Friday, August 17, 2007

Sermon for August 5, 2007

The Ark Builders
Genesis 7:11-8:5

You have never heard the story of Noah until you’ve heard it from biblically illiterate Junior Highers. While I was at camp last week, we talked about the story of Noah’s Ark. Sure, we know about the flood and the rainbow, but did you know that there were mermaids and unicorns? When I asked the kids why God flooded the earth, one Jr. High girl told the group, “OK, so there were these evil men who built their house on some sand, and they wouldn’t listen to God so God sent a flood and everyone who built their house on the sand died but everyone who like built their house on the rocks lived, except the flood came over the whole earth, so they died too.” Bet you didn’t know that part! We see pictures of the animals going into the ark two by two that we don’t always pay attention to the details of the story.

I wonder what Noah must have thought after the flood–when he looked back on the months of awesome and fearful events. God gave Noah a surprise announcement that the whole creation would be destroyed by flood because it hadn’t turned out the way it was intended. In the olden days, people would settle any little disagreement with a rock to the head or a flint knife between the ribs. The times were filled with undiluted evil. The whole creation project was a wash out, so to speak, and God cleaned up everyone’s act with a bath like no one had ever seen. But the cure seemed as bad as the disease. God said to Noah, “Build an ark. Collect representatives from creation. Gather your family and you will be rescued. What’s not on the ark will be destroyed.” Noah thought about trying to change God’s mind, but God’s Voice sounded so sad, so very disappointed. It wasn’t long before the beautiful hills and valleys became nothing but dark water. After the fact, when new generations asked Noah how the long the journey lasted he would answer, “Forever.” To that day, when dark clouds rolled in and the smell of rain filled the air, the old feelings came rushing back..memories of being carried along like a single ship on an ocean of time stretching in all directions. He was filled with memories of being saved from death; being given a new chance by a loving God to be his people.

Let’s think about the disasters that surround us on a daily basis.
· We live in a world where people are desperate for spiritual truth, but they feel that they can’t find the answers they need from Christian churches.
· We live in a time when more than 30 million Americans who live in poverty–that’s more than live in the entire nations of Canada or Australia. Even worse, 40 percent of the American poor are children. For every dollar spent on ministries to the poor, a typical church spends 5 dollars on buildings and maintenance.
· In this nation, an overwhelming majority of teenagers feel disconnected from and devalued by adults.
· And we all know people are drowning in despair. Family members are fighting with one another. Our neighbors are isolated. People we know and love are broken, dying in the water, waiting for the next wave to crash upon them.
Thinking about it can give us a headache and a heartache. One thing hasn’t changed from Noah’s time until now. A drowning person can’t save himself. People need a Rescuer

Fortunately the situation is not hopeless. God never leaves people without a rescue plan! God’s solution for Noah’s day was to say, “Noah, build an ark, and be ready to gather those whom I have chosen to save.” Those ark builders did not just build a big boat. They were the vessels that brought life to a new generation. I believe God is calling us here at Trumbull Congregational Church to be ark builders. The God of creation is asking us to build vessels to rescue those who are perishing. I believe God is calling us to be modern day Noah’s–collecting God’s creation from the arms of death and leading them to life in Christ.

We are the ark builders for a new generation. My question this morning is this: What vessels can we use to bring the life of the gospel to a hurting world? What kind of containers can we use that will help people use the gospel to navigate the storms of life?

In the past the church has said, “Come on board and listen to our beautiful music. Hear an inspiring sermon. Talk with some people who care. Join a church board. Come to one of our classes. Become a church member. Come to us and you will find rest and peace.”

I think we got confused somewhere along the line. Don’t get me wrong. I love church. I’m the biggest church advocate you will ever find. But at some point we forgot that there are people around us who are dying. We got thinking that if people really wanted to get their lives together they would come to church. And when they get to church, they had better like organ music and hymns. They better like formality and liturgy, because that’s the way we do it. Where has it gotten us? We live in a time when people are more hungry for spiritual meaning than ever, yet mainline churches are losing members by the tens of thousands every year. The truth is that you can come to church for years and your life can still be miserable. You can sit in these pews week after week and still feel like you are dying inside. You can be sitting in a crowded sanctuary and be the loneliest person on the planet. The problem, as I see it, is that the church needs to cast off from the dock and get wet. Don’t expect people to just come here and get on board. Jesus calls us to weigh anchor and take off into the watery world around us.

Do you have a favorite cup? My favorite cup lately is this big, 30 oz yellow plastic tumbler. I like the way it fits my hand. The interesting thing about this containers is that I can pour water into my yellow tumbler, and the water will take the shape of the container. I can pour the same water into a different shaped cup, and the shape changes, but it’s still the same water–the recipe hasn’t changed. The containers change, but the content remains the same.
It’s the same when I serve communion. I can pour wine from one container to another, from pitcher to chalice. The wine takes the shape of the new containter, but it is still wine.

Every generation needs a container that fits its own hands and soul. Each person needs an ark to sail the storms of life. The truth is that your container might look different from mine. That’s OK. What matters is that the content is still the same. We are leading people to Jesus Christ, and He never changes. If we are serious about being ark builders, we need to be prepared to navigate the flood in vessels that we would never have considered seaworthy in the past. Our task is to offer the gospel to fill all shapes and sizes of containers. We tell the old story in new ways. Our calling is to be ark builders who help everyone, everywhere to negotiate the storm by using whatever it takes–whatever it takes-- to lead the dying to Christ.

As we come to communion this morning, we remember our Savior, Jesus, who emptied his human container so that we could have life. For those of us who have ever felt like we are drowning in the currents of life, let this meal serve as our re-introduction to our rescuer, Jesus Christ. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we respond in thanksgiving to by doing everything possible– EVERYTHING, to present the truth to the world. We are committed because we know that Jesus brings hope, healing, and life to those who are drowning.

Sermon for January 21, 2018

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