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4-22-12 sermon Let Our Blessings Flow

Deuteronomy 28:1-14

Pastor Jim Beckwith, Annville Church of the Brethren, Annville, PA

Wonderful Blessings are promised they will flow from the Lord God Almighty to all who obey and carefully follow Gods commands for all who do not turn aside from any of the commands to the right or to the left, for all who do not follow other gods or serve them. All who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways shall be blessed, our call to worship scripture from Psalm 128 declared. The Malachi 3:10 verse cited in our Invitation to Give Tithes and Offerings today focuses on the command of the Lord to be a whole tithe 10% of all we earn Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, and discover how the Lord Almighty will throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it all. Showers of Blessing! Wonderful blessings flowing from God to Gods faithful people. I cannot believe I planned this service with the theme that the Stewardship Team recommended: Let Our Blessings Flow without including the Doxology, which uses that very phrase: Blessings Flow Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow. Lets stand and sing that Doxology that Praise to God right now: Sing: Praise God from whom all blessings flow Praise him, all creatures here below Praise him above, ye heavenly host Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen There now we have expressed our faith that all blessings flow from God. God is the Source of every blessing. And we praise God for blessing us with life and health and daily food, for the breath of life, for the grandeur of creation, for the blessings of forgiveness and new life and life everlasting, and whatever other blessings you might name. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Yesterday at the Renovar Conference that Ray & Mary Flagg and Donna Lefever Hoover and I attended, Richard Foster and Chris Webb talked about various kinds of spiritual formation that help us open ourselves to receive and pass along the wonderful blessings of Gods grace. Such spiritual formation includes: seeking a Prayer-Filled Life, a Virtuous Life, a Spirit-Empowered Life, a Compassionate Life, a Word-Centered Life, and a Sacramental Life seeking by Gods grace to discover Gods presence, to intentionally pursue life in Christ with all that is in us. There is much

2 we can work at! And yet, no matter how much as we work at spiritual formation, any blessings that come, come only from God. Richard Foster cited a verse we often quote from Jesus Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:16), Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give praise to your Father in heaven. Why to God? Why not give praise to you for your good works? It is because God is the one from whom life and energy, skills and spirit all come. God is the one from whom all blessings flow. And God wants our lives to be filled with blessings, so that we are able to let the blessings flow on from us to bless the world around us even to bless those who seem unable to bless anyone. At yesterdays Renovar Conference, Richard Foster told about a middle-aged man who came to church one Sunday to the little church where Foster was preaching about prayer. The man wanted to speak further with Foster, and Foster looked forward to visiting with the man. As a Quaker pastor, he had a system to recommend that he felt sure would really help the man would save him. But when he arrived at the mans home, he couldnt get a word in edge-wise. The man talked about his depression, how he had not slept well for 26 years, how afraid of crowds he had become and had not been in a church for 26 years. It all stemmed back to his war experience in Italy, where he had prayed with desperation that God would rescue him and his group of soldiers. But they had not been rescued; he had sent his men out two at a time only to watch them get mowed down. Only six of his men escaped with him in the end, and four of them were terribly wounded. He was angry at God and full of guilt he had carried over all of those 26 years. Foster knew of nothing to do but to pray for the man. He laid a hand on his shoulder and offered a simple, childlike prayer: Jesus, would you go with my friend back to that terrible day 26 years ago and walk with my friend through all that happened that day. Draw out his sorrow, fear, and anger. Please heal my friend, and let the evidence of your healing be that my friend may sleep all night long. The next Sunday, the man came to church again, walking on air he gave Foster a huge hug and exclaimed: I have slept every night since we prayed! The man was transformed! And Foster thought to himself: But I didnt give him my system yet! all that good stuff Foster had worked out over the years his system for making things right with God. But the man had been healed without his system. The blessings of God were flowing. The blessings had not come as a result of skilled human intervention it was the grace of God at work, as the man opened his heart and his soul to the Lord after 26 long years of having been shut down. So I want us to think carefully about todays scripture from Deuteronomy 28, and keep it in context with the rest of scripture. Our chapter today clearly states that blessings come as a result of our

