Sermon for January 14, 2018: “A.F.D.- Attention Faith Disorder”

E2 2018 Sermon “Attention Faith Disorder”


1 Samuel 3:1-10

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

John 1: 43-51

We have short attention spans.
It seems like we start to do one thing (INTERRUPTION 1)
Where was I? Oh yes, attention spans. (INTERRUPTION 2)
Where was I? Look to acolyte? (Wake up)
Look to assistant (headphones)
Okay, time to get a little more serious.
But I think we have all been there.
We are talking, with people out and about, and they have their mind elsewhere.
Or rather than looking at you, they are looking at a screen.
Its rude. Unfriendly.
Now my question to you is this: How often do we cut our attention span with God?
How many times do we start then stop when it comes to listening to God?
The reality is we do not pay attention to God.
We put our hearts and mind on other things.
Money, politics, technology, toys, power, just to name a few.
It’s a condition that I like to call:
Attention Faith Disorder
But today I want to tell you some Good News.

The Good News is God still pays attention to us and continues to work to fix our AFD.

This morning we have 3 different ways God does that.
The three ways are:
• Psst
• something I like to call the “Well Hello There!”
• The Call Out

First the Psst.
Our first bible reading comes from the book 1 Samuel,
As the book opens, the word of the Lord was rare in those days.
What that means is that the people, especially the prophet Eli, believed that the Lord had stopped talking to them.
It’s like the feeling you get when you call someone, asking them to call, and they never respond.
Or you send a text to someone, and because of technology you can tell if that someone read your text, and they still won’t answer you!
It’s frustrating and heartbreaking.
And when it happens we tend to ask ourselves, “What did I do wrong?”
Well in the case of the people in 1 Samuel,
The problem was not that God wasn’t talking, it was that the people were not listening.
By that I mean they weren’t obeying God’s commandments and doing their own thing.
And the main culprits in our story are Eli and his sons.
Eli was a church leader, and his sons were leaders who disrespected God’s place.
They made a mockery of church.
And so God does something about it.
But rather than giving up out of frustration, God goes another direction.
And he calls on a child. Samuel.
It takes Samuel three times to realize that it’s God who is calling him in the middle of the night.
But when he does realize it’s God, Samuel responds!
“Speak, for your SERVANT is listening!”
Samuel responds by listening and doing.
Though young, Samuel takes the job God has called him too.
This is a powerful response for anyone, no less a child!
So let me ask you this:
Have you ever had that feeling that God was calling you?
Maybe it was in the middle of the night,
Maybe it was during a drive
Or in a quiet moment,
You just felt like there was another voice in your head,
Calling you to a task
Or easing your mind right before you take a test, or a job interview, or facing a difficult meeting

God’s call can come to us unexpectedly.
And it can come to us in the most unexpected places and people.

That leads to my next point:
The “well hello there!”
And this is the story we read from John, the first chapter.
The first chapter of John covers a lot of ground.
Four days.
The first day John appears.
The second, John witnesses to Jesus as the Lamb of God.
The third day, Jesus invites his first two disciples, Andrew and Simon, to come and see where he is going.
And our story today is set on the fourth day.
It begins with Jesus finding Philip.
Philip becomes a disciple.
And Philip does was a disciple is supposed to do.
He goes and recruits.
Philip goes and tells Nathanael. “We have found The One.”
And Nathanael’s response? “Pffft. Yeah, right.”
It’s the same reaction I have had when people say things like:
“Oh, Jesus helped us find that parking spot at the mall on Christmas Eve!”
My mom did remind me that my dad would argue that God absolutely helped him find parking places!
“God certainly wanted our team to win the national championship”
It’s the “Really? You think so?”
And that’s what Nathanael does.
He says
“Really? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Which was a slam against Jesus and his hometown.
Nazareth was a small secluded village.
Not many people gave it much thought.
The town was an afterthought, a blip on the screen of life in the eyes of Nathanael.
But Philip responds with the best answer.
Come and see.
See for yourself.
Which is a perfect way for you to invite friends to church.
Come and see for yourself.

