This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Today is the 2nd Sunday of a three week sermon series called Old Testament = 2012. The aim of this sermon series is help us see the relevance of the Old Testament for our lives in 2012. This three week series is part of a Year of the Bible focus we’re taking at Chain of Lakes in 2012. Last week I shared a sermon that I’ve never given before. I shared the storyline of the Old Testament. In that sermon I shared the general storyline, three important people, three important Scriptures, and six important dates. I put all of that information on an insert. I know that the people in worship last Sunday took it seriously because as I gave the sermon almost everyone was filling out to insert. This week many of you shared with me that you’ve never heard a sermon like that. You appreciated the information on the insert. We posted it online at colpres.org. I shared the link in my weekly E-mail. You can also find it by going to our web site. SLIDE Hit the worship—hit the weekly videos and downloads SLIDE Then hit the Storyline of the Old Testament link/Sermon Notes Answers. SLIDE here is the insert Why is this information important? If you have a basic understanding of this information then you will understand the story of the Old Testament. For example—here are the six dates. SLIDE
1. God called Abram 2. God called Moses 1900 BCE 1290 BCE
3. Israelites enter the Promised Land 1250 BCE 4. Israel was split into two kingdoms 925 BCE 5. Destruction of Israel 722
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6. Destruction of Judah 587
Each of these dates represents a turn in the story. Let me give you an example. Take the book of 1 Samuel. The story of 1 Samuel took place between 1250 and 925. In knowing that we will know that Israel is in the promise land. It’s the story of the start of the disintegration of Israel into two kingdoms or nations. Or take the first 40 chapters of the prophet Isaiah. Those chapters were written right before the destruction of Israel in 722. So when you read those chapters you’ll understand that God was trying to share with the people of Israel how to avoid the destruction by the Assyrians. These dates are like markers—they are turning points in the story. I understand that it might take a while to learn them. In my mind memory is just repetition. If you go over this yourself, you’ll remember. And you’ll have a basic understanding of the Old Testament. For the next two Sundays I’m speaking about two different themes in the Old Testament. Today I’ll talk about blessing and next Sunday I’ll talk about covenant. Let me encourage you to get out this brochure that is in the bulletin. On this brochure you’ll find a place to take sermon notes, you have a devotion—this week I shared six readings about blessing that I encourage you to use every day, and you’ll find a place to take prayer requests. These prayer requests connect us with people all over the nation. This week I receive a request from a friend of mine in New York City. He has a friend who is going to get laid off and is having problems with his family. Prayer brings us together. You are praying for a friend of one of my friend’s. That is a blessing. Let me ask you a question. Where do you think the word blessing occurs more often—the New Testament or the Old Testament? The Old Testament. The book that is supposed to be about war and violence. It’s not even close. Some form of the word bless occurs 361 times in the Old Testament while some form
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of the word occurs only 110 times in the New Testament. Some form of the word, blessed appears in twenty six of the thirty nine Old Testament book. If you someone asked you the question, “what’s the Old Testament about.” You could answer by saying it’s a story about God blessing a group of people and the how the people received this blessing. Let me unpack some more this idea of blessing. In the Old Testament a blessing is something where life and goodness are transmitted to someone or something. A blessing can be given to a person and it can be given to a material object —like a cup or a piece of land . A blessing can be given by God and it can be given by a person to another person. Something mysterious happens in a blessing. In a blessing some sort of energy flows out of the person giving the blessing to the person being blessed. This idea of blessing begins right at the start of the Old Testament in the creation story. On the fifth day God started by making sea creatures and birds. After they were created God saw that they were good. Guess what God did to the sea creatures and birds. God blessed them. God gave them a special energy and power. On the sixth day humans were created in the image and likeness of God. Guess what God did to the humans after they were created. God blessed them. God gave humans a special energy and power. On the very last day God finished the work of creation. God finished the work by resting. Guess what God did to the seventh day. God blessed the seventh day. God gave the seventh day a special energy and power. Over time the seventh day was called the Sabbath. In our calendar it was on Saturday. That is when our ancestors worshipped. Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the
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week, so the Sabbath was changed. This day is more than a day away from work. It is a day to celebrate our blessings. This day—the Sabbath is meant to celebrate life and goodness with the people we love. We celebrate our family and our friends on the Sabbath. Worship on the Sabbath is special because the day is blessed. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. What better way to celebrate all the blessings of this day— the goodness and life given to this day—then by worshipping God. Over time God blessed a group of people called the Israelites who became the nation of Israel. Last week I shared that the story of the Old Testament began in Genesis 12 when God blessed a man by the name of Abram and told him to be a blessing. Often in the Old Testament the blessings that God gave the people weren’t enough to keep the people in relationship with God. They went on to seek blessing in other activities that took them away from God. The people weren’t satisfied with God’s blessings. Here the theme this Old Testament theme of blessing intersects our life in 2012. Can we be satisfied with God’s blessings? Are God’s blessings enough to keep us in relationship with God. This week I had dinner with Tiffany Chopra. We were talking about her recent trip to Guatemala. She’s going back in May. She’s going to be building houses for kids there. She talked about how the kids run around with the same clothes each day, that they don’t have access to clean water, how their teeth are rotting. Then she said something that I’ve heard often from people who’ve traveled to Central America. Tiffany shared that the kids—who wear the same clothes and don’t have access to clean water and who have rotting teeth—they are so happy. They are always smiling. Kids in extreme poverty are blessed. I think that many people turn away from God because we misunderstand blessing. It’s easy to convince ourselves that if we follow God we won’t have any trouble. That is if we come to
