Summary: The first of series on ‘Developing a Heart for God’
Pastor Todd Coget tells the story of a small-town church in upstate New York who had had a rector (or pastor) in that church for over thirty-five years. He was loved by the church and the community. After he retired, he was replaced by a young priest. It was his first church; he had a great desire to do well.
He had been at the church several weeks when he began to perceive that the people were upset at him. He was troubled.
Eventually he called aside one of the lay leaders of the church and said, "I don’t know what’s wrong, but I have a feeling that there’s something wrong." The man said, "Well, Father, that’s true. I hate to say it, but it’s the way you do the Communion service." "The way I do the Communion service? What do you mean?"
"Well, it’s not so much what you do as what you leave out." "I don’t think I leave out anything from the Communion service." "Oh yes, you do. Just before our previous rector administered the wine to the people, he’d always go over and touch the radiator with his hand. And, then, he would—
"Touch the radiator? I never heard of that liturgical tradition." So, the younger man called the former pastor. He said, "I haven’t even been here a month, and I’m in trouble." "In trouble?” “Why?" "Well, it’s something to do with touching the radiator. Could that be possible? Did you do that?"
"Oh yes, I did. Always before I administered the wine to the people, I touched the radiator to discharge the static electricity so I wouldn’t shock them." Cognet goes on to say, ‘for over thirty-five years, the … people of his congregation had thought that was a part of the holy tradition. He concludes, ‘that church has now gained the name, "The Church of the Holy Radiator."
This morning we are going to take communion as we usually do the first Sunday of the month but I don’t think that we will get shocked with the plastic cups!
Football season is now in session and passionate fans are flocking to their favorite team’s stadium. Some go as far as to paint their faces and parts of their upper bodies in their team’s colors. We see them in the stands, in person and on TV really getting into the game.
An e-mail that I recently received was entitled, I believe, ‘The Bible and Our Cell Phone.’ I cannot quote it word-for-word but the jest of it was that we seem to treat our cell phones better than we do our Bibles and we seem more preoccupied with our cell phones than we do our Bible.
To me these are illustrations about the various kinds of passion we have these days. What are we passionate about these days? Are we passionate about God? Do we have a heart for the Lord, as we should? What are you passionate about?
Other people tell me that I am passionate about my family, my community, my friends, baseball, airplanes, and my faith. I also admit to having a passion for Starbucks, Best Buy, books, and chocolate.
(1) However, I need to ask myself from time to time a very important question, ‘Do I have a heart for God? Do I have a passion for God?
I think that I do have a heart for God, but I am also very aware that sometimes my passion for God wanes and is not as important as it needs to be.
For these 4 September Sundays we are going to look at four people in the Bible who illustrate how to, and in the case of one, how not to, have a heart; a passion for God. (2) They are Joseph, Judas, David, and Jesus.
(3) As I think about having a heart for God, there is one characteristic in Joseph’s story that is foundational to Joseph being an example of passionately embracing God in one’s life. It is the foundational characteristic of obedience.
We need to ask ourselves, ‘Am I passionately obedient to God?’
Can you relate to Joseph’s story? I can. Unfair treatment, discouraging circumstances, and harsh rejection by people are themes in the story of his life that we all face.
I wonder how many people have read Joseph’s story over the years and thought that he never got mad, bitter, or lonely because of how his story ultimately turns out. Well, if they had, they skipped our main text for this morning because when he became a dad, his sons’ names (and names meant a lot back then) described his life circumstances.
‘Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and the family of my father.” Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my suffering.”