Summary: Main idea: Go in the strength God gives you, knowing that He is with you
This sermon is by James Choung of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. You are also invited to visit James’ blog at http://www.jameschoung.net/.
In trying to discern what to talk about, I went to your website and found your vision statement: "Live out our callings... We come together as a witnessing community to declare the grace and reflect the glory of God among the campus community and to serve the world around us with an attitude of sacrificial (agape) love." Dream with God: what are some of the dreams you have for this fellowship? In your wildest dreams, what would this fellowship look like?
Someone dreamed for me in the summer of ’97. I found myself in the mountain range that separated Kazakhstan from China. It was a beautiful day: the snow-capped mountain peaks and white brushstrokes of clouds were painted on a canvas of blue summer sky. The breathtaking scenery would’ve been captivating if I weren’t in my swimming trunks, standing on a ledge which jutted out from the foothills about 30 feet above the mountain lake. I was doing my best not to look terrified.
My Kazak roommate was egging me on: "Let’s go." I shook my head.
"What are you, American Chicken?" I took that cue to dance around on the ledge, wings flapping and "bucah-ing." He looked at me, and ran to the edge and jumped, and I saw him plummet into the water. It sure looked fun... to him. Still, there was still something quite terrifying about the whole thing.
I stood at the top, with everyone else’s eyes on me. Should I go? Should I jump? I had a lot of questions: Was it safe? Was the water deep enough? You have to overcome some of your most basic natural instincts to jump off a mountain ledge. Was this worth it? Should I climb back down the mountainside? It seemed too daunting to overcome.
We hear his call, and yet we feel more like "American Chickens" than faithful witnesses. We look around at our classmates, our co-workers, our neighbors, and fully realize that God’s call for us to be his witnesses and his teachers seems daunting, particularly in a highly secular bastion of rationality. (It really seems like the academy is behind the times: when the world around them is becoming more and more spiritual, the university runs the risk of becoming even more irrelevant to society at large. Who seem to be the intolerant ones now?) The costs seem to high, and even if we start, we might mess it up. Should we jump? Was it safe? We have to overcome our most basic natural social instincts to talk about Jesus. God’s mission to "make students (disciples)" is crazy; it scares us. We don’t want to look stupid or ridiculous. We don’t want to seem archaic and antiquated. We don’t want to see like rigid Christians, so we ignore the possible needs around us. God’s mission sounds great, but actually engaging God’s mission in this world is very daunting.
Is there anything that can help us? When we’re looking over the rock, is there anything that can coax us into taking that plunge? Are there words of encouragement or other things that we need to hear to start jumping into God’s mission? What is it? How should we respond?
Set up: in a winepress...
If you have your Bibles, open them to Judges 6:11-16. In our passage, we’ll meet a man named Gideon. His country has been ransacked by a group of foreign marauders, who have come in and camped their tents, ravaged their crops, feasted on their cattle and have plagued the citizens of the land. Because of these marauders, Gideon’s countrymen have fled to the hills, hiding out in caves. These were desperate times.
Read Judges 6:11-16. In these desperate times, what was Gideon doing? He was threshing wheat in a winepress. Do we have any expert wheat threshers in the room? Threshing was a process where the inedible covering (chaff) was separated from the edible insides (grain). They didn’t have the modern machinery we have today, so they would take their cut wheat to a threshing floor out in the open field, usually made out of dirt or stone. On this floor, they would beat the wheat with a stick, or have cattle trod over it, so that the chaff would come off the grain. The wind from the open field would then carry the chaff away.
But, look at the way Gideon is doing it. Because he didn’t want the Midianites to notice anything, he found himself in a winepress, which was usually a square or circular pit dug out of rock, where people would tread on grapes with their feet. It was in this pit, away from the view of the marauders, that Gideon was attempting to thresh his wheat. But, the wind wouldn’t find itself in that pit, so Gideon’s attempts would be slow, if successful at all. He was in hiding, and there was great futility in the way he was going about his work. He was just doing what he could in the midst of the circumstances, but with very little effect. He was trying to get by, and even that wasn’t working.