And what Nathanael sees when he meets Jesus blows his mind.
The first thing Jesus does is compliment Nathanael.
Or as I call it, the friendly “Well Hello There!”
Jesus acts like he’s known Nathanael all his life.
But here’s the thing, God DOES know us all our lives.
Jesus says Nathanael is an honest man who does not worship other gods.
And that compliment is enough for Nathanael to give Jesus his full attention.
Nathanael called Jesus: Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel.
Pretty heavy stuff!
So now think back to a time when someone you least expected showed you the presence of God.
Maybe in something they said to you,
Maybe they asked how YOUR day was going,
Or they told you how they got through a difficult period in their life.
Or they tell you a great joke that gets you out of a bad mood
That is God saying, “Well hello there!” to you
But there is a third way I want to talk about as well.
While God can call us into something, like he does with is Samuel and Nathanael,
God can also call us OUT when we need to shape up.

That is what God does in our story from Corinthians.
This is what I call “The Call Out”
The Corinthians were going down a bad road.
They were not paying attention to God (echoes of the story of Eli and his sons)
They were paying attention to themselves.
They were doing immoral things.
They were doing stupid things.
They were doing things that would not be listed on any Christian Recruitment flyers, I’ll tell you that.
And Paul is calling them out on it.
Paul, the writer of Corinthians, tries and tries over and over to move the Corinthians away from an attitude of “It’s all about me” to a focus on what it means to be faithful to the gospel.
Here’s Paul’s point to the Corinthians and to us:
YOU (point to the congregation, to individuals) were bought with a price.
God did not get us on sale.
God paid the full price.
And that price was Jesus.
Whenever we wander from God,
Whenever our attention starts to wane,
we need not look any further than the Cross to set us back to reality.
Think of a time in your life when you needed to hear someone tell you to shape up.
When someone called you out for your sins, your mistakes and your need for repentance.
In my life I have met church people who have kept notebooks on all the things people have done to them.
Let me warn you in case you are one of those people: if you ever show me your list or book, I am going to ask you one thing: “Where is the book containing your sins?”

Talk about the ultimate attention getter.

But sometimes that is what we need to kickstart our faith.
And get us back on the right road.

I don’t know about you, but I am so glad we have a God who works so hard to cure of us our Attention Faith Disorder.

And from our lessons we know of at least three ways God does this:
The Psst
The Calling Out and
The Well Hello There

Each way shows us that God isn’t done with any of us.
God has not stopped calling us.
God is reaching out to us.

It’s time we answer, “Lord, you have our attention!”

Sermon for January 7, 2018: “More Than Words Can Say”

Sermon for January 7, 2018
“More Than Words Can Say”

