Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, August 8, 2014

Pentecost 9: Where is God when.....?

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 & Matthew 14:22-33

I am going to start this sermon with some real down to earth family issues that come up in our Genesis reading as we look at the question: Where is God when.....

vs 2: Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.  Where is God when you live with a tattle tale –in the family, in the office, etc.

vs 2: Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons,  Where is God when there is a favourite in the family (office, class, etc) and it’s not you.

vs 4:When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.  Where is God when you’re the favourite (you can’t help it) and you have to deal with the hatred of our siblings.

Where is God when they hate you so much they plan to kill you, but instead throw you into a well and they sell you to some slave traders?

Before we answer, “Where is God when....”, a word to parents: don’t have favourites;
to children: don’t hold it against the favourite;
              if you are the favourite: talk to your parents and say “stop this.”

If these things are not resolved, they fester.....and they erupt in the most dreadful ways.

If you’re in a family that has drifted apart for whatever reason, resolve today to begin to put that right with God’s help.

But..... where is God in the midst of our problems?  I’m sure Joseph’s brothers asked this as he irritated them, but couldn't do any wrong in his father's sight.
I’m sure Joseph asked this as he lay in the bottom of a well.

Where is God when I’m losing my job?
Where is God when I’m losing my house?
Where is God when disease is destroying my body?
Where is God when I’m abused in my home?
Where is God while I’m being raped?

I think our New Testament reading can help us.
It’s Matthew 14:22-33 and follows where we left off last week.

Did you notice: Jesus sends His Disciples across the lake......He goes up a hill to pray and then we are told there was a “strong wind against the boat.”   They are struggling.....but notice especially that they are struggling to do what Jesus has asked them to do – go to the other side.  Doing Jesus’ work, Kingdom work, going in the direction Jesus wants you to go... can be a tremendous struggle.  

Where was God while they were struggling to do His Son's will?

Then, between 3 & 6am, after 9 hours of struggle (!!!!????)– Jesus comes towards them. 

Our struggles can really go on sometimes, can’t they – hours, days – Joseph’s struggles in Egypt went on for years and included false accusations of rape and jail. Our struggles can really go on, they can be horrible, they can be undeserved, and probably worst of all confusingly misunderstood by us!  

The one thing that really strikes me about the disciples in the boat is …… they don’t call on God!  Their Scriptures, our Old Testament, taught them that you can call on God – the Psalms teach that.......the prophets teach that,.....Jeremiah calls on God in his own struggle from a well.......Job teaches that ……
They really should have known that they can call on God, but they don’t....and we often make the same mistake.  Perhaps it's because they’re fisherman – I’ll call on God when I have a spiritual problem, but at work, in my office, here in the boat, I’ll help myself thank you very much.

When do you turn to God? ……

And Jesus walks on the stormy water – 3, 4, 5, 6 foot high waves, so one moment you see Him, one moment you don’t, plus the spray of water in the wind, so they think they’re seeing a ghost.  That frightens them …… the storm didn’t, but the sight of Jesus does!
“It’s a ghost” they said, and screamed with fear (it's almost funny, except it's embarrassingly close to home for too many of us, so we don't laugh)
And Jesus says to them words that He often wants to, and does, speak to us if we would only listen in the midst of our own storm.  
Courage.  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.
 Do you need to hear that this morning? And then Peter, dear Peter, says – through the stormwaves in the dark, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  Why doesn’t he say, “If it’s You …… stop the storm.”  We so often just ask for the wrong thing, don't we?  So Jesus says Come ……the storm continues – waves - wind …… and Peter walks and walks, heading in the direction of Jesus......... but, as we've seen, storms continue when we walk towards Jesus, and when he notices the waves, he starts to sink.
This reveals a truth we’ve perhaps all seen.  In the presence of Jesus and as we move towards Him, the storm continues, but if try and keep our eyes on Him, we don’t notice it, or we notice it less, and we can crawl, walk or even mount up with wings like eagles and fly.  But when we take our eyes off Jesus, we of course notice the storm and we quickly lose perspective, and it can then just as quickly overcome us and we begin to sink.  Focusing on Jesus does not make storms, waves, hardships, struggles, disappear; but it does give us a focus; a better perspective, a direction in which to move, whether by crawling, walking, running or flying.

And then, praise God, if we call out, He’ll reach out and grab us …… while the storm continues.  They got into the boat and then …… the storm stopped.  Now my question has been – where is God in the midst of things that happen in my life? …… and the answer is:

 …… He is there in the midst …… waiting for us to notice Him ....He will not force Himself on us....  “It’s God here……why don’t you call me?”  He waits for us to notice Him – to realize He’s not a ghost or a fairy tale, figment of many people's imaginations........ but real.  He waits for us to turn our eyes to Him …… and how do we do that …… by faith – a faith that believes He’s there to be seen if I look for Him and His presence felt if I reach out for Him.

Do you believe that Jesus is with you? Do you act on that getting out the boat.....or by reaching out (in prayer, in praise, in worship, in fasting, in the Word, in reaching out to others, etc)  If you do, you will find what you need to cope with the storms that blow up, be they in the form of bratty brothers & sisters, or murderous brothers & sisters, or all the other forms that storms take in your life and mine.

Believe that Jesus is really with you.

The Readings

Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornaterobe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”
“Very well,” he replied.
14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.
When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”
17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’”
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”.

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