“WHAT’RE YOU WAITING FOR?”
Presented on June 28, 2010 at Parkside Community Church, Sacramento
In presenting this sermon, I tried a different type of delivery – more “Southern Baptist” than my usual low-key self. As much as I want to emulate Robert Duval in THE APOSTLE, it is not my style. And that’s okay – now I know. Next time, it will be the more personal and thoughtful approach that has worked for me in the past. I am privileged to be able to preach about twice a year, so it’s a slow learning process. I just hope that God’s word wasn’t lost in Jim’s delivery. The Sermon is below and is not a bad sermon. I welcome those who are more familiar with Jewish customs and culture to share their view with me on my treating of Elijah. The beauty of a sermon is, if it is done right, allows at least one person to learn something new and to hear the word of God in a new way. That person is the one who wrote the sermon. Being able to share it is just an extra blessing. I always welcome your thoughts, opinions and suggested corrections at firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Kings 2:1, 6-14
When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.
Fifty of the students went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan River. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.”
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians 5:1, 13-25
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, (this sounds like Prime Time television for Thursday nights, doesn’t it?) selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
The story of Elijah, as we very briefly read here, is probably one of the most important stories in the Hebrew Bible found outside of the first five books of the Bible. It is probably what separates the faith of Christians from that of our Jewish brothers and sisters more than any other story found in our shared Bible.
Elijah is a Jewish synonym for Messiah. Whereas Elijah is not the Messiah for which the Jews are looking, his return to earth will be the harbinger of the Messiah and the promised times.
As Christians, we believe our Messiah has already come, in the personage of Jesus Christ. In fact, the word “Christ” comes from the Greek word “Christos” meaning Messiah. Now, how many of you thought that was just his last name?
We just heard how Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind.
Luke tells us, in Acts 1, that when the disciples met with the risen Christ, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Jews believe the Messiah will return once they all observe the 613 commandments found in the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers. At that time, their Messiah will come and all the bodies – living and dead – will gather in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Christians wait for the will of God, as taught to us by God’s son, to be fulfilled, in anticipation of the second coming of our Messiah and our ascension as one family – living and dead – into heaven, for eternal life.
So, together, we wait.
And we wait – each of us for our Messiah and the eternal rewards that come with him.
While we wait, our Testament tells us what is required of us to serve Christ while we are on earth. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
So the Laws are still valid – it is our job, however, to understand them as Creator God intended them. And who would know the Father’s intention better than the son? As Christians, our faith is not based on the law, but on the interpreter of the law, Jesus the Christ.
The Apostle Paul, who wrote the letter to the Galatians we read earlier, was originally a slave to Mosaic Law. He is also no stranger to life in prison, on either side of the bars. As a Pharisee, he put to death those who he believed defied the Law in following Jesus of Nazareth. As a converted follower of Christ, he spent years in prison for his beliefs. But in finding Christ, Paul tells we can be free of the things we believe imprison us.
I imagine that each one of us knows what a life in prison is like – if not behind bars than behind a wall of fear, of ignorance, of poor self-esteem or one of the many other demons that we can allow to plague us. Maybe your concern is your ethnicity or your sexuality or your gender. But Paul tells us that in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” Paul didn’t list every comparison possible – you can make your own – but know that, as Paul continues, we “are all one in Christ Jesus.”
And in the one-ness, we are free. We are free because Jesus made us free.
We can be free from fear when the power of Christ is on our side; we are given the strength to improve ourselves intellectually, spiritually and physically; as a Child of God, we know we are loved in a way that is beyond human comprehension. It is this love which allows us to realize our riches, our value and our gifts. These things were given to us by the love of Christ, free and without restriction.
But to be without the restriction of the Law does not mean we are lawless. We live in the will of God first, which is given to us in Leviticus and quoted in our New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This is God’s law, but put into action by God’s will through the teachings of our Christ.
That we are free from enslavement to the Law, and free to love by enslaving ourselves to serve others, is not contradictory. In serving Christ we serve all humanity and in freely serving all humanity we are free from the bonds of the law. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “Though I am free from all, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.”
And as we read earlier, Paul writes, “Since (Christ) has set us free from this yoke of slavery, we must not take it on ourselves again.”
If we were held within physical walls and then set free, we wouldn’t step out, look around, and jump back in! We would walk – maybe run! – away from the cell, with the desire to never return there again. Yet in Christ, we are given the gift and the power to leave our imprisonments behind – a literal “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
And how many of us then say, “I love Jesus” while returning to the addictions which will poison your body, corrupt your heart, imprison your soul? I speak to myself in this as well — the temptations are great, the opportunities seemingly unlimited. But the power of Christ is stronger than all of these things. With Christ in our heart, we can fight against sin. But the battle is continuous – we will never eliminate sin from our life and our world. What we can do is eliminate the sin that is before us now – and be stronger to do battle against the sin that will inevitably face us again.
Christ has given us freedom – freedom from sin and freedom to love. But it is contrary to our human nature, especially as adults, to accept total freedom. What if I said right now, “Church is over. Go home.” Most of you wouldn’t know what to do at first. We come to church expecting a commitment of about an hour in the building and now I am telling you that you are free from that commitment. If I were to say that. Which I am not. So sit down.
By having the freedom to give others our love unselfishly, we have the freedom to seek the highest good of others without asking, “What’s in it for me?’ The ultimate experience of this is Jesus’ love for us in giving himself for us.
The fight for freedom against the forces that would imprison us begins with each one of us freely demonstrating the Christian love that Jesus teaches us. Be assured – it is a fight against Satan and one that cannot be won individually. It cannot be won in our church. It even goes beyond our nation, eliminating the imaginary lines of territories. It is a fight for all of earth and of all the people on it. Although we may win a battle, as long as Satan exists, the war will never be over. Fortunately, we are the good guys and we have Jesus the Christ on our side
Next week we celebrate our Independence from an Oppressor of over 230 years ago. And every day we should celebrate our Independence in the name of Christ.
God Bless America? Absolutely. But first, God blessed us. In the name of the son of the Creator, we know freedoms that are not limited to parades or fireworks or even sermons. We know the freedom that comes in knowing Christ, loving Christ and living Christ. God Blessed Us. And it is up to us show everyone what those blessings mean.
What are you waiting for?