Sermon from October 16th, 2016

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“God is On the Move #6 - Restoring Meaning and Purpose”

Psalm 121; Luke 23:26-34


By Pastor John Bent



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Sermon Text
Good morning! It is a good morning because as the prophet Jeremiah said, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness” Lam 3:23
 
Jeremiah wrote those words during a terrible time in Israel. As a result of abandoning the LORD, Israel was in captivity in Babylon. But the LORD refused to abandon them. Aren’t you glad He doesn’t give up on us, even when we walk away from him? 

Given the current events in American politics, it’s tempting for us to give up in disgust. But God hasn’t abandoned us. A better choice is put our trust in God alone to save us and pray as Jesus did, for God’s will to be done and God’s kingdom to come - beginning in us!

The Bible says we live in two kingdoms and have responsibilities in both. So let’s pray as Jesus taught us - persistently and always with thanksgiving. Will you join me…

- Lord we truly want your will rather than ours to be done, not just in the world around us, but in our hearts.

- We ask that you would protect us from evil and lead us through times trial like we find ourselves in today.

- Help us always receive our daily bread with generous and thankful hearts. In your mighty name, AMEN


What does the word “Utopia” mean to you?  The word was coined by Thomas More as the title for a novel he wrote in 1516. The novel was about a mythical country where people had created the perfect society. Like John Lennon’s song “Imagine”.  Remember the lyrics?

Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today. Imagine there's no countries; it isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for and no religion, too. Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us and the world will be as one.

Thomas More called his imaginary country “Utopia”. James Hilton called it “Shangri-la” in his 1933 novel “Lost Horizon”. These were idyllic societies where humans had created perfect government, perfect peace, perfect justice, and perfect harmony.

How would you describe utopia?  How about a lake filled with 5lb cutthroat all fighting over your #22 black midge attached to a 2 lb tippet on your ultra-light fly rod.  Or a $5000 gift certificate at Macy’s?  Or a perfectly restored 1970 Hemi Barracuda convertible. I saw one online this week specially priced at $3M.

On a more serious note, maybe the utopia we long for is a world without war where no child goes hungry and justice is equal for all people. A world without wrinkles, old age, death or disease. These longings originate in God. That’s what we were created for. But where we run into trouble is trying to recreate this utopia in our own wisdom and strength.

Some folks believe science, technology, and our own sense of justice will enable us to create the world our forefathers were unable to do – but an honest look at history pokes holes in this idealism. Nevertheless social engineers and politicians continue to promise us that we can build our own utopia apart from any interference from God.

Here’s where things get ugly. When human attempts to create our own utopia fail, we often get frustrated and angry. We blame others.  We fight. We even kill those who dare to interfere with our plans to build our new utopia.  In the name of progress, justice, individual rights, we even kill our own babies. God doesn’t call this progress, he calls it murder.

When killing our enemies doesn’t help us create our self-designed utopia, we look for another scape goat. We begin to blame God. The bitterest rivals discover they have a common enemy. “If we can just kill God, then we will be free to create our own utopia!”

So God, in his love, gave us the opportunity. Rather than simply destroying us, he sent his One and Only Son Jesus into our world to become one of us. He came as a servant, a healer, a teacher of truth, and a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
 
He confronted our power-mongering, our rejection of God and our vain attempts to build our own utopia. And we responded by uniting against him and hanging him on a cross. The politicians, lawyers, soldiers, religious leaders, common folk, were all there at the foot of the cross scorning him, ridiculing him, torturing him, killing him. You see this utopia building isn’t just the sin of the other guy. It’s the sin of us all.

Then the most amazing thing happened. Jesus looked down from the cross and he prayed for us. “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” And we didn’t.

In our attempts to build our own utopia, we murdered the Only One who could restore us to the utopia we were longing for.  And the blood that poured down from the cross provided forgiveness, salvation, reconciliation, restoration for everyone who will receive it.

Our salvation will never be found in any human attempt to create our own utopia. The justice, mercy, truth we are desperate to recover can only be found in Jesus who left his Father’s side to shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sin and the restoration of our relationships with him and with each other.

This is a battle between two world views. On one hand, we have those who believe that we have the power within ourselves to create our own utopia. One the other, those who recognize as the Bible teaches; that only God can restore us to the utopia we long for.

This battle line stretches from Gen 3 all the way to Rev 22. And it passes through every human heart including my own and yours as well.  The Biblical world view points to sin, our rebellion against God as the reason we lost our connection with utopia.

The modern secular view refuses to acknowledge that sin exists. Why? Because to acknowledge sin means we have to admit we are accountable to a moral authority above ourselves.  This world view promotes the idea that utopia is found when every person is free to do whatever seems right in their own heart. But the Bible says  “The (human) heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

From Adam and Eve in the Garden to the present day, doing what seems right in our own heart has never been progressive. It’s regressive. Human attempts at justice without the Lord never end up being just. Human attempts at love without the Lord end up falling short. Human attempts at peace without the Lord don’t end peacefully.

So how do we recover the utopia we long for? Remember Jesus’ prayer in the Garden? “Father, not my will be done, but your will be done.  Not my kingdom come but your kingdom come.”

It was the Father’s will that his Son give his life on a Roman cross to restore us to the utopia we were powerless to create for ourselves. The utopia we long for isn’t where our will is done, but where God’s will is done. Are we willing to let go of our attempts to build our own utopia and place ourselves under God’s Word and pray for his will to be done in us?

Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:17-21

This is the utopia we long for! Jesus is the source of real justice, mercy, joy, and peace in our broken world. The secular modern world view desperately wants to believe we can recover what we lost by our own efforts.  “If we just believe in ourselves, science and technology will help us build a brave new world.” But the harder we try to keep God out of the equation, the more depraved our efforts become. Our attempts don’t end in utopia, but just the opposite.

The secret to true utopia is the same as it’s always been. It’s Jesus and what he has done for us. In Col 1:19-20 Paul writes these words…“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Col 1:19-20

Reconciliation, peace, justice, forgiveness, life we seek can only be found under the cross of Jesus where God’s will is done, and his kingdom is what we seek.  Jesus is here to help us and he’s not going to abandon us.  Will we submit to him or continue to resist him? Will you pray with me…

“Forgive us Lord, for all our vain attempts to create our own utopia apart from you. We know that it is only where your will is done and your kingdom comes that we will find what we long for. We pray for our world. We pray for our nation. We pray for our politicians and leaders. Forgive us the ways we have rejected you and destroyed one another in our attempts to build our own version of utopia. Save us from ourselves, for you alone are our salvation.”


Amen.

Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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