Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Demonstration of Power

26th Sunday after Pentecost
on Luke 21:5-19, Isaiah 12, and Isaiah 65:17-25
Ten days ago Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the east coast of the Philippines. Perhaps the strongest tropical storm to make landfall in recorded history, 10-min sustained winds of 145mph, 1-min sustained winds of 195mph (3.25 miles/min... half a mile in ten sec).
Perhaps the second deadliest for Philippines,
with 3,600 dead (over 5K in Thelma, 1991).
It's hard to conceive what 195mph is. NASCAR cars race in the neighborhood of 215mph, maybe capable of 250, 260. Wind record is 253mph (maybe 318, according to one internet search). Japanese Maglev train 367mph (1mi in 10s). Land speed record about 400 for wheel-driven vehicle. Commercial planes travel about 500mph. Sound barrier 768mph, broken by Chuck Yeager in October 1947. He more than doubled that speed 5 years later. 20 years later Pete Knight set the manned plane record now a stunning 4,519mph (more than Mach6).
Powerful stuff people have done but back to Typhoon Haiyan's sustained winds of 195mph, not man-made, just happened by heat and pressure.
The Great Red Spot on Jupiter has winds of 2-3 times that, 430mph, and 620mph gusts. Three times size of earth, storm has been storming for over 400 years (since telescope invention).
Amazing demonstrations of power, don't hold a candle to the power of God, who commands winds and seas and indeed created the earth and the planets and the forces within. But that's not where I'm going with a demonstration of power.

Jesus and the Temple (the Second Temple) in Luke 21, you think this is impressive? Not only “you ain't seen nothin” but this is dust and will return to dust. There's only one thing you can see here that you can put your faith in and that's me. This Temple has been destroyed before and it will be destroyed again. It may be the place where God is most closely identified but it is not God.
Jesus talks about the end of life as they know it and includes a gem in verse 13: “This will provide you with an opportunity to testify.”
You won't have control over what happens to this city, this world, what happens to you, but you can forever testify to the power of God and your trust in him. The one that made the earth, the planets, the sea monsters and storms, there is no power can out-power God.
And even that's not exactly where I'm going with the power of God.

We read in Isaiah 65 God saying I'm creating new heaven and new earth, the former things won't even come to mind. You like this Temple? It's a shack compared to what I've got coming. What you see now is a shadow of what is to come.
We read in Isaiah 65 God saying No longer will babies live only a few days, No longer will you hear the sound of weeping or crying, No longer will you be hungry or oppressed. No longer will any of the things that cause you sorrow or grief come to mind any more. I am making things new.

Sorrow or grief. This is so much of the world we live in, so much of what we see, and when that's what we look at, it can get us down. I have a friend who is taking a medication that causes deep depression for a day or so. What gets him through is knowing it's temporary, knowing it's not real. Gives him appreciation for folks who suffer with the real stuff. Testify that God's power is greater than powers of depression or addiction or darkness. (btw remember we have a mission statement “to share the love of God with people in a hurting world”).

I attended a clergy gathering on Friday at WV Wesleyan in Buckhannon, got to be introduced as the new guy, got to meet Pastor Judy and Pastor Mark. Pastor Mike Estep spoke about ministry in exile – when things are not going your way, when you're not at home, you're not comfortable. Drawing on the story of Daniel Pastor Mike gave us three points: God is still sovereign, pray without ceasing, and don't be a lone ranger. That is, don't make the mistake of giving troubles more power than God, don't forget to prepare yourself and to appeal to God in prayer, and do reach out to brothers and sisters in Christ along the journey.
We heard a word from Pastor Barry Ball, husband of Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball. Barry spoke from Psalm 137 (which I shared my first Sunday here, how can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?) and shared with us that we have three choices for responding to exile: blame God, complain, or sing a new song. While holding fast to God remember that God did not abandon the people to exile but was there among them, and that God desires that we worship God in spite of circumstances. THAT is a powerful demonstration, when in spite of horrific circumstances, people choose to worship God. We saw it after the World Trade Center buildings fell – people went to church to connect with God. We see it after tragedies and disasters, people reach out to connect with God. We see it in response to typhoons – people give money and resources and time for relief efforts, they give for people they've never met and will never meet, people of different language and culture and skin color and belief, people reach out and give, THAT is a powerful demonstration.
One final thing from that clergy gathering, in our worship we sang a classic Charles Wesley hymn “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” 363. We sang it slow. A little too slow for my liking, but instead of stewing about it I chose to soak in the words. Where I saw another demonstration of the power of God: God's power to free us from our sin... my chains fell off and I was free (repeat). That's power.

Pray for freedom, courage to testify, thanks for salvation
(we pray to the Lord, Christ our faith is in you)
The temple we have faith in is Christ

Hymn 559 Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation

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