Posted on Fri, Mar 25, 2011
Rev. Jim Merriitt Sermon Lent 2A
A Season of Overcoming Doubt
Rev. Jim Merritt
March 20, 2011
Before I begin today’s sermon, I want to say a heartfelt word of thanks to all of you who participated in our Making Our Dreams Come True Day yesterday. We did a lot of good work together and we will use that as a guideline for much of our ongoing work together. We really appreciate your contribution of a day to focus on God’s calling for us together. Thank you very much.
We are a multicultural community of faith here, so I hope you are also aware that this is the time of Purim for our Jewish sisters and brothers. Purim started last night at Sundown. Purim is the most festive of Jewish holidays, a time of prizes, noisemakers, costumes and treats. The Festival of Purim commemorates a major victory over oppression and is recounted in the Megillah, the scroll of the story of Esther. Purim takes place on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, the twelfth month of the Jewish calendar, March 19, 2011. So, happy Purim, and in honor of our Jewish sisters and brothers and our own Jewish ancestors, let’s make today a day of celebration with noisemakers and all!
Today’s gospel contained what I believe is one of the two best known verses in the New Testament. The first one must be, “Jesus wept,” from John 11: 35. The second, found near the end of our Gospel for today is John 3: 16. I know most of you have it memorized and for some this could be the first time you’ve heard it. Although we know many different versions, let’s try saying it together. Ready?
For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Excellent! We did it!
Today’s message is called “A Season of Overcoming Doubt,” and I want to say one thing right up front. As we get to know the promises of God, our tendency to doubt will diminish. Furthermore, as we get to know the history of God with the people of God, our tendency to doubt will all but disappear. Moreover, as we get to know God through our own personal and ongoing relationships with God, our tendency to doubt will be replaced with the confidence of knowing that God is God and that God can be trusted because God has never and will never let the people of God down and God is not going to let us down either! Amen!
Consider these facts. First, God is ever with us, always near, always traveling with us on our journey. God is with us in this sanctuary this morning. God will be with us when we go home later today. Furthermore, there is no place that we can ever travel in the entire universe that God will not already be. God is always with us. Second, we are blessed by God. Even if we find ourselves among the poorest of the poor in this community we are still blessed by God. If we woke up in a warm bed this morning with a roof over our heads and a little coffee to drink or breakfast to eat and we got to church and sit here in this lovely building, we are amongst God’s chosen and blessed people. Third, other people are blessed by our presence. When we show up in community here together, others are blessed by the fact that we are here. When we show up as the people of God out in public, others are blessed by our presence. When we reach out with a loving embrace to people who suffer, others are blessed by our presence. We are blessed and we are a blessing to others. That is one of those both/and situations which we can celebrate together; the experience of being blessed and the experience of being a blessing to others. I love that! Fourth, being born from above means that we are both physical and spiritual beings. We do not need to, nor are we able to separate out bodies from our spirits. We are knit together as a united fabric and we are knit together by God. We do not embrace the kind of thinking that says our bodies are dirty or that our bodies are evil. We celebrate what God does as body and spirit are knit together with many capabilities and many purposes, all designed and approved by God. I love what Troy Perry said many years ago when he was speaking at a rally, “I’m afraid my body is my own and you don’t get to decide what I do with it.” God makes us both body and spirit, inseparable, all beautiful and lovely in God’s sight. Hallelujah, I love that about God! If you have any doubt about all of that, give it up. Let it go and celebrate with me, celebrate with our Jewish sisters and brothers, use noisemakers and dance. God made us the way we are and we do not have to doubt that. This is a season of overcoming doubt, in the name of Jesus!
Jesus went to a wedding feast. He took potentially dirty water and turned it into wine. Think about that with me for just a minute. If you have any doubt about what Jesus can do, consider this. Jesus took water which was not known to ferment and turned it into the best wine. My sisters and brothers, many times the world has considered us dirty too. They’ve told us over and over how bad we are and how unworthy and how we’d never amount to anything. Jesus looks at them and makes fools out of them. Jesus takes God’s creation, once considered dirty and lifts it up and gives it purposes and makes it shine like morning light. Jesus says these are my beloved children and there’s nothing dirty about then, there’s nothing impure about them, there’s noting that needs to be fixed about them, they are precious in my sight, and Jesus erases any doubt in our minds about that. Jesus lifts us up and makes our light shine in the night time. Jesus carries us on our way when times get tough and he carries us and keeps our feet on solid ground. I want to proclaim to all of us this morning that this is a season of overcoming doubt. This is a season to embrace our true identity as children of God. This is a moment to stand on God’s promises that Jesus never fails and that God did not make a mistake when God made us. A season of overcoming; a season of erasing old tapes; a season of living into the identity and the calling that God has placed on all of our lives. Can I get a witness?
For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have eternal life. LISTEN NOW: For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, might be saved.
Mona West and I were on the MCC Lectionary Discussion call this week. She reminded us how the Baptist church teaches, “You must be born again.” I said, “I don’t need to be born again; my mother did it right the first time!” We all laughed and then I remembered times when I got a fresh start. The day I left the Baptist seminary was a fresh start. The day I met Troy Perry was a fresh start. The day I met Nancy Wilson was a fresh start. The day I met Al Leach was certainly a fresh start. My brothers and sisters, that’s what living with Jesus is all about; a fresh start. A season of overcoming doubt so that all of us can experience a fresh start: that’s what we’re looking for. At the end of our call, Mona began repeating the phrase, “You must be born again, you must be born again…” Maybe she was onto something.
A season of overcoming doubt so that we can be all that God is calling us to be, in Jesus name. AMEN.