Summary: A sermon that focuses on the big question... will you step out to serve?
“Will you leave the fire?”
Text: Psalm 16
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.
Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their libations of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Oops: (From Max Lucado “A Gentle Thunder”)
Long ago, or maybe not so long ago, there was a tribe in a dark, cold cavern.
The cave dwellers would huddle together and cry against the chill. Loud and long they wailed. It was all they did. It was all they knew to do. The sounds in the cave were mournful, but the people didn’t know it, for they had never known joy. The spirit in the cave was death, but the people didn’t know it, for they had never known life.
But then, one day, they heard a different voice. “I have heard your cries,” it announced. “I have felt your chill and seen your darkness. I have come to help.”
The cave people grew quite. They had never heard this voice. Hope sounded strange to their ears. “How can we know you come to help?”
“Trust me,” he answered. “I have what you need.”
With that he turned, stooped to pile something together, and then lit it. Wood ignited, flames erupted, and light filled the cavern.
The cave people turned away in fear. “Put it out!” they cried. “It hurts to see it.”
“The pain will pass, come!” the stranger called.
“No!” the huddled masses cried.
The stranger stood next to the fire. “Would you prefer the darkness? Would you prefer the cold? Don’t consult your fears. Take a step of faith.”
For a long time no one spoke. The people hovered in groups covering their eyes. The fire builder stood next to the fire. “It’s warm here,” he invited.
“He’s right,” one from behind him announced. “It’s warmer!” The stranger turned and saw a figure slowly stepping toward the fire. “I can open my eyes now,” she proclaimed. “I can see.”
“Come closer,” invited the fire builder.
She did. She stepped into the ring of light. “It’s so warm!” She extended her hands and sighed as her chill began to pass.
“Come, everyone! Feel the warmth,” she invited.
“Silence woman!” cried one of the cave dwellers. “Dare you lead us into your folly? Leave us. Leave us and take your light with you.”
“But you don’t understand!” She cried.
Then she was forced with a decision; stay in the new found warmth and happiness, or go back to the darkness to those who did not understand the gift that awaited.
“Will you leave the fire?” He asked.
Will you leave the fire? Imagine, having to make that kind of choice. Imagine being in the shoes of the Psalmist, declaring “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Why on earth would we ever leave? The psalmist declares that those who are outside will only multiply their sorrows… sorrows associated with pain, hurt, and grief. Why on earth would we leave that which is good and comfortable to even risk pain, hurt, and grief? We know the coldness the cave holds within its dark shadows. And yet, those may be our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, our fathers, our friends still huddled and hurting. How can we still stand and declare, “I will not be moved?”
Is it not better to just stay put? Let those on the outside who are only multiplying their sorrows to themselves. We have the Lord himself at our right hand. It can’t get any better than this. This is the great dilemma we are often faced with. We know of the goodness that comes from following God. In him is all of our hope. We owe all that we have to him. Therefore, it seems odd that some people could ever find these wonderful gifts of grace resistible. Yet what concern is that of ours?
Can we stray from the path? Reveal insights from the gospel that point to ways in which God’s love and call for justice can resolve the tension and difficulties articulated earlier in the sermon.