Summary: Christ is still speaking to us and we need to go with Him, as He leads.
Go with God
August 6, 2005
Six Soviet cosmonauts said they witnessed the most awe-inspiring spectacle ever encountered in space- a band of glowing angels with wings as big as jumbo jets. Cosmonauts Vladimir Solovev, Oleg Atkov, and Leonid Kizim said they first saw the celestial beings during their 155th day aboard the orbiting Salyat 7 space station. “What we saw,” they said, “were seven giant figures in the shape of humans, but with wings and mistlike halos, as in the classic depiction of angels. Their faces were round with cherubic smiles.” Twelve days later the figures returned and were seen by three other Soviet scientists, including woman cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya. “They were smiling,” she said, “as though they shared a glorious secret.”
We’re not used to seeing angels, but today we’ll focus on two who did, and a message from their encounters.
Please turn to Luke 1- and we’ll read, in this story often reserved for the Christmas season, about the first encounter with an angel- that between the priest Zacharias, who became the father of John the Baptist, and an angel.
v.5- 11- 12- 13-17. We have the circumstances, the encounter with the angel, and the message from the angel. Now, let us focus on Z’s response.
v.18- his response was one of doubt and impossibility. He felt this could not be, and he looked at all the physical circumstances- and they were significant, without doubt. Apparently, this response echoed, accurately, what was deep in his heart. Although he was a priest, and a man of God, with apparent righteousness, yet he wasn’t full of faith. So, there was a consequence to follow.
v. 19- 20. Z’s encounter with an angel, followed by his doubt and attribution of impossibility to the situation, led to his silence, as a witness to himself and to others. He met and angel, carrying God’s message- sharing a ‘glorious secret’, as Svetlana Savitskaya said- and declared it impossible.
Let’s read further.
v.26- 27- we’ll see a second encounter with an angel, carrying a message from God. This is the encounter between Mary, the eventual mother of Jesus, and Gabriel (the angel is named, in this case, and we gather this might have been the same angel who spoke with Z.)
v.28- 33- the encounter and the message- a glorious secret being revealed to Mary.
How did Mary respond? Did she respond in doubt and attributing impossibility to what God said would occur? Or was her response different?
v.34- 38- she asked how it would be possible, but her heart was open and willing to allow for the working of God, and she bowed before God’s will, allowing something that, in that society, would be so very difficult. She knew that and, quickly, as we are so much able to do, in sizing up situations, evaluated some of what she would encounter as a pregnant unmarried young lady in that society, and willingly gave herself to God and the process He would initiate in her life.
What do we have in these two accounts of encounters with God’s messengers? We have a contrast in responses to hearing from God. Both got a message directly from God.
Let me read from my journal on April 5, 2004- over a year ago- as it touches on this passage- READ. I re-read that about a week ago and thought it an important reminder to me, and to all of us, for that matter. And it is an important message to us where we are in our church, as the old is about to be renewed in several ways.
And my mind went back to some things some of us learned six years ago, as we studied together the “Experiencing God” course. (I intend to offer this, again, beginning this September, and it is something to be advertised to other churches and to those around Grace Community Church, here- we’ll meet on 12 Tuesday evenings to review the week’s lessons.)
One important lesson we learned is that God is always at work in the world around us. Sadly, we don’t focus on this enough and miss a great deal of what he is about doing in our world. However, the point is that He IS at work and our goal is to be right in the centre of His will.
John 15.5- the first passage for memory in Experiencing God, declares our need to be close to Jesus and the result will be bearing of much fruit. This is precisely what you and I want- to bear a great deal of fruit, and this is the result we expect by going through the process we’ve initiated to renew this church- Jesus’ church- let us never call this ‘our church’ with any idea of possession included in it. Our whole desire is to be living in the centre of God’s will, and I think we are, and have been moving forward in it. I believe that all the long and difficult process we’ve been in over this past decade and more witnesses to our living in that will. We’ve been willing to change, to lose, to move, to alter, to renew, to apologize, and many other difficult processes because of seeking to be tied to the vine more than we once were. It’s been difficult, but we have the promise that if we remain in Christ, we will bear much fruit. I like that promise of ‘much fruit’, but I don’t begin to believe that it means physical, only. That’s part of it, but spiritually is certainly the greater part.