WHERE IS “GOD FORSAKEN?”
This sermon was presented on July 17, 2011 at Parkside Community Church. That is to say, most of this was presented. I made some changes after the fact that I wish had been part of the original sermon, but I am reminded of a new preacher complaining to the older Pastor about his most recent sermon. The Pastor told him, “You should forget about that sermon. Everyone else has.” I hope you find something worthwhile here.
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”
“An enemy did this,” he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
WHERE IS “GOD FORSAKEN?”
Summertime! And the living is easy.
Technically, Summer begins on June 22 and ends the last week of September. But realistically, it starts in May, on Memorial Day, and ends on Labor Day, the first week of September. Which puts July 17 at about as close to the middle of summer as we can get.
And if I say the word, “Summer” – especially if you go to school the rest of the year – what is the next word that pops to your mind? Vacation! Summer Vacation. The British use a different word than “vacation.” If you read your Agatha Christie, or perhaps something a little more high-brow, you know they call it “holiday.” I like to call it “holiday,” because – well, I’m pretentious. But it also sounds more fun. And of course, you break down the word “holiday,” and what do you get etymologically? Holy Day. And yes – using the word etymologically is also pretentious.
But you have a holiday – maybe a two-week holiday – where you might travel or go camping or stay at home and relax and during that holiday – especially if you are out of town – how many of you actively seek out a church service on Sunday morning? Raise your hand. (I raised my hand as an example, looked around and, noticing my raised hand, exclaimed, “Put that down, you liar.”) If you are one of the few who go to church, even on holiday, I congratulate you. Most of us don’t. In fact, I would dare say that most of us go on holiday to GET AWAY from the lessons of church – to loosen up and relax. Even if we are not looking for trouble, we are at our most vulnerable when we are relaxed – most susceptible to a suggestion, perhaps, that we would immediately dismiss normally. Or maybe we even purposefully seek out a little sin – that extra Margarita or a throw of the dice. Nothing that will send us to hell, but not something we would engage in at home. Well, God knows our strengths and, fortunately for us, God knows our weaknesses. And God loves us in spite of both. And be assured, God is with us, whether our travels take us to Tasmania or Tahoe, God is with us. My question is, “Are we with God.” Are we “sowing the good” seed in our words and our actions?
When we travel, it is easy to get caught up in the worldly. This does not mean every travel dime should be spent serving the needy – although I hear we have an amazing trip to Costa Rica planned next year that will rival any week you may spend elsewhere. But wherever you go, travel as if Christ is travelling with you. Which might beg the question, “Does that mean I have to be good ALL the time?” And the answer is “No. You have to be BETTER than good.” It’s really about the only rule you need to follow if you commit your life to Christ. A lot of folks may say, “Well, I follow the Golden Rule – to treat others as I would like to be treated. Doesn’t that make me a good person?” And the answer to that is, “Yes.” But every faith has a “golden rule.” Ours is found in Luke 6:31 – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” But two thousand years BEFORE Christ, Egyptians were told “Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you.” In 600 BC, Greeks learned “Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.”
Confucius said “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”
Bahai’s believe “Blessed is he who prefers his brother before himself,” Buddha taught, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful,” Hindus, Hadith, Jainism and Native Americans all share similar beliefs, under the heading of the Golden Rule. And if you follow that one rule – the Golden Rule –you will live a good life on earth and the world will be a better place. You will also be eligible to join the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Loyal Order of Moose, Junior League, Optimist, Knights of Pythias, Rebeccas, Fraternal order of Orioles, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, Kiwanis, and the Daughters of the Moon.
But if you accept Christ – not just “believe in God” – but commit your life to Christ by acknowledging that you – that I – don’t live a perfect life in accordance to Christ’s teachings, but we know that our God is a forgiving God who loves us regardless. If we openly choose to give our life to Christ from this day forward; read the Scriptures and study God’s word and dedicate ourselves to the teachings of the New Testament, then we will know that, in addition to helping create a heaven on earth, there will be a place for us in God’s heaven.
We can do this anywhere we go and any place we find ourselves. No matter where we are, Christ will be with us. Unless we go to that God forsaken place; a place not where God has forsaken us, but where we have forsaken Christ and have abandoned his ways and his teachings. To live in Christ’s light is to be on a path to heaven. But to be apart from God – to not know and live in God’s love – that would be hell. Now “hell” is a very volatile word and could denote every reason why someone does not want to go to church – they don’t want to get verbally beat-up by a judging preacher, throwing down fire and brimstone. But the Bible talks about Hell and a Christian heaven is not like a politically-correct sporting event, where everyone gets a trophy. There is a heaven after death and not everyone gets in. But the price of admission is cheap. And even when we forget and forfeit our payment, our loving God forgives us and helps us towards redemption.
So whatever your interpretation of hell – a place of “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” or maybe a place so alone in your heart as to be considered “God forsaken,” ask yourself – “Why would I want to go there, when I there is such a joyous alternative?
Whoever has ears, let him hear. And may the Peace of Christ will be with you.