What follows are notes for a sermon to be preached on Sunday, November 23. The scriptures assigned for the day include Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 95:1-7a, Ephesians 1:15-23 and Matthew 25:31-46. The pre-printed bulletin cover is a drawing of Jesus holding a bowl of soup. The Sunday is called "Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year. Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
How would you run the world? A friend who works with painful situations most every day started a sentence recently with If I was in charge... but then stopped because both of us knew what was meant. It's hard to understand why God lets pain go on and on.
I've heard there was a television special earlier this month on the subject. It was called God On Trial. It imagines how prisoners in a concentration camp debating whether a good and powerful God could rightfully allow so much pain and evil to flourish in the world.
I think we debate these questions in our own heart and mind regularly. And sometimes we shake our fist at God or curl up and cry. Page through the Psalms and you will discover that it's okay to ask questions, cry, and even be angry with God.
How does God answer? At times, God intervenes to make sure we do not despair. At times, there are miracles and cures and amazing grace is poured out on us. God's final answer, however, is found at the cross, where God comes to suffer with us and for us, and in the resurrection, when he gives victory. And then he gives us one another, telling us to love, to feed, welcome, clothe, care and visit those in need until the end.
More than anything else God seems to value love -- not just any kind of love, but a giving sort of love, a love that is willing to hang in there with those who suffer, and who will not turn away. In that way, God wants us to be like Jesus. We may not like it, but, to make up for suffering now, he promises a marvelous reward in the end.
We can't elect, choose or appoint a God. We are his people and the sheep of his his pasture (Psalm 100). We don't choose. He makes, and chooses, us. We belong to him. Because of that, it's important that we get to know him better. We do that as we walk beside one another, and as we get to know Him through His Word.
See you in church!