Reading: Mark 1:4-11

Sometimes putting into words how we feel about someone or something can be difficult, sometimes impossible.
When Kristen and I were waiting for Paul to be born, we would ask our family and friends what is was like to be parents, and they all said they could not fully describe what it is like.
Their words could not do justice to their feelings.
So when words are not enough, the best way to describe what you are feeling is to show it as well as say it.
Let me give you an example.
It comes from our Gospel lesson today.
Our lesson is from the opening chapter of Mark.
It is the story of Jesus being baptized by John in the River Jordan.
Let me say a few things about the Gospel of Mark before I get into the example.
Mark is the shortest Gospel in the New Testament.
It is only 16 chapters in length.
Mark does not waste a lot of words.
And the gospel reads very quickly because Mark uses words like “immediately” when he tells the story of Jesus and his ministry.
Jesus could be healing a leper and immediately he is in another town preaching the Good News and feeding five thousand people.
So as we read the Gospel of Mark throughout the year, remember that things in Mark happen very quickly.
And at first glance, Mark sometimes gives you the feeling he is not writing a book but a summary.
Take Mark chapter 1.
Here is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus.
Then comes John the Baptizer.
And here comes Jesus being baptized by John.
Oh, and there is a dove.
Okay, that might be too fast of a summary but my point is when you first read and hear Mark, there is not a lot of detail.
AT FIRST that is.
But if you take another glance at the Gospel, and dive deeper into the text you will uncover really spectacular and beautiful events, especially in our text this morning.
And in my opinion the beautiful event that happens today in our Gospel lesson can be found in verses 10 and 11.
Verse 10: “And just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.”
For many years, I always pictured the heavens opening up like one opens up a curtain.
Nice and easy.
But that is not what the scripture says.
The heavens do not open like a curtain.
They are torn apart.
There is a great commercial out now, from a company called Grub Hub.
And in the commercial a man is trying to order some food over the phone.
And the restaurant worker on the other end of the line cannot understand the last four numbers of the customer’s credit card number.
After repeating the numbers over and over again, the customer becomes so frustrated he pulls hard on his phone line and
He pulls so hard that the restaurant worker BURSTS through the wall.
The worker literally CRASHES INTO the customer’s apartment.
It’s a great commercial, and my point is that just as the worker crashes into the apartment, the heavens are not gently opened, they CRASH INTO our reality.
This is a violent wrenching of a hole in the ceiling that bounds heaven and earth.
To “tear something” does not happen neatly, or with a tool.
It is usually done with hands.
And who is that does the tearing?
Not just God the Creator.
But God the Father.
And why does God rip open the heavens?
To get the best view possible of his son as Jesus beings his work on earth.
Think back to the moment your child or your godchild or grandchild was baptized.
Did you sit in the back of the church or at the front to watch the event?
You sat in the front.
You wanted to get the best view.
God wants to get the best seat in the house for this special moment.
And what makes this verse even more spectacular is after this violent action of the heavens tearing apart; the Holy Spirit makes an appearance as a dove.
Can you think of another moment in the Bible when a dove makes an appearance?
If you said, Noah, give yourself a pat on the back.
The dove was an image of peace.
It still is today.
And back in the story of Noah, the dove was the symbol that the flood had subsided and a new creation had begun.
The dove makes a return appearance today just as Jesus begins a new creation in the story of humankind.
Now I could stop at verse 10, but it is verse 11 that really tugs at my heart.
Verse 11 says- “A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
“Beloved” is a wonderful term.
It is a term of endearment that is usually reserved for those who are especially dearly loved, as one’s spouse or child is.
Like the first time you told your significant other you loved him or her.
That you REALLY loved them.
God is saying the same thing today.
And I have to be honest, up until last February they were just words, and then when Paul was born and I held him in my arms for the first time,
All I could say over and over and over again was, “My son! My son! I love you! You are so beautiful! My son!”
That is when it hit me how deep these words in our verse are.
This is not God making an announcement.
These are the words of a father.
This is God putting into words his love for his Son.
“You are my Son, the I really love you.”

Sometimes words are not enough and the best way to describe what you are feeling is to show it as well as say it.

And in this short Gospel lesson, we have a father who rips open the heavens to see his Son and then tells his son how much he loves him.
He tells his son how proud and pleased he is.

And the amazing thing is that God does and says the same thing to us.
God shows and tells us he loves us.
Through the waters of baptism, through the bread and wine of communion, it is God who shows and tells us what we mean to him.
That is why at Baptism, we say the name of the one being baptized as the waters are splashed over his or her head.
That is why at Communion, I saw your name, so that you know that this meal, this sacrament, was given for you as a person, as a child of God.
What God says to Jesus in our Gospel lesson, is the same thing he says to us.
And not just on Sundays, but every day of our lives.
He sees us as He sees Jesus, as His children.

Now if you please, take out your bulletin, and look at verse 11.
And right where God starts to speak, I want you to put your name in front of what God says, and either say that verse out loud or silently.
Do this a few times.

Do you hear what God is telling you?
Do you see what God is showing you?

There is a lot that is going on in these verses.
Sometimes we just need to slow down and let the words soak in.

God is calling you each by name.
God loves you.
We thank God for showing and telling how he feels about us.