political parties become idols. It doesn’t make a difference which; each party has come to believe they speak for God. If you are a true believer you will be a republican or democrat, depending where you live and which idol you worship. But God is God, unfathomably bigger than any politician or political party. We need a healthy dose of Isaiah 40, “He (God) sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. God stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. “(Isaiah 40:23) I encourage you to remember that we worship the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world not an elephant or donkey.
This week the Israelites are into making an idol that they can worship and bow down to. Moses’ delay in coming down from the mountain causes anxiety with the perceived threat that they were alone with no one to help them. It is amazing after all God had led them through that they would get so full of anxiety that they would create a god, which they would worship. God had split the Red Sea…provided manna morning and night every day…brought water out of a rock and still they wanted an idol. Tim Keller defines an idol or god this way, “It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” They had learned to trust God. They had been taught what it means to love God out of that trust. And yet they wanted something other than the living God. We are going to think about this on Sunday as we read and reflect together on the Story of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32. Some passages to read and reflect upon: Exodus 32; Isaiah 40:18-31; John 4:21-24.
Grace upon Grace,
Pastor Verlyn

September 13 Relfections

As a child I can remember hearing sermons on the 10 Commandments. The point it seemed to me at a young age was that I better shape up or God was going to squash me. Or bad things would happen to me if I was not a good boy and follow the commands. I don’t recall hearing a lot of grace connected to the commands, which I find interesting because I grew up in a Reformed Church that taught the Heidelberg Catechism faithfully. The writers of the Heidelberg Catechism place the 10 Commandments squarely in the section on gratitude which follows grace. The Commandments are born in grace as we see in Exodus 20:1-2, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” God’s irresistible grace first…then the commands.

I never tire of preaching/teaching about grace. I hope that has been evident all along in my ministry at First Reformed. God releases us from the prison of sin and death and sets us free to live in love with him and others. It is part of our journey of faith in the story of the Exodus. First in their freedom they needed to learn to trust God. The Red Sea account, the manna, and the water from the rock were all places that God was teaching them to trust him. Now he is going to show them what love for him and others looks like.  These are powerful life changing truths…trust God…love God. But this is after being released. We trust that God loves us first. Grace is a Copernican Revolution.

Copernicus lived in the 1500’s. The scientific community believed that the earth was the center of the universe which meant that everything revolved around the earth. Copernicus proved that the sun was the center and the everything including the earth revolved around the sun. Imagine the change in thinking that this required. Some resisted; others gradually came to accept this truth.

Grace is a Copernican Revolution. For too long we have been led down a path where we think and believe that if we are good enough, then maybe God will love us, and we can get into heaven.  This is the religion of human pride and arrogance. The Scriptures teach a whole new way. God loves us first. God accepts us first. We cannot earn his love. It is gift. We receive it and want to shape our lives around his love not to earn anything, but to live in gratitude for the gift.  We are going to think about this on Sunday as we come to the place of the giving of the 10 Commandments, as part of our spiritual journey of faith.  Some possible passages to read:     Exodus 3:1-10; Exodus 20:1-3; John 8:31-36; Romans 13:8-10.

Grace upon Grace,

Pastor Verlyn