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I LOVE God, I have been married for 5 years to a wonderful woman, I am a recent college graduate of Lakeland college with a degree in Religious Studies,I have currently foregone going to Seminary, but feel called to work with teens and young adults and do so at my local church, Vineyard CC, in Grafton, WI.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

8/14/11 Sermon

This weekend I get to preach on a text from Genesis about Joseph. I thought I would be cool to post it here on the blog since it not only references the blog, but makes a pop-culture reference as well. I also thought I would add the prayers I wrote for the service. Let me know what you think.

Prayer of invocation:
Creator God, please come into this space and prepare our hearts and minds for your word. Open our minds up for the clarity of your call on our lives and forgive our stubbornness when we do not follow those things which we already know. Open our hearts to the possibilities your love may be calling us to and forgive us when we choose to ignore your love. Thank you for your wisdom to know and your love to share. In your holy name we invite you into this space, Amen.

Recently, I have started a blog. The main focus of the blog is to illustrate how God can speak to us through the most unlikely of mediums, looking mainly at “secular” media, such as songs, tv shows, and movies. It is an interesting experiment and one I have a lot of fun doing.

While I was thinking about this message I toyed with the idea to do a skit as an introduction. I had the vision of how it would go and made an attempt to get there. All I can say is that my rough draft was, well, rough. Trying to come up with a way to correct my failed attempt and make it more understandable I realized that the research I do for my blog already discovered the skit written for me, better than I could ever write myself and from one of the best comedic minds of our times, Mel Brooks. You see, in his Sci-Fi spoof “Spaceballs,” Brooks writes a “who’s on first” type scene between one of the main bad guys Dark Helmet and his second in command Col. Sanders. In the scene the antagonists are trying to figure out how to track down and capture the good guys after they had just escaped. In order to find out where they were Col. Sanders tells Dark Helmet about instant cassettes, movies that are out before the taping is over. With this tape they could have fast forwarded to see how their journey was going to end, instead they forwarded through those parts of their journey that had already happened till they reached the location of their prey. Along the way they stop at a point in the video that was currently taping, everything they saw happening was happening. Confused, Dark Helmet asks for clarification on when that scene was happening, only focused on his future he could not understand the present. Confounded about when the past had happened and when they were going to know the future one of the funniest interactions of the movie takes place, Helmet becomes so confused during the interaction that even after our heroes’ location is discovered he has forgotten who has been located in the video. Once the location is found and Helmet’s confusion subsides they set off, with a destination in mind, on a basically unwritten journey. Although Helmet ended up confused from the instant cassette, it did offer him a lens to not only evaluate what had already happened in his journey, but to evaluate how to get to his envisioned end result.

In our Bible reading for today Joseph had his own lens that he interpreted his experiences through. That lens was his knowledge that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and his father Jacob loved him. Joseph had a lot of experiences that he had to interpret through this lens. Firstly, he grew up having visions and dreams that acted like instant cassettes telling him of future events, learning how to interpret these dreams resulted in interpretations that did not always sit well with his 11 older brothers, or others who asked him to interpret their dreams. His ability and how he shared it with others got him in trouble, despite any setbacks that he experienced he maintained his morality and continued doing what was right as a result of his life lens, remembering his vision from God that he would one day be in a position of power over all of his family.

Nothing that happened to Joseph was any worse than being sold into slavery, something that was perpetrated by his brothers none the less, as a result of the interpretation of his dreams! This being the first setback along his journey, Joseph made the best of a bad situation, using his talents he moved up in the ranks of the slaves to a position of power, managing the other slaves for a middle ranking official in Pharaoh’s court. He was then cut down again when he rebuked the advances of said official’s wife, who then framed him for attempted rape. While in prison his skills of interpretation gained him notoriety and despite the accusation of lying and attempted rape, he was still seen as a man of high character. Such a reputation gained him an audience with the Pharaoh which lead to his release from prison and the rise of power which allowed him the opportunity to provide for his family, bringing us to the reunion that our Bible reading for today takes place.

For every bad thing that happened to him, Joseph could have gotten mad and blamed God. He could have taken his gifts and wasted them, used them for evil, or just given up living his life. Consequently, if Joseph ever felt these things we are not privy to them because in the end Joseph looked at his life through that lens I mentioned above, that his God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, his father loved him. As a result every human choice that was made made sense to him. He saw where he was and remembered his vision and concluded that the path that he took to get there was the path ordained by God. He was now in a position to celebrate with his family and provide for them, like no other could.

Ah, to have such clarity! To have such clarity of purpose, to know where God wants you to go, yet how frustrating!

See like Joseph we are forced to deal with the decisions of others and in that same vein we are forced to deal with the results of our own decisions. Romans 8:28 states “We know all things work for good for those who love God, who are called to God’s purpose.” In times of strife, when we are sold into slavery or turned on by someone we thought was a friend, or when we see something that doesn’t immediately speak to us from God, we might be asking ourselves how this is going to work out for good. We might ask why God would ordain such a horrible thing to happen. The present becomes very confusing and frustrating, possibly causing us to forget our goals or even the reason we set off on a particular journey in the first place. I don’t believe that is our bible readings for today or even Romans 8: 28 is trying to say that God forces an easy road or a road that makes sense while we are traveling along it. I believe that these verses tell us two things 1) God continues to work for good for us, despite the results of our decisions or those of others, God is an expert at turning Junk into art. And 2) If we look back through our lens of God’s love after we have reached a point of an envisioned future, it is easy to see how God worked, even through the worst things in our lives. Is it a perfect system? NO! When humanity is involved nothing is perfect, but God’s love is always trying to reconcile us back to God’s perfection. This is a purpose of the resurrection, to reconcile us back to God by walking alongside us and helping us through the muck in our lives.

We all have moments in our life where we have experienced setbacks in achieving some end goal! I know that I am currently trying to find the purpose of one such setback in my life. MY goal was to go to seminary this fall, but because my wife and I did not have the money to move we have had to postpone. This setback has compounded the complexity of the discernment process. Trying to discern the purpose of a failed goal isn’t easy, however like Joseph I have the lens of God’s love and I am maintaining the knowledge that God called me to become a minister. I have already had the opportunity to view my instant cassette through papers and essays I have had to write as part of the discernment process. Looking through my lens I have been able to see how God has carried me through some of the muck in my life towards the call of ministry, despite the wrong turns, like Joseph, looking through that lens it’s hard to call them wrong turns. For now, I need to continue living my life as positively as possible despite any current and future setbacks that happen along the way. Easier said than done, but then again, when some author wants to write my story I certainly hope that they write it the same way that I view it now, through the positive lens of God’s love which reconciles the muck.

Let us pray
YHWH, in this time of prayer we may have asked for clarity on a situation, we may have asked for help for a friend struggling in their life, we may have thanked you for a recent breakthrough in our lives. I want to thank you for hearing our prayers. I want to thank you for your mercy and I would like to thank you for your wisdom, for when we cannot find words you taught us a prayer to call out to you.

Prayer of thanks giving:
God of Abraham, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to walk with us through this life. Thank you for falling when we fall and lifting us up after. Life isn’t easy, it wasn’t for Joseph, it wasn’t Jesus, and it isn’t for us, but your love is steadfast and works to make things good. Be patient with us when we are down and do not lay our burdens on you. Remind us that you are greater and stronger and are with us always. In your hands we lay our burdens down, in your love we rejoice that you have walked with us through our lives, and in Jesus name we pray, Amen!

Peace and God's many blessings

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