“Vision Sunday”

September 8, 2019

 

2 Peter 1:3-4. 10-11

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires… 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

For those of you who don’t know it, I have been off all summer and attending another church.  That means that I haven’t preached for that time so I maybe be a little rusty here in the pulpit.  So, be gentle with me, please. 

 

Today, I want to talk about change.  Boy, I experienced change this summer.  Retirement--there’s a change I was learning about over the summer.  Wait a minute, if I am retired, what am I doing here preaching?  On June 10, the day after I preached my last sermon, my first day of retirement, I woke up in the morning, sat in a chair for hours on end and stared, wondering what I was going to do with myself.  Talk about change!  The Preschool staff gave me a T shirt that said, “I’m a retired pastor.  Please see Jesus.”  Nancy got a T shirt that says, “My husband is retired.  Pray for me.”  There was change for me and change for Nancy over the summer.  And sometimes,  

 

  1.  Change is Tough 

 

  1.  Change is tough for individuals

 

There was change for Linda Brombacher, my secretary.  While I was gone, she got into a new pattern of work without me.  I heard she came in around 10:30, got some coffee, read the mail and left at 11.  She had a beach chair in the office some Barry Manilo on the radio and she just kicked back.  Now, I am back and her anxiety level just went out of the roof.  I will have an altered schedule, working 3 out of 4 weeks.  For me, that means that I will have to get in 4 weeks of telling Linda what to do in only 3 weeks.  Can you imagine how tough this change will be for her?  I’m looking forward to it, myself.

 

Change is tough.  Bring a new baby home from the hospital and you will learn about change.  That little rascal is going to change the entire family dynamic starting with what it is like to function without any sleep.  Change is tough.  The kids went off to school this week.  There was a change in the spring when they ended school—what was it like to have the kids around all summer?—and there was a change as they got on the bus a couple of days ago.  After the kids left, mostly that change was about mom or dad plopping down in a chair saying, “So this is what’s it is like to drink a cup of coffee in peace.”  It was a pretty big change for the kiddoes, too, some walking into a brand new school or a new classroom, trying to figure out their place.  Change is tough.  Get a new job and you know about change.  Understanding the new company culture, meeting new people, figuring out the expectations of your boss, all can be challenging, to say the least.  Change is tough.  Move mom into a retirement facility and you know about change, for mom and for you.  Change is tough and we haven’t even mentioned the biggest change of all, the change of losing a loved one who of changing residences from this life to the life to come.  We go through all kinds of changes in life and sometimes, change is tough. 

 

  1. Change is tough for congregations, too. 

 

As a church, we are going through just a slight bit of change.  We are transitioning from 24 years of Deknatel to—over the summer—the staff and council taking on some of the ministry roles, and then to contemplating what congregational life will be like with a new pastor.  I tell the story about one church where a pastor came to that church right out of seminary, spent 40 years there only to be succeeded by his son who also spent his entire ministry at that church, another 40 years.  When the son retired, the bishop was asked by a church member, “Whatever shall we do after 80 years of ministry by the same family?”  The bishop said, “After all that time, here’s what you should do; open up the windows and let the stink out.”  So, maybe Risen Christ will have to open up the windows and let 24 years of Deknatel stink out.  No matter what, this congregation is going through change and change can be tough.  Our church leaders are figuring out what it is like to take a major part of the ministry on themselves and, I dare say, that has been causing some angst.  Wondering what the next pastor will be like, how he will do things differently from me, that can create anxiety.  Wondering what the future holds can bring fear and trepidation.  It can, as my mother would say, shake up your mother’s preserves.  Change is tough for individuals and change is tough for congregations.  So, how do we get at that?  How do we as individuals and as a church, how do we deal with the anxiety that change creates?            

 

At the council planning retreat in the Spring, it was decided that what is needed for Risen Christ in this coming year of change —and what is needed for individuals going through change, for that matter—can be summarized in three words; reassurance, hope, and communication.  So, today on this Vision Sunday I want to talk about how we might get at those three things.  I am going to distill it down to one word;  

 

  1.  What is needed is hope

 

That is a lot of what the vision for this church for this year is all about.  It is about conveying hope during a time of change.  So, to get the year started, for the next 12 weeks, we are going to have a church-wide campaign called “Unshakable Hope.”  This is based upon a book of the same title written by Max Lucado.  We will talk about this as a sermon series.  We will study it as one of our Bible studies on Sundays and within our Care Groups.  Our Sunday School and teens will be studying it.  We will be seeing how we, as individuals, and corporately as a church, can deal with the anxiety of change and center on “Unshakable Hope.”  So, if you need a little hope, if what you are going through right now is shaking up your mother’s preserves a bit, if you have felt a wee bit anxious about where we as a church are going listen up as we explore “Unshakable Hope.”  So,

 

  1.  What is Hope?

 

  1.  Hope is not wishful thinking

 

It is way more than hoping that something may or may not happen.  “I hope I do well in school.”  “I hope I make it safely through surgery.”  “I hope it doesn’t rain so I can play golf.”  “I hope if I play golf that I won’t hit my drive into the woods like I usually do.”  These things are wishful thinking.  Some of these you can actually influence.  Wonder of wonders, you could study for the test at school and you can practice your tee shots.  (I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter a whole lot how much I practice, I still hit my drive into the woods.)  Christian hope is not wishful thinking.

