Measuring or Cutting?

Reading for the day (Sunday, June 18, 2017):

Genesis 6:1-9:17

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Many of you already know that I enjoy woodworking.  Of course I haven’t been spending much time in the wood shop lately for obvious reasons.  But now when I am working on something in the shop, I sometimes will build following a plan or blueprint.  But most of the time I have an idea that I draw up either on paper or in my head and just get to work.  The joy of doing it this way is that what I build then is certainly an original work, because I designed it.  Doing it this way is also frustrating, especially when it isn’t working.  I don’t give up very easily on things.  So when a joint isn’t matching up, or it just doesn’t look right, I keep trying different ways to make it work.  But sometimes you just have to start over.

I remember a time when I was younger and my mom asked me to make pudding for supper.  So I grabbed a box of pudding out of the cupboard, opened the package and dumped the contents in a mixing bowl.  Now what is the only other ingredient that you need to make pudding?  Milk, of course.  Well, I had made pudding before and I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing, so I just starting mixing it up.  And come on, it’s pudding, one can’t screw it up that bad, can you?  Well, Mom got home and I was still mixing this pudding and I told her there was a problem with the pudding, it wasn’t setting up; it was too runny.  Thinking that I didn’t add enough milk, Mom adds more milk to try to thicken it up.  But it turns out, if you try to make pudding with water it won’t set up, no matter how much milk you try to add to it.

At the beginning of Genesis, we hear how God created the world in six days.  His creation was beautiful and properly ordered, functioning as it was designed.  But it didn’t take very long for humanity to mess it all up – kind of like a young boy trying to make pudding with water.  With the entrance of sin into the world, all of creation would be effected and changed forever.  Generations later, God gets so fed up with what He had created and decides to start over and begin anew.  So He flooded all of creation to start fresh.

Starting over or trying a different approach does not mean that you have failed.  You are not perfect.  And because of your sin, you can’t be perfect.  This is why you don’t get everything right the first time.  You do screw up.  You do make mistakes.  You do have to start over.  But you will never start over and begin anew, unless you take a risk and go far enough to fail.  If something isn’t working, you will never know to start over unless you go far enough to fail.  You’ve heard the phrase, “Measure twice, cut once.”  Well even if you measure four, five, or six times, but never cut, you’ll never know if that will be the right piece or not.

Are you measuring or cutting?  Simply cutting without measuring is rather foolish, but if you measure and never cut; that too is foolish.  Noah certainly had to measure in order to build the ark that God called him to build.  The ark was to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high.  Now a cubit is the length of your forearm – from your elbow to the tip of your finger.  That distance is one cubit.  Hopefully Noah was the only one measuring, but the 450 foot long ark would never had happened had Noah measured but never cut the wood.  Are you measuring, calculating the risk of doing ministry?  Are you ready to make that cut, taking a risk for the sake of the Gospel?  Or are you worried that you might get something wrong and fail?

Let me ask this question in a different way.  In your parenting and/or grandparenting (because I think that is a thing…grandparenting), do you allow your child or grandchild to try different things, taking risks even though they might fail at it?  Or do you make sure that they are safely kept in a bubble and only do the things that you know they will succeed in?  If trying and experimenting is good enough for children, then it is good enough for Christ’s church as well.

This is what God did with the flood.  Sin entered His creation, messing the whole thing up.  So He decides to start over, begin anew.  Wipe the slate clean and start fresh.  Now people throughout the world will question if the flood actually happened.  And I say, if we get hung up on the details of the story and questioning if the flood could or could not of actually happened, then we have missed the point of the whole story.  What really matters is learning what God has done and what He is doing for us.  In the case of the flood, even though God chose to wipe the slate clean and start over, He promised that He would never flood the earth like that again.  After the flood, God realizes that there had to be a better way of redeeming His project from its imperfections.  After the flood, God makes many different attempts to save His creation, but to no avail.  Finally, He sends Jesus to take all of the world’s sins unto Himself in order to once and for all redeem creation from sin that entered in with Adam and Eve.

You are nowhere near perfect.  You will continue to fail and make mistakes.  But don’t let the fear of failing or the fear of making mistakes prevent you from taking a chance and going out on a limb.  Bishop Jon’s theme throughout his report at Synod Assembly was the last verse of Matthew’s Gospel, “I will be with you always.”  The rainbow is not only a promise for us that when the rains come God will never again flood all of creation, but the rainbow is also a promise for us that no matter how many times we screw up, fall, or need to start over on something, He promises us to be with us always; until He comes again in glory on the Last Day.  Are you measuring or cutting?  Amen.

