I actually didn't prepare a sermon for today. I figure you're all intelligent adults. You can all write your own sermons for yourselves. It doesn't matter what they say, really. As long as you believe what you say, I'm sure God will respect that. So just go ahead and do your own thing. That sounded pretty dumb, didn't it? In reality, I have prepared a sermon, and you just heard the introduction to it. Now why don't I go ahead and get to the opening parable?
The king of the jungle had just thrown a retirement party for his beloved jester, and sought to hire a replacement. He put the word out, and quickly got a response. A rabbit with an attitude walked into the king's throneroom. The first thing the rabbit said was "No, no! This is all wrong! You can't be a lion!"
"I can't?" said the king.
"I can't work for someone I can't respect, and the only thing I can respect is another rabbit. Here. Put these ears on." Hesitantly, the king placed the fake rabbit ears on his head. "Now, what will you do for your audition?" he asked.
"Now see here, kingy. I don't audition. I'm the best there is. Take it or leave it. I work for a hundred carrots a day. I don't juggle and I don't work after hours." At that precise moment, the king's daughter entered. "Oh, and I'll also take one o' those." He grabbed the princess by the arm.
"That is my daughter!" growled the king. "Release her!"
"You sure about that? 'Cause I think this is a deal breaker."
The king was enraged. "I could tear you limb from limb right now." he roared.
"No you couldn't! Because you ain't no lion! You're a rabbit, and rabbits don't do that! You put the rabbit ears on! I made those ears! I made you! I made you and I can unmake you just as easy!"
That night, the king laughed at the antics of a hilarious monkey while feasting on hassenpfeffer.
I think we can all agree that the rabbit in this story was stupid. I imagine he tasted fine just the same, but what he did was incredibly foolish. In the United States, we've gotten used to being able to say whatever we want about our leaders without fear of retribution, because we do not have a king. People in other parts of the world know that you don't talk like that to a king. You speak to the king with respect, and you talk to him on HIS terms, not yours. You don't make demands. You don't attept to re-invent him, and you CERTAINLY don't tell him that you have the power to destroy him.
I am flabbergasted by some of the things I see these days. I simply cannot understand this growing belief that all religions are equally valid. How can mutually exclusive ideas be equally valid? And yet millions are buying into this idea that Oprah Winfrey is propigating that whatever you want to call this nebulous "something" you're striving for, whether you call it "God" or "The Light" or "The Astounding Rotundity", it's all good. I don't know about you, but I do not want a relationship with a nebulous something. God is a person, and I want to know that PERSON. He's not an idea, He's not a state of mind, He's not a metaphor for something that's inside me. He's a person with thoughts and feelings and desires and frustrations just like me. That's because That's what He is. It's not because anyone made Him that way.
And there's another thing. Where did this idea come from that we make God in our own image? I know that it's not a new idea, and yet people have been claiming to make gods for thousands of years. But like the bible says again and again, such gods are nothing. They have eyes but can't see, ears but can't hear, mouths but can't speak. And yet the idol makers claim that they can give an idol life.
I know a thing or two about invented people. Take Amanda, for example. Amanda is a very interesting character when you see her in the comics, but in real life, she can't move. She can't do a darn thing. She can think and feel, okay, but those thoughts and feelings don't originate within her head. She has no brain. They originate from me. I imagine Amanda's action. Now Amanda has one chore. She is to go around each day and hug all of the plushies. After all, plushies live on hugs. Of course, Amanda can't actually do that, but since plushies don't REALLY need hugs to survive, the net result is the same. If I told Amanda to take out the trash, her inability to do real things would become immediately evident. She has no power to do real things because she herself is not fully real. That's what happens when you make someone up. The same is true of Sadie. She can't do anything real because she's imaginary. If we created God, He would be able to do little more than consult with other imaginary characters within our heads. Praise be, God is real and has real power. He can take a shattered kneecap and work the pieces back together and make it whole. He can bless a nation with plentiful rain and fertile soil or curse it into dust. He can take a body that is devoid of life and plant the soul back in it so that it becomes a living man again! He can suspend the laws of physics so that a bomb that would claim the lives of His people does not go off. God is real. He is nothing like the gods of the idoloters. We did not create Him, and there's no way we can destroy Him.
But the strangest thing to me is people who reject God because they just don't approve. They claim that there must be some alternative to God because the Judeo-Christian God is just too harsh. Or else He's too soft. Or else He's too forgiving. Or else He's too judgemental. Or he permits too much. Or He interferes too much. Or He's too inaccessable. Or He's always in our faces. I think that it's a very good thing God doesn't have to do things the way we insist. Imagine how you would feel if you had upwards of six billion bosses all giving you contradictory instructions and then punishing you when you didn't do as they said. What we need to realize is that we are not His bosses. We are always welcome to give Him suggestions and make requests, but we need to recognize that He has a plan in place. He is omniscient and all-wise, and He has millenia of experience running the world. Or worldS for that matter. As Job 40:2 says, "Shall he that contendeth with the Lord instruct Him?" As it did with Job, it should put us to shame. Scarcely any of us are even a hundred years old, and our much-vaunted science has barely got a grasp on quantum mechanics. We are like newborn babies, experiencing the world for the first time. We know nothing. To judge God is the epitome of arrogance.
What we CAN do is put our heads together and learn from one another. Do you know how a satelite can get high quality images of another planet? It pings the surface and then picks up the return signal after it has traveled some distance. This means that the effective size of the antenna is equal to the distance traveled. By listening to the past, the satelite is able to produce a clearer picture of the planet. We can learn the same way. By listening to what people in the past have to tell us, we can expand our experience by centuries. What do we learn when we do this? Here are a few conclusions I have come to.
God is holy. We are sinful. God would be fully justified in deciding to have nothing to do with us. He could just take His planet back and go home. But He doesn't. He is compassionate. He gives us each a second chance that we have not earned. For that alone, He deserves our respect. He is wise and unimaginably intelligent. His mind is as complex as the Mandelbrot set. He makes plans that cannot be thwarted. He builds plans that connect with other plans. He incorporates our plans into His, sometimes affirming them, sometimes quelling them. We can trust Him to have everything under control even when it does not look like it is, and to work everything together for our benefit, according to His promise in Romans 8:28.
I get so frustrated when people want to impose their own ideas. They want to come to God on THEIR terms. They want to remake Him according to their own ideas, impose their own rules and demand acceptance without so much as acknowledging their own sin. You just can't do that. My challenge to unbelievers and believers is exactly the same this week. Accept God as He is. Drop your preconceived notions about what you think He should be. Acknowledge that He is a real person with feelings of His own. Understand that He knows what He is doing, and acknowledge that He is holy, far holier than we are.
Now for any non-Christian out there reading this sermon in the archives, (you know who you are.) I have good news. It is true that God is holy and we are sinful. He has every right to pluck us out of His creation and do away with us. He has chosen instead to give us a chance at reconciliation. Jesus, God the Son, did most of the work. He made the atoning sacrifice of His own body. All you have to do is pray. Just tell the Lord that you believe, you accept it, and that you accept Him as Lord. The bible promises that anyone who does this will be saved.
Today's reading: Job 38
38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
10 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,
11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;
13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?
14 It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.
15 And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.
16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
17 Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
18 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.
19 Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
20 That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?
21 Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?
22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
23 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
24 By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
25 Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;
26 To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
27 To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
28 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
29 Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?
30 The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
33 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
34 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?
35 Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?
36 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?
37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,
38 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?
39 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,
40 When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait?
41 Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.