Sermons at New Disciples
All I Need Is Love!| Kevin Livengood
Names of God: El Roi| Pastor Stasia Fine
Names of God: El Roi
Before we read today’s Scripture I invite you to take a few notes on paper. If you could find a writing tool and some paper, perhaps the front of your bulletin. There should be a pen in the membership pad for anyone who needs one. Please share with those seated beside you.
We are going to make a list. Please leave room for four names.
First, write down the name of a group of people who are minorities.
Second, write down the name of a group of people who are treated harshly.
Third, write down the name of a person who may feel alone.
Fourth, write down your own name.
Let us pray: Prayer
Today we will be reading from Genesis 16, starting with verse 7.
Prior to this passage, Abram had received a promise from God that he would become father to a multitude, that they would be given a land to call their own, and God would bless the world through Abram’s offspring. Yet, ten years have passed since God made that very visual covenant with Abram and yet his wife, Sarai, still has not conceived.
Consequently, Sarai suggests to her husband the fertility practice of their day – taking the Egyptian woman, Hagar, who was Sarai’s slave and making her his concubine. Then the unfortunate happens, Hagar becomes pregnant, proving Abram’s seed good, and taunting Sarai’s barrenness. After the events of today’s story, another fourteen years will pass before Sarah becomes a biological mother.
There is some irony in this story, in that the nation who will later enslave Abraham and Sarah’s children are represented in the Egyptian Hagar, who is commanded to remain slave to their foremother, Sarah.
And it is an interesting tale, because in it God gives attention to the human attempt to fulfill a divine promise. Multiplying the promised blessing to not only touch the promised son, Isaac, but also the son of human decision, Ishmael.
Let’s read today’s passage from Scripture: Genesis 16:7-16
There are a lot of emotions in this story, and yet many of the emotions are left unnamed. We, the reader, are left to interpret how each character felt in this story of a blended family.
Today we are choosing to focus on Hagar over Sarai. A woman who is enslaved, abused, and far from home. She is alone, a runaway, seemingly forgotten. She has just lost the age-old power struggle between two women with Sarai showing dominance. Although Hagar had momentarily had the upper hand. Now she sits alone at a brook. She could be crying… or perhaps she is fuming with anger… or possibly a little of both. She has no where to go and no where to be. She is pregnant and without direction.
And God, through an angel appears and asks, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
She only has the answer to one of those questions, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.”
Isn’t that how running away works. We know what we are running away from, but we usually don’t know where we are going.Therefore, good career advice is to not quit your job until you have another one in place. Or as I was advised by a mentor years back, God doesn’t call you from a place, God calls you to a place. Or as the adage says, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going. ”In other words, when something becomes difficult, the strong become more fully engaged.
The story of women in Genesis is surprising, the women don’t seem to meet the picturesque expectations of the culture – they struggle to become mothers, they are taken advantage of by men, or widowed at far too young of age. Instead their identity rests, like that of the men, not in their culture, but in their relationship with God. Here in this story, we find a slave woman fulfilling her culture’s expectation and yet feeling a great sense of loss as a result. She runs away in search of hope and discovers a new identity in the God who sees her. Although at the end of this passage she returns to life as a slave, she returns as one who has a new identity. She is the one who has seen God and lived, or in Hagar’s own words, “Have I not gone on seeing after He saw me!”
It is the strength she finds in being known by God that allows her to return to her difficult circumstances. And it is that same strength that we all find that gives us the courage to go on in our day-to-day circumstances. The hope that God sees us and has not deserted us. God knows what is taking place in our lives, he has not left us alone. When the going gets tough, the humble and faithful turn to God for their strength.
God responds to Hagar, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her… I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”
The promise of offspring was made to Abram. Up to this point, no mention of Sarai is made in the promise, although the actions of God to protect her as they travel seem to imply her role. Nonetheless, it would make sense that they would question whether the promise would be fulfilled through Sarai or someone else.
That is, we can question this until we discover that again and again in the narrative of Genesis, this promise which is passed on from generation to generation, is fulfilled through the first wife of the one the promise is made to. Sarai’s child receives the full blessing, Hagar’s only part. Although the message is delivered through the husband, the wife has a role in its fulfillment. Whether that be in Rebekah favoring Jacob over Esau or Judah being the son of Leah. They are children of the promise.
The writer of Galatians tells us that Sarai and Hagar are an allegory. A message to future generations. There are two covenants, two promises from God. One is the law presented at Mt. Sinai. The second is the grace presented at Mt. Calvary. Both are fulfilled, but our preference is to be children of the second. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (Gal. 5:1)
But that doesn’t remove the blessing from Hagar. She still encounters the living God and hears the following words:
“Behold, you are with child And shall bear a son; You shall call him Ishmael, for the LORD has paid heed to your suffering. He shall be a wild ass of a man; His hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; he shall dwell alongside all his kinsmen.”
And so she names the place “Beer Lahai Roi” which means, “the well of the Living One who sees me.”
So, even though she doesn’t receive the full blessing, she is still blessed.
I think some of us feel that way at times, like we haven’t received God’s best.