 

 

© 2017 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

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A Frightening Celebration

Readings for the day (Day of Pentecost – Sunday, June 4, 2017):

Acts 2:1-21

Psalm 104:24-34

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

John 20:19-23

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter.  Of all the festivals the church has, there really are 3 primary festivals that are celebrated each year: the birth of our Savior at Christmas, the resurrection of our Savior at Easter, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

For us, church festivals usually mean a celebration.  We celebrate at Christmas.  We also celebrate at Easter.  It is even common practice for some churches to have cake and celebrate at Pentecost.  But on that first Pentecost, people were not excited, they were frightened.  This was not a celebratory time, for they were confused.  They were bewildered.  They were astonished.  This was not an exciting day because when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, He came as a violent, rushing wind.  This was not a calm, gentle breeze.  No, the Apostle Luke, the writer of Acts, describes the coming of the Holy Spirit as a violent, strong, forcible wind.  Certainly something that would get your attention and go, “Wow what just happened!”  Which explains all of the confusion among the crowd of people that gathered; even accusing the apostles of being drunk on new wine.  Today Pentecost is treated as a celebration, which it most certainly is a time to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles and to us.  But that first day of Pentecost was anything but celebratory.  It was frightening.

When we think of the gift of the Holy Spirit we often think of baptism or confirmation.  These are moments or milestones in life where we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit coming upon individuals leaving us with a good, warm your heart kind of feeling.  Leaving us with the impression that the Holy Spirit moves like a peaceful, gentle breeze.  Except there is a reason why I tell parents when they bring their new child to be baptized that the first thing we are going to do is kill your son or daughter.  Of course not in a literal sense, but certainly in a spiritual sense.  In order to be renewed in Christ, we must first put aside – killing or drowning our old sinful selves through the waters of baptism.  Then, and only then, is God able to pull us out of that water into new life, clothed with Christ; giving us the gift of His Holy Spirit.  For the coming of the Holy Spirit is neither peaceful nor gentle, but rather violent and confusing.

When thinking about the Holy Spirit, violent is usually not the first adjective you think of.  And certainly we believe that our God is peaceful, not violent.  So let me explain what I mean by violent.  Have you ever felt compelled to do something, but tirelessly worked to find excuses why not to act?  When I sensed that call to ministry, it was a rather clear call; but the call to be a pastor was rather painful.  For the longest time I was so convinced that my call to ministry was to be a youth director – and nothing more, certainly not a pastor!  So I did what I could to avoid it.  Ok, I’ll go to seminary, but only for a youth director.  Ok, I’ll get put on the roster but still not as a pastor.  But I have learned over the years that God doesn’t take no for an answer.  If He wants you to do someone, whether it is something for His Church, at your place of work, in the community, or at home, God will find a way to get what He wants.  The Holy Spirit tugs on us, and won’t give up until we do what God is calling us to do.  God doesn’t take no for an answer, and He won’t rest until He does – no matter how much force is necessary.  It took a while, but I finally gave in, realizing that it is much easier to just do what God calls you to do the first time.

Now the actions by the Holy Spirit don’t always make sense.  Many times it is hard to see the bigger picture, making it all very confusing and challenging to trust that there even is a bigger picture that God sees.  I have lost count on how many times I’ve told my kids, “Trust me, you’ll be fine.”  Or, “Trust me, the toy you’re looking for is in your room where you left it.”  It’s always easy to see the bigger picture for someone else isn’t it?  But when it comes to seeing your own, it doesn’t appear to be there.  Telling someone else to put their trust in the Holy Spirit is easy compared to practicing what you preach.  But it is in our best interest to put our trust in God, because when we don’t and we turn to our own selfish interests without giving any consideration to what God might be calling us to do; then our lack of trust leads us to despair.

So I said that the coming of the Holy Spirit, especially at baptism is neither peaceful nor gentle, but rather violent and confusing.  But I really should add one more adjective – astonishing.  Because it is rather amazing what God is able to do when we put our trust in Him.  Sometimes we even get to see what that bigger picture looks like.  Kind of like how the disciples never really understood what Jesus was talking about when He kept reminding the Twelve that He was going to die and rise again.  And yet, after the ascension of Jesus, Peter, the one who denies knowing our Lord and forbids our Lord from willingly dying, turns right around on that first day of Pentecost and begins telling the frightened, confused crowd the whole story how Jesus is the Savior of the world; dying and rising to new life.  Yeah, certainly something to celebrate!  The coming of the Holy Spirit to protect, guide, and lead.  Which is both confusing and astonishing.  Amen.

 

 

© 2017 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.