Summary: This is a sermon that uses the Mississippi to illistrate just how big God’s plan of salvation really is... and we all need to be a part of God’s big plan.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
“Trickling Stream to Rushing River”
Moon River! Old Blue! The El Grande! The Body of a Nation! The Father of Waters! The Big River! The Great River! The Big Muddy! Old Man River! Also known as… The Mighty Mississippi! It is the second longest river in America - flowing 2,340 miles all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. At it’s widest… it is 4 miles across! At it’s deepest… it is close to 200 feet deep… the depth of a 20 story building! At its greatest… it moves over 600,000 cubic feet of water per second … that is close to 4 million pounds of water… every single second. 78% of the entire world’s grain trade… has traveled the Mississippi’s waters. An estimated 20 million people rely on the Mississippi for their fresh water supply. The river itself… and the history that surround it are, as Mark Twain said, "in all ways remarkable."
A river SO grand… a river SO amazing… it simply MUST have a grand beginning to match its amazing statistics. Well… if you travel 750 miles Northwest of here… to Itasca State Park in Minnesota… you will find the headwaters of the Great Mississippi. However… you might be surprised at what you find. The long, deep, legendary river… gets it start… as a trickling stream – barely 20 foot across… and with water that is ankle deep.
As a small child, my family would camp at Itasca… and I remember as a very young boy being very proud of the fact that I had crossed the Mighty Mississippi on foot… with no help from my parents! But it really wasn’t that great of a feat. I think my son William could even cross the Mighty Mississippi with a little help.
But still… it is simply amazing… as you stand there in the ankle deep water and feel the water flow by your feet at a lowly 1.2 miles per hour… to think that this same water will find itself 4 miles wide… 200 feet deep… traveling a distance of over 2,000 miles. And you can’t help but stand in awe… that such a big thing can come from such a small beginning.
In like manner… both of our texts today speak about something that had a small beginning but turned into something so much larger. I’m talking about God’s plan of salvation for mankind. God’s plan began out very small… with the calling of a single man – Abraham. He called to Abraham… and took him out on a starry night and said “Count the stars… so shall your descendants be… for I am going to make your people into a great nation that will number as many as the sand!”