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worship and say prayers and are good people that God owes us something. If we keep our part of the bargain our families will stay together, we will always have a job, our health will be good, our kids will do well, and we won’t have to live with many anxieties. Who doesn’t want that? I turned 48 yesterday. For myself I want my family to stay together, I want to be able to pay my mortgage, I want to have good health. I certainly want my wife, Amy, and daughter, Hannah to do well. I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night stressing about life. God doesn’t promise us blessings in this way. God’s blessings are different than the way our culture understands blessings. Blessing is a presence—it’s goodness—it’s life. It can happen at any time. It can fill us up with deep joy. God’s blessings won’t fill up our bank account, or keep us away from the doctor. It’s easy to think of God as a casino machine or the ultimate Santa Claus. If we do our part, then God will dispense blessings to us as our culture understands them. God doesn’t say that. God promises us presence—goodness and life. . All throughout the Old Testament God is telling the Israelites this. God is saying, “if you follow me you will be blessed. You won’t be blessed in ways that your culture understands blessings. Ways like peace and security and money and fame. You might experience some of that. But my blessings far go beyond those qualities. When you follow me you will experience life. One of the reasons I’m excited about starting a new church is I want to unleash a movement of people who understand this idea of blessing. It’s a movement of people who know that blessings aren’t the same as the way that the culture understands blessings. It’s a movement of
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people who seek God’s blessings and most importantly a movement of people who want to share blessings with others. Today I have three challenges for you. The first challenge is to enter into an orientation called blessing mode. You and I are called to share blessings with others—to go out of our way to share goodness and power and life with another person. This is a powerful and wonderful idea. I have a personal mission statement that has four parts. One of the parts is to be a blessing to others. I want to transmit goodness and power and life to the people who I meet. This is an orientation switch. I call it blessing mode. It’s when we get out of ourselves and look to bless others. Suddenly life is not about me—it’s about you. If I’m truly in a blessing mode I’m going out of my ways to look for ways to help and bless others. I’m not thinking or focusing on my self—I’m thinking and focusing on sharing blessings. Blessing mode. This is a big orientation switch. We could do this at our meetings and groups at Chain of Lakes. We could start out by asking, “who’s in blessing mode?”
First challenge—share blessings by being in blessing mode. The second challenge is to be conscious of blessing someone this week. In the bulletin is this card. Before we receive Communion today I’m going to ask everyone to fill out this card and put it on the Communion Table. We’re not going to collect these cards. The purpose of putting them on the Communion Table is to share this offering to God. God deeply wants us to bless others. Sometimes to bless others we are called to sacrifice. These blessings that we share are an offering of sacrifice to God.
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We have about ___ adults in worship today. Think what an impact we can make if all of us are conscious of blessing one person this week. What an impact. I was thinking this week about what an impact you and I can make through blessing others. The image I came up with is this: SLIDE Our congregation can make this imprint on the world when we bless others. When we bless others we often experience God. To get ready for this sermon series I interviewed Rabbi David Locketz of Temple Bet Shalom in Minnetonka. In our interview he talked about the idea of when is God. He said this: VIDEO When do we experience God? We experience God when we bless others.
The final challenge I have is to use the language of blessing. A long time ago I started saying the words, “God Bless you” when I left people. Even as a pastor it took me a little while to get comfortable and to have the courage to use that language. Over time I got used to it. Those of you who spend time with me just know that I frequently say God bless when I leave you. For me it’s like a mission statement. I so want to see people experience God’s blessings. I want people to experience the love and grace and presence and majesty of God in their life. If I can be helpful by saying God Bless you—it’s really like a prayer for you—then I feel like I’m following what God wants. What’s interesting is when I started using that language of blessing, I got some pushback from of people who thought I was being overly pious. I was trying to share how pious I am by saying God bless you. When I say the words, “God bless you” I’m not claiming to be pious. To
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say “God bless you” it’s not about me. What I am doing is authentically sharing a desire for the person. I want to see people blessed. What would happen if you said, “God bless you” when you left people. Try it for a week. Over time you would get some pushback. One of your friends might come up to you and say, don’t be so churchy and pious. And you could say back—it’s not churchy or pious to want to see people blessed. Our world needs the language of blessing. Our language in this culture is so harsh. Look at the languge that Rush Limbaugh used to describe a young female college student this week. This language that denigrates people has become an accepted part of our culture. We need a language of blessing. You and I could be the movement to start this language. 3 challenges 1. Enter into blessing mode—look for ways to bless others 2. Be conscious of blessing one person this week 3. Use the language of blessing A friend went to pick up a revered rabbi from the airport. As the two drove toward the toolbooths to exist the airport parking lot, the friend had to choose between an automatic payment lane and a lane staffed by an attendant. “Take the lane where you pay a person,” the rabbi said. “Why,” asked the friend “Because anhy opportunity to make contact with another human being is a blessing from God.” This week 1) orient yourself to blessing; 2) be specific about blessing another person; 3) use the language of blessing. SLIDE Take these Old Testament lessons and make an impact in the world.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?