Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pentecost 16: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made to Carry Your Cross

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you.

That is a sermon in itself.
Packed with truth, therefore packed also with mystery because we don’t unpack any truth without encountering the mystery of the Triune God who has been in our midst and said: “I am the truth.”
Fearfully and wonderfully made – after years of theological study and preaching……I still don’t know exactly what that means, except that it fills me with awe.

Jer 18:1-11

Like all texts, these verses have a context – something that goes with the text, surrounds the text and what “surrounds” this part of Jeremiah is that God builds up and God breaks down, particularly nations (that’s the specific context in Jeremiah – the nation of Israel that God has carefully built up and moulded, is about to be broken down/destroyed.)
But these verses must definitely also apply to the truth that we are clay in god’s Hands.  Genesis 1 reminds us that we come from the ground, dust, clay or dirt and will return to these things – dust to dust.
Verse 4 is instructive and mysterious: “The pot he was shaping was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
When does a pot become a pot?
Does the God who knits us together in the womb stop all His creative work when we leave the womb?
I think we know the answer is No……He continues / is continuing His moulding and “pottery” work in you and me.
He has done that this weekend, starting on Friday afternoon, the whole of Saturday, now on Sunday morning; still shaping, moulding……still knitting us together in the womb, which is now the earth.  And of course He does this “pottery” all over the place…and certainly not only at a service on a Sunday, or a retreat over a weekend, or a Bible study during the week……no, our God is pottering about all over the place.  So, when does a pot become a pot? – You can have fun with that in the week ahead.

In the context of our weekend, part of becoming what God is moulding us into is discovering, uncovering, using and growing in our spiritual gifting.  Part of becoming “fearfully and wonderfully made” is discovering our uniqueness……you do not have the same spiritual and God-given passions as the person next to you and I hope that part of the blessing of this weekend has simply been to be reminded of your uniqueness……and this, of course, applies to every one of us, whether we’ve attended the retreat or not……you are unique, you are special, and I encourage you to continue exploring and discovering and enjoying your uniqueness.

Sometimes the pot He is shaping “is marred in his hands”…we all know what this means in our lives, don’t we.  We all know the reality of sin in our lives and evil in our world.  We are “marred” in the Creator’s hands……but listen to these words of grace: “so the potter formed it into another pot.”
When is a pot a pot?
Notice, he doesn’t take the clay and be done with it, throwing it away and using some other clay.  No……he just carries on potting…”shaping it as seems best to him.”  He’s not finished with the clay……God’s not finished with you or with me……that is very good news!!!
So, what exactly is God making us into?  I think Luke answers that question for us, but in fact, each gospel writer has the same answer: God is moulding us into the likeness of His Son, and His Son was a cross-carrying disciple of His Father, and His Father is moulding us into cross-carrying disciples of His Son.

Luke 14: 25-33
“Whoever does not carry their cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple.”
The Great Commission given to the Church is to go to all the nations……and make disciples.
God of is in the business of using the church to make disciples of His Son.  Doug, I want to bless you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as you continue, no doubt with tremendous difficulty, to play your part in the making of disciples of Jesus Christ, here at St Michael and in Modimolle.
The New Testament knows of only one kind of disciple, and that is a cross-carrying disciple.  And just as each one of us is uniquely made, and uniquely gifted, so too are our crosses often unique to us.  You are probably carrying a different cross to the one carried by the person next to you.
Because crosses are unique, I can’t tell you what your cross is at this particular time in your life.  What I can tell you, is that you are uniquely designed at this particular time to carry that cross, and furthermore, you are uniquely equipped and gifted to take up your cross and carry it.
I can’t tell you what your particular cross is, but I can tell you exactly where you will find it.
Crosses are found, in fact they are formed, where God’s Will and my will……intersect.  When my will and God’s Will flow in the same direction……no cross.  When my will intersects God’s Will (in other words, is not in the same direction) a cross is formed and I am faced with the choice of picking up that cross……or not.
In all the characters of the Scriptures you will find these “intersections” of God’s Will and the person’s will……Abraham……Moses……Jonah……Daniel……Jesus……and when we say “not my will, but Your Will be done” a cross is formed and we are called to carry it.
This is what God is moulding you and me into: Cross-carrying disciples.
Let me give you a silly example: The fact that I might work for a horrible boss does not make that the cross I have to bear in life.  I might want to leave that job, God might also want me to leave that job, so no cross is formed.  God might want me to leave that job but I don’t want to leave that job because I’m not sure how I’ll survive……that’s not a cross……I just don’t trust God.  I might want to leave the job, and have better jobs lined up already, but God wants me t stay in that job……that’s when a cross is formed.  Will I carry it?

Cling to these truths: You are uniquely created for such moments (and there will be many) in your life.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are uniquely equipped by God, through His Holy Spirit for such moments.

So……pick up your cross, follow Jesus and be His Disciple.

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