3 choices. If we fully obey the Lord and carefully follow all his commands, the Lord will bless us in the city or in the country. Our children (the fruit of your womb) will be blessed. Our crops and livestock and our trough for kneading dough to make bread will be blessed. There will be plenty to eat. There will be protection from enemies. Anything we put our hands to will be blessed we will be prosperous. We will be the head, not the tail, always at the top, never at the bottom (vs. 13), if we carefully follow the commands of the Lord. The last half of Deuteronomy 28 declares that the reverse is also true if we do not obey the Lord and do not carefully follow all of Gods commands and decrees, then we will be cursed in the city and in the country, the fruit of our wombs, our crops, our flocks. Our actions will determine our fate Deuteronomy 28 declares. And we know this can be true. We have often experienced blessings from good decisions we have made that were in keeping with how God wants us to live, right? And we have experienced bad consequences as a result of not living the way God wants us to live. It does happen. On this Earth Day, we are reminded to pay attention to how God wants us to care for Gods Creation that we may be good stewards of the earth, the air, the waters, the livestock, and all the resources of this world. We are responsible for how we let Gods blessings flow from this century to the next. One of our items of business at Annual Conference this summer will consider how we can respond to global warming and other ecological concerns how we can be in sync with Gods desire to bless this Creation for generations to come. We want to bring about as many blessings as possible by doing good. This belief that those who do good will be blessed, while those who do evil will be cursed is called the Deuteronomic formula by biblical scholars. It is the guideline set by the book of Deuteronomy to teach us and our children to be sure to do good, so that we bring blessings to ourselves and to others. It is an important formula. And yet, there are plenty of times when the Deuteronomic formula doesnt seem to work. There are plenty of times when people who are doing good get bad results, when people suffer despite doing the best good they are able to do. And people become frustrated and wonder why blessings dont flow the way we want. Lets consider this in the context of the rest of scripture. A number of Psalms lament that evil people seem to get the good things in life, while those who are faithful to the Lord have a really tough time. Read the story of Job and youll discover the demonic twist of Satans belief that if bad

4 things happen to people, they will turn away from God. Jobs friends pick at him, trying to get him to remember what he might have done to deserve such terrible distress the death of his children, the destruction of his flocks and crops, and painful sores on his body. No! thunders Job. He did not do anything to deserve all of this suffering. Job struggles to understand why the Lord let these things happen. But in all of his frustrations, he does not curse God. And eventually, Gods blessings flow once again. I thought about the tremendous struggle many people face to try to keep faith and hope alive, as I read this week about the spike in suicides being attributed to the economies downspirals occurring in Europe. Perhaps some of those people brought on their own doom, but many others suffer without having done any wrong. Are there really so many who have no one besides themselves to depend upon? How would you face such a time of undeserved suffering? The heart story of the scripture is that God accompanies his people as they move through the disaster of having their good deeds repaid with rejection, scorn, and slaughter. It is the story of the Exodus, as God saves his people from cruel Egyptian slavery. It is the story of salvation through the mystery of the cross. Gods blessings cannot be snuffed out by evil. Gods power to bring blessing is stronger than all the powers of antagonism, cruelty, and death. When the Deuteronomic formula is not working when our doing good does not bring blessings to us, Moses and Jesus teach us to still trust God, to pray that God will still work for good someplace along the way, and that our best response is to continue to love him and to obey the promptings of his Holy Spirit upon our hearts (Romans 8:28). What amazing, beyond-our-control blessings then emerge the blessings of being able to live again after we had begun to wonder if we could. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Both the hard-earned blessings that we manage to bring about by our good efforts (the Deuteronomic formula of todays scripture passage) and the gifts of grace that cannot be brought about by our own best efforts. Indeed, actually, no blessing is ever brought forth by our own ability. All we can do is place ourselves and our loved ones and our world into Gods care. How do we do that? By prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading, we can be alert to the presence of God. We can strive mightily against sin and deliberately choose to do deeds of love and mercy. We can do our best to learn to be like Jesus, to seek the kind of justice that the scriptures tell us God expects, and joyfully seek to show forth the presence of God in all that we are, in all that we do, in all that we say. Those are some of the ways that godly people have learned to place themselves and their world into Gods care. Thereby many have experienced an outpouring of

5 Gods blessings. They did not cause Gods blessings to flow; they simply placed themselves into the right spirit to allow God to cause his blessings to flow. I like the photo on the cover of todays bulletin. The tree is blessed with blossoms. At the Renovar Conference, Chris Webb reminded us that a tree cannot cause blossoms or fruits to grow on its branches. It does not one day decide it will bear fruit. All the tree can do is to plant itself where there will be water and nutrients from the soil, sunshine and moisture from the sky i.e., where it can receive blessings from God. And then God works the blessings in it and through it to blossom and to produce fruit. So it is with you and me. Even though we have more capacity than trees do for making deliberate choices (to smile, to forgive, to give something we have to someone who needs it), there are so many blessings we cannot bring on by our own power inexplicable serendipities of being in the right place at the right time by Gods grace to be able to bless others, or to bless someone suddenly placed near us to benefit from what we are learning or what we are doing, as God knew we needed to be together precisely for such a time as this. So continue to obey the Lord; carefully follow all of Gods commands. Even if the world is against you, let the Lord work in you and through you, to extract you from sin, to draw out and develop your giftedness, to make you more and more aware of Gods grace and goodness and lifetransforming self-sacrifice. Even if nothing good seems to come of it right away, stay close to God and let the Spirit of the Lord dwell more and more fully in you. In due time, Gods blessings will flow in you and through you. And Gods whole creation will be blessed as you let the blessings flow. Hymn There Shall Be Showers of Blessing