When we read stories of people like Hagar we are reminded that even when it seems like God is playing favorites, it doesn’t mean we are being ignored – look for the blessings! God sees you!
This calendar year I am preaching a series that invites us to Come, and worship with Joy at the Table of God! For us to do this – to come and worship, it helps if we better understand the One who hosts the Table.
The one God who has many names. The name used by Hagar was “El-Roi, 'the God who sees me.'”
Look back at that list you created at the beginning of this sermon. You named people and persons for whom God sees. They and you are not invisible to God. They may be marginalized at times by the society in which we live, but their identity comes not from society’s definition of them or us, but by their and our relationship with God.
Who might God be calling you to invite to the Table? Who might God be calling you to invite to “Come and worship with joy?”
Could it be your children? Your friends? Your neighbors?
Or perhaps…. As we read the story of Hagar today, let us consider how her children might be invited to the table of God as well. How might we be called to offer hospitality to our Muslim neighbors? Or the runaway? Or the single parent in need?
We worship a God who sees – to whom is God looking today?
Note: Special appreciation is expressed for the “Women’s Bible Commentary (Expanded Edition),” published by Westminster John Knox Press and edited by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe
Names of God: Jehovah Jireh| Pastor Stasia Fine
Names of God: Jehovah Jireh
I woke up from a dream this morning. A dream in which I was walking on a very secular campus. I had just visited with a student who I had met in a rideshare. We had discussed how she was tired of having to be sensitive to everything and how she wondered if there could be more ways to live life than how she was currently living it. We had a rich conversation about faith and ways to interact with others from different perspectives with more tolerance. As I walked down the stairs from her dorm, I began wondering how to find the chaplain’s office.
Outside of the dorm, a woman, likely a staff member, noticed my lack of sense of directional awareness. “Can I help you find something?” she asked. She wore a light pink modest shirt. Her hair was about shoulder length, sandy-brown and curled under. She was average weight. Likely younger than me, possibly older. She was carrying books and using a walking aide.
“Yes. I’m trying to find the campus chaplain.”
She looked at me oddly and said, “Not sure why a university like this needs a religious representative. Perhaps we have someone in a similar function in our ‘white house.’”
From the way she said it, “white house,” sounded like a student center.
“I’m heading to a building near there,” she continued.
So, we walked together. We approached a space where she could decide to continue walking or take the elevator, which was in a cove with an opening to the outdoors. Two others were waiting. She mentioned that if the elevator arrived we would take it, otherwise we would continue walking.
As she hesitated near the elevator she added, “My father prays the rosary three times at the dinner table before we eat dinner.”
The elevator door opened, and we joined the others in stepping inside. “He makes me feel guilty. I’m not sure why it makes me feel guilty, since I don’t believe in that type of thing.”
Unbeknownst to me, we had just stepped on next to her more able-bodied sister. She was a bit taller, with a different facial structure, same hair color, but straighter.
“Well,” I replied, “I don’t suppose he is doing it to make you feel guilty. And I doubt it is the prayer itself that makes you feel guilty. Your guilt probably says more about your relationship with your dad, perhaps something about your past patterns of interacting more than anything.”
Her sister leaned in, joined the conversation, and introduced herself as the sister.
The conversation turned towards conversation about prayer and why he would pray when he knows they are both atheists and secular.
As the elevator arrived at our destination and the doors opened, I explained, “Prayer at meal time is about showing appreciation for the food: where it came from, the fact that you even have it to eat. It is recognition that food and the ability to eat is essential to life. You don’t have to be religious to recognize it as a ‘blessing,’ (I quickly edited myself) I mean to be grateful for it. While your dad is saying his rosary prayers, why not be meditative and think about where your food comes from, the people who are starving and don’t have any, or recite a poem that has meaning to you. You can be secular and still thankful.”
And I woke up from my dream.
1 Kings 16:29-33; 17:1-18:1
This is a story of conversion and God’s provision. A widow
living in a region that worships Baal*, is found to be starving, alongside her
son, as a result of Yahweh’s restricting the flow of water to the middle east.
Along comes one of Yahweh’s prophets who asks her for some
food to eat. She recognizes that it is because of this living God that she has
no more than the ingredients for one meal left. She shares it with the prophet and her son. But Yahwah is a God who Provides, and her jar refills with flour and her
jar with oil so that she and her son can continue to host the prophet and eat
themselves as well.
But then, the worse that cold possibly happen happens, her
son becomes deathly ill and dies. This
seems to prove to the woman that this Yahweh only brings tragedy. That is until
the prophet Elijah petitions for the boy’s life and it returns.
It is then and only then that she acknowledges the truth of
the message of Elijah. Yahweh is Jehovah
Jireh, the LORD who provides.
*Canaanite god of rain and fertility.
Bring It Home:
Fasting teaches us about Feasting (Ash Wednesday, 1.5 weeks from no.)When we fast we recognize how dependent we are upon God to provide for us for our basic needs. It reminds us of the times in our life that we are blessed to feast that we usually take for granted. It also gives us an opportunity to listen to God in a new way as we replace our physical food with spiritual food.
