Sermon Options: March 12, 2023

February 6th, 2020


EXODUS 17:1-7

Some people think that it is okay to ventilate their contentions with God. They believe that when they are exasperated with life as it is, they have a right to complain to God about the poor job God is doing. Our text challenges that line of thought. The people of Israel grumbled to Moses about his and God's failure to provide them with an adequate supply of water. To Moses, they whined, "Why did you bring us out here to die of thirst?" They questioned God's faithfulness: "Are you among us or not?" The text refers to the complaint about water as a quarrel or an aggravation to Moses, but as a testing of patience to God.

Indeed, the Lord is forbearing toward people when they complain. Despite Israel's childish whimpering, God gave them water. The point of the text is that they pushed him and in so doing tested his patience. That wasn't a smart thing to do, and Israel learned that lesson through bitter tastes of God's wrath along the way, even though they escaped on this particular occasion.

We can avoid complaining to God by adjusting our theology so that we quit blaming the Lord for our problems. No matter how we may decide to integrate the reality of suffering with our concept of God, we will not profit from blaming God. Such an exercise is detrimental to both our faith and our witness for Christ. It also destroys initiative to help ourselves.

The worst scenario would be to push God beyond the limits of his patience, as Israel did on other occasions. Then God may let us discover how much more miserable life can be than it already is.

One of the most discouraging people I've ever known was a man who became embittered toward God because his wife died young. He resisted all efforts by Christians to win him to Christ. As the root of bitterness sank deeper and deeper into his soul, he became increasingly a miserable human being, driving everyone away from him, including his family. He went to his grave blaming God for his miserable life.

On the other hand, one of the most inspiring people I've ever known was a woman whose faith was caught by her five children, resulting in her daughters becoming missionaries and her sons deacons. Her husband lost a leg in a terrible accident. After that he never regained good health and became disabled. Then he died fairly young. She lived in poverty, refusing most efforts of her children to assist her. One of her sons died in a boating accident while still a young man. She lost her sight. Yet not one person, so far as I know, ever heard her complain about her circumstances. Her love for the Lord was too large to tolerate any consideration of blaming him for her circumstances. She probably never tested God's patience. Have you? (Jerry E. Oswalt)


ROMANS 5:1-11

Richard Halverson, chaplain of the U.S. Senate, said, "Mastered by God, I become the master of myself and of my circumstances. Mastered by anything less than God, I become the victim of myself and of my circumstances." In this passage, Paul shows that in Christ, God is offering us a new life that, once received, masters us and gives us an abiding hope that will overcome any and all circumstances.

I. Christ Offers Us a New Foundation
Paul is describing in these words the difference a life mastered by God's love in Christ will make. Life is to be lived from the foundational experience and knowledge that "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (v. 8).

Our response to the circumstances of life, lived from this foundational truth, provides reason for hope, peace, and rejoicing. In Paul's way of thinking and living, this is why God's people become "more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37) . The foundation of God's love in Christ provides any person a strong place to stand against whatever the circumstances may be. In a culture where circumstances seem to overcome more often than not, these are words we all need to hear, heed, and accept as true. We are now in the season of Lent. What better time than in this season of self-examination and confession to proclaim the hope, peace, and rejoicing that must be our response to the reality of God's redemptive love in our lives—even while we are still sinners!

II. Christ Offers Us a New Future
God's redemptive act in Christ leads people to become a new creation. According to Paul, this new creation is rooted and grounded in the realization that God's redeeming love is not only from something but to something. Paul wants us to realize that hope, peace, and rejoicing are the things to which redemption leads. So many persons today are concerned only with half of what the love of God has done in Christ. The church has so many times clearly proclaimed the something from which we have been saved but has failed to say our salvation is also to something. The movement of the salvation experience is from redemption to creation. To have one without the other is to fail to realize the whole story of what God has done and is doing in Christ. We are never fully mastered by God until we have experienced and been claimed by both.

The hope, peace, and rejoicing we seek to offer a hopeless age are necessary expressions of the redemption experience in our lives. If there are no hope, peace, and rejoicing in our lives, then the redemptive experience is not complete.

A United Press release in a midwestern city told of a hospital where officials discovered that the firefighting equipment had never been connected. For thirty-five years it had been relied upon for the safety of the patients in case of emergency. But it had never been attached to the city's water main. The pipe that led from the building extended four feet underground—and there it stopped! The medical staff and patients felt complete confidence in the system. They thought that if a blaze broke out, they could depend on a nearby hose to extinguish it. But theirs was a false hope. Although the costly equipment with its polished valves and well-placed outlets was adequate for the building, it lacked the most important thing: water!

Our hope must be rooted in the redemptive experience of God's love in Christ. Without redemption we cannot have the new creation. Rooted deeply in God's love as shared in Christ, may we discover the power to witness with hope, peace, and rejoicing the difference God seeks to make in a hopeless age. (Travis Franklin)


JOHN 4:5-42

"How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (v. 9). How is it that you, a resident of the suburb, ask a drink of me, a resident of the inner city? How is it that you, a northern factory worker, ask a drink of me, a southern tobacco farmer? How is it that you, who have been lumping all of us together into some invisible group, now suddenly ask something of one of us? Forces of darkness and evil are constantly working to destroy life, to diminish the good, to make us into groups and treat us as statistics and thus destroy the edges, the individual gifts, the uniqueness of all creation. And the power of God's grace is constantly working to put us individually on stage, in public, and allow us to use our special talents and abilities for the benefit of all.

I. God Already Knows Who We Are
So Jesus and the woman are at the well. She is an invisible person. She is invisible to the Jews because she is a Samaritan. They don't see her. They see labels and symbols and history, but they don't look at her. She has secrets that most people do not want to hear about. That is why she comes to the well at midday.

Many of us try to be invisible—to keep a low profile—because we think there is something about us that would make other people reject us, dislike us, oppose us, or exclude us if the secret was out. Maybe we worked in a retail store, and we used to come home with unpaid-for merchandise. Maybe we did not get the college diploma we said we did. We do not want to be put forward; we don't want to be noticed because we are afraid the attention will expose our sins and we will be condemned.

But Jesus makes this woman visible because he has a need, a thirst, and the well is deep and he has no bucket. She becomes visible when Jesus asks for help and talks with her as though she matters, talks to her as a human being, with respect and dignity, as if her being there at noon is nothing out of the ordinary.

II. God Knows Our Secrets—and God Still Wants Us
As the story unfolds, we discover the amazing thing is that Jesus already knows the secret. Jesus does not treat her with respect because he does not know. Jesus treats her as a human being even knowing the story. God already knows the secrets we are hiding. God is seeking us, calling us. God has work for us to do, and God already knows the secrets we are using as the reason for holding back.

Too many of God's people are holding back, trying to stay invisible, because we think we have secrets that will disqualify us from the work of God's kingdom. We let the secrets keep us from the challenges of being a part of the mighty work of the kingdom of God. Well, rejoice! God knows the secrets with which we live. God has forgiveness and grace available to bring those secrets to light. And in that light of his love and mercy the secrets lose power over us, and we are free to exert ourselves in the great joy and mission of God's people. The secrets are known, and yet God still has a place and a job for us. It is not that what we did does not matter; it is just that what we might do as part of God's future is so much more important that God invites us to come out to the center stage of history and join this work of being the people of God. The past can't hurt the future of God's kingdom. (Rick Brand)

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