Summary: The God of the Universe has befriended us, promised to walk every step right beside us, and calls us to obedience.
Pentecost Sunday 2012
What does God have to do to get your attention?
Sometimes, the Bible is just plain weird. We are used to it. We’ve heard Ezekiel 37 and Acts 2, which were read earlier in our service, before. They are familiar stories, so we miss how weird they actually are. In my research on Ezekiel 37, I read that a bunch of people who have read Ezekiel have concluded that he was actually abducted by aliens and is writing what he is seeing. If you’ve never read the beginning of Ezekiel, in the early chapters right after God calls him to be a prophet, God essentially ties Ezekiel up so he can’t move, and makes him lie on his side for 390 days, as a prophetic sign. Then God flips him onto the other side for 40 days. He tells Ezekiel to pre-measure out some water to drink and a few rough grains to bake into bread which He is only allowed to cook by burning human dung. Ezekiel protests, so God relents a little: Ezekiel can cook his bread on cow dung. Later on, as we read in the passage earlier, God picks him up and plants him in the middle of a mass graveyard, commands him to talk to the dry bones, then he watches as those bones grow new muscle and tissue, then skin, then stand as a mighty army but still dead. It is weird stuff.
Fast forward to the day of Pentecost. Again, weird stuff. Tongues of fire, people speaking in languages they have never heard, crowds looking at them as if they are completely drunk. Weird.
Why? Is it that God is weird? Nope, that is not it. Is it that God is just so different? Well, maybe getting closer. Actually, when we look a little deeper at the passages, it is God trying to get people’s attention. That’s why Ezekiel did all that strange stuff. God was trying to get the people of Israel’s attention. Same story at Pentecost.
So that begs the question: what does God have to do to get your attention? Will you pay attention if it is not some weird super-natural phenomenon? Jesus spoke to that kind of faith that seeks after experiences rather than seeking after Him in the passage that follows the passage that Brian spoke on last week, when Jesus feeds the 5000. The crowds follow Him, and Jesus says Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. John 6:26-27.
As I read Scripture, there is this strange back-and-forth: God does miraculous things to get people’s attention and invite them into a life-changing reconciled relationship with Him, and then calls us to a long obedience through trials and tribulations where we sometimes wonder where God has gone. Jesus feeds 5000, then chastises the people who chase after Him looking for more miracles. What is going on here?
Complicating all of this, we have a preconceived notion of the spiritual life as this: if I am walking in obedience and with a pure heart, God should bless me. And by bless me we mostly mean with stability, comfort, needs met, and without a lot of struggle. If we experience other things, the subtle (and wrong) message is that God is not blessing us, so struggle and trial become things to escape, things to ask God to save us from or deliver us from or remove us from so that, once again, we might see evidence of God’s blessing. When I say it that bluntly, most of us resist because we know better, but think of it this way: who would look at all we have experienced as a church these past 10 months and say wow is God ever blessing Laurier Heights Baptist Church?
I’ll tell you who has that perspective: Ken Spillett. You may have read in the bulletin that we had an issue this past Wednesday after the rain, with water where it should not be. I started to freak out, but Ken showed up and said praise God! Ken had a much better perspective than I did. He looked at it and said we found a problem before more work was done that got wrecked; we can see that the system we thought would manage the water is not working; we have time to figure out exactly what it is and then what has to be done to fix it properly and permanently.
See, the point is this: that is a picture of spiritual maturity. Could God fix everything in our lives with a snap of His fingers? Sure. He can do all kinds of miracles. And sometimes He does. And we interpret those as God’s blessing. But maybe that is the easy way out. And maybe that is not God’s deepest blessing.