 

  1.  Christian hope is a sure thing

 

It is a done deal. 

 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…”  1 Peter 1:3

 

Did you hear that?  This Christian hope is a living hope.  It is a here and now hope.  It is an active, apply it to any circumstance you are going through type of hope.  It is a hope that lives on.  It is a hope of great expectations.  It is a hope of a sure thing.  Dr. R. C. Sproul said; “(Christian) hope is not taking a deep breath and hoping things are going to turn out all right.  It is the assurance that God is going to do what He says He will do.”  Christian hope is a sure thing.  It is not wishful thinking and here is why;

 

  1. Christian hope is based on the promises of God

 

Here was the Apostle Paul.  He was sitting in prison waiting to be seen by King Agrippa.  This is in 26th chapter of the book of Acts.  King Agrippa came from the Herod family.  His great-grandfather killed the innocent children of Bethlehem in an attempt to exterminate the Baby Jesus.  His grand-uncle murdered John the Baptist, and his father, Agrippa I, executed James and imprisoned Peter.  King Agrippa was not exactly a friend of Christians and Paul had to stand before him defending himself.  How did Paul do it?  What could he rely on to see him through?  Paul didn’t argue based upon his accomplishments.  He didn’t demand preferential treatment.  He didn’t try to justify his actions or drop names, “Hey, did you hear that I am friends with such and such?”  Listen to what Paul based his defense on;

 

“And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today.”  Acts 26:6 

 

Did you get that?  Paul didn’t name drop except for the one name that made all the difference, the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus.  Paul’s hope was in the promises of God.  You see,   

 

  1. God is a promise maker

 

The heroes of the Bible all built their lives on the promises of God.  Noah believed and built a huge boat in the middle of the desert because of the promises of God.  Abraham left a home he had made, journeyed 1000 miles to a land had never seen based on the promises of God.  Joseph, once a dignitary, now a criminal for nothing he had done, held fast based on the promises of God.  Moses led the people of Israel for 40 years through the desert based on the promises of God.  Joshua led a couple million people into the Promised Land to force out some big, bad and ugly Canaanites based on the promises of God.  These heroes of the Bible had hope, an unshakable hope, based on the promises of God.  God is a promise maker.  Someone did a study of the Bible and found no less than 7,487 promises God made in the Bible.  7,487!  That’s a lot of promises!  God is a promise maker and

 

  1. God is a promise keeper

 

Max Lucado reminds us that God is unchanging.  He sees the end from the beginning.  He’s never caught off guard by the unexpected.  He is faithful.  He can be trusted to keep His promises.  He is strong.  He does not over promise or under deliver.  He cannot lie.  In his whimsical style, Max Lucado said; “A hippo can’t fly.  A butterfly cannot eat a bowl of spaghetti.  You cannot sleep on a cloud and God cannot lie.  God doesn’t break His promises.  Not one!  Ever!” [1] Listen to how Peter describes this hope in our Scripture for today;

 

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  2 Peter 1:4   

 

These promises are not just great, they are very great.  They aren’t just valuable, they are precious.  Peter even goes so far as to say that through these great and precious promises, we participate in the divine nature of God.  When we see first-hand that God’s promises are sure, that we rest in that kind of hope, that is something secular people do not have.  All they have is what they can control.  That is so very limiting.  What we have is something beyond human capabilities, beyond human understanding.  We have an inheritance “that will never be touched by death, stained by evil, or faded with time; it is death-proof, sin-proof, and age proof.  This inheritance is also fail-proof because God guards and preserves it in heaven for us.  It is wholly secure.  Absolutely nothing can undermine the certainty of our future inheritance.” [2]

 

  1.  One of the 7,487

 

Here, let me center on just one of the 7,487 promises of God.  You know this.  Read it with me or recite it from memory.

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

 

That God loved the world in such an incredible way is a promise in and of itself.  Again and again and again throughout Scripture, in Old Testament and in New, God makes that love, that grace, that mercy, clear.  God so loved this world.  He so loved all the people in the world that He did the unthinkable, the inconceivable.  He sent His Son, Jesus to die on the cross for us.  Our sin became His sin.  Hell was born for us, in our place.  All of that was a promise from the Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Jesus died for us so that—take in this promise—so that everyone who believes in Him, everyone who looks on the cross and knows that God’s promise of redemption is sure, everyone who believes in Jesus, will not perish, they will not suffer eternity in hell, but they will have eternal life.  That’s God’s promise and He gives that promise again and again and again in this book.  This promise is about eternity.  It nis centered in grace, in the cross.  It is found in Jesus.  It is about hope, unshakable hope.  Charles Spurgeon said it well, “Without Christ there is no hope.”  And if God can make and keep that audacious claim, if He can make and keep a promise for eternity,  

 

  1.  God can make and keep any and every promise to you 

 

“I’m feeling fearful today: The book of Judges tells us, “The Lord is with you.”  (Judges 6:12.)  The world feels out of control.  Romans 8:28 says, “All things work for good.”  I’ve got problems out the whazoo.  There is some really bad stuff that could happen in my life any moment.  Jesus tells you, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!”  (John 16:33.) [3]  God is that promise maker.  He is that promise keeper and banking on His promises gives you—say it with me—it gives you hope.

 

So, who needs a little hope today?  Do you?  Not a wishful thinking kind of hope.  Not a click your heels and you hope you get back to Kansas hope.  Not a hope based on your own efforts.  No, I am talking about that audacious, beyond human comprehension or imagination, knock your socks off hope that only God can give.  You heard about God’s promises.  You’ve heard be talk about the heroes of faith and how they banked on God’s promises.  You’ve heard about the greatest promise gives, the promise of eternal life.  That’s Scriptural evidence of hope.  Now, let me ask you,   

 

  1.  How have you seen God’s promises fulfilled in your life? 

 

How has He given you hope?  Maybe it was years and years of trying to have a child and lo and behold, God comes through.  Maybe He comes through in a different way, teaching you to look to Him for fulfillment even if you don’t have a baby.  How has God given you hope?  Maybe it is that you can go into school or go into that job with the sure promise that God is with you every step of the way.  How has God given you hope?  Maybe it was a life built on doing stuff, good works, to get God to love you and God comes to you and teaches you about the promise of grace, that heaven is a gift and has nothing to do with your efforts.  How has God given you hope?  Can you go back in your life and see one way that God kept His promise to you?  Start with one time and then expand on that.  Tick off all of those times that God kept His promise and know that He will indeed keep His promise in the future.  Talk about walking through life with confidence.  Talk about walking through life with—say it with me--hope.  And,

 

  1.  Do you know anyone else that needs a little hope? 

 

We live in a day of despair.  Since 1999, the suicide rate has increased 24%.  We have technology beyond anything our parents ever dreamed of, we are more educated, saturated with entertainment and recreation and yet people are dying without hope.  Secularism sucks the hope out of society!  Many people think this world is as good as it gets.  It is not.  And we can tell them.  When a friend has a problem, we can witness to God’s promises.  When they struggle, we can flip through Scripture and give them hope.  When people need comfort, when they are dealing with the death of a loved one, we can point them to the One who is the resurrection and the life.  It is a promise.  It is hope.  Take this word in from Pastor Andy Stanley.  He says; “Jesus is the hope of the world and the local church is the vehicle of expressing that hope to the world.”  Look to the person next to you and tell them, “I is the church.”  Here’s one more to say, this time grammatically correct, “I bring God’s hope to the world.”  There is hope for you, hope for your friends and there is

 

  1.  Hope for Risen Christ

 

I have reminded you of this before.  Twenty-four years ago, this congregation had dwindled to just a couple of handfuls of people.  This congregation could have died.  However, there was a group of people who had—come on, they had--hope and kept this congregation alive.  Let me say that more correctly.  God worked through these handfuls of people to do the work of the church and it grew.  God had a plan back then for Risen Christ.  Those people built this church on God’s promises.  Then, this congregation took a giant leap of faith and constructed this building.  It wasn’t all easy.  But God’s promises are sure and this congregation has prospered.  Over the summer while I was gone, God worked through His people.  Deacon Al stepped up.  So did our president Michelle DeRue.  The council and the staff took on the work.  The ministries continued.  People were cared for.  The church kept going.  And, it will keep going.  Scripture says that God’s Word will not return void but will prosper.  God’s got a plan for Risen Christ.  It is a wonderful plan.  God will continue the work of Risen Christ through good people, faith-filled people, hope-full people.  The Call Committee has a November 1 date to have the Congregational Self-Study Completed.  That is Step 1 of the Call Process.  Next they will prayerfully consider the qualifications of the pastors the president of our district will send us and then the congregation, with prayer and assurance of God’s promises, will extend a call to a candidate.  We have said this before; God has already chosen the next pastor of Risen Christ.  Then, we will celebrate with great joy not only that we have a new pastor but that God, again, has kept His promises.

 

Until then, we live in hope.  Not wishful thinking hope.  Not, click your heels hope.  But, this is a sure thing.  So, for the next 12 weeks, we will be studying this hope, this “Unshakable Hope.”  We will talk about various aspects of this hope and how it applies to individuals and how it applies to our church family.  I invite you to be a part of that.  Come to church.  Consider the sermons.  Pick up a copy of the book.  Where you can order the book is found in your worship folder.  Come to Bible Study.  Get in a small group, a Care Group.  See me if you are interested.  Talk about it with your teens and with your children.  There are some discussion questions on the bottom of your outline.  Pray for our church.  Pray for yourself.  In the midst of all the changes of life, in the midst of all the changes here at Risen Christ, pray that all of us, individuals and the church as a whole, pray that we all can have, “Unshakable Hope.”

 

In Jesus’ name.

Amen.    

 

 

 

    

 

[1] “Unshakable Hope” by Max Lucado, pg. 7.

[2] Fron the web site; “God questions?”

[3] Ibid.