What does it mean for God to be Jehovah-Jireh, God who provides, in your life?
Names of God: Yahweh| Pastor Stasia Fine
Names of God: Yahweh
(somber) It was a foggy day and it was difficult to see.I was way too young, a kindergartner, but I remember the day well, because it is my first memory of human tragedy. I was in the school office when a group of fellow students arrived late, signed in, and immediately were taken to the nurse’s office.
An accident had happened on highway 30.A new driver, a high school student, was on his way to school. The fog was too thick, and he didn’t see the bus in front of him.
Eight years later I join my peers for a musical concert in our gym. The High School’s band has a tradition of regularly performing a piece that was written in memory of the student in the car. I’ve probably told this story before and will tell it again, but it is one I think of whenever I read today’s passage from Scripture, because the words and tone of the song are evocative.
As our symphonic band plays the memorial piece there comes a moment when students slowly set down their instruments and vocally intone the last lines of a poem that had been written by the student, “I am.” As the last performer sets down their instrument and joins the chorus, the room is silent, except for the sacred chant of, “I am.”
At the Minister’s Conference in Newton this past week we were challenged to write a poem explaining our own identity. Terri Hord Owens, our General Minister and President explained that it is only when we know our own identity and feel secure in the boundary line between what within me is non-negotiable and what is negotiable that we are best able to interact with people who are different from ourselves. We are then able to flex and learn from them without fear of losing who we are.
In today’s passage Moses encounters the presence of God in a burning bush and asks, “What shall I tell the Egyptians is your name?”
To which God responds, “I am.”
In Hebrew we read the words “Hayah Hayah.”These words can be translated many ways into English:
I am who I am
I will be what I will be
I will be who I am
I am the existent
I am who is
I am that I am
An equivalent in Hebrew is Yahweh, Yehovah, or Jehovah, which each mean “the self-existing one.” For the purpose of consistency in this sermon, I’ll be using “Yehovah.”
If there were but only one name to be revealed of God, this is it.For it is a name that no other existence can independently claim for itself. And that is what we are going to look at today. What does it mean for God to reveal Godself as the great “I am.”
First. It means that God is eternal. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote that there is no “before or after” God. The God who always was, always is, and always will be is not going away! The Hebrew “Yehovah” carries with it a sense of continual continuation.
Trying to grasp eternity can be difficult. (change tone)
Christian author John Ortberg tells of the humorous exchange between an economist and God.The economist reads 2 Peter 3:8 and is amazed.
“’Lord, is it true that a thousand years for us is like one minute to you?’
‘Yes,’ God replies.
‘Then a million dollars to us must be like one penny to you,’ the economist continues.
‘Well, yes’ God replies.
‘Will you give me one of those pennies?’ asks the economist.
‘All right, I will,’ the Lord says. ‘Wait here a minute.’”
(John Ortberg, “Waiting on God,” Preaching Today, Audio. No. 199, illustration 380)
God’s age is innumerable. God’s existence has always been. In other words, God is uncreated. God has always existed by God’s own power. No beginning and no end. Yet, God creates. In the biblical collection of books, Genesis marks the beginning with the words, “In the beginning God created.” (Gen. 1:1)
This brings us to a second depth of meaning to God’s name.
In the burning bush revelation of God’s divine name we are reminded that God is the source of all that exists. God imparts existence, but no one imparts existence to God. You and I exist because God exists and if God were to cease existing so would all of us! Our existence is dependent upon God’s existence. No one can claim that they are the source of existence! This is a unique claim of our God!
There is a story told of a young man, Steve who received a prestigious internship with Purdue University’s President. When this young man bumped into a colleague who was well along in his career, the colleague commented, “I see you’ve won some sort of administrative fellowship in the President’s office.”
“Yep, that’s true.” Steve responded.
“And you’ll be learning how to become an administrator?” the colleague asked.
“I suppose so.”
The colleague continued, “and then you’ll probably want to be president of the university somewhere down the road?”
Steve disingenuously replied, “Well, I don’t know. I guess I’ve thought about it now and then.”
His colleague smiled, “Personally, I’ve never had any ambition whatsoever to be an administrator. I am totally inept at managing things… But I’ve been a careful observer of ambitious men all my life. And here, for what it’s worth, is what I’ve learned: many men want to be president, but very few want to do president.”
“And with that he wished [Steve Sample] well and walked away.”
(Steve Sample, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, Jossey-Bass, 2002, illustration 984)
If many people were honest with themselves, they would admit they want to be the god of their life, but they aren’t willing or able to take on the responsibility or action of God.
Just as love is a verb, God’s revealed proper name “Yehovah” is a verb also. “Yehovah” translates “to be.”
A third meaning we find in this name is that God reveals Godself as action or movement. We all know that most Proper names are considered nouns, but God’s is not. And we see this confirmed over and over again as God reveals Godself as the action in the story. The movement forward. The abiding force. God is a verb.
Now for our fourth meaning I want to talk a little about how this Divine name has been translated.
As time passed after Moses, people began to feel that this name of God was too holy to pronounce. And so when they saw the four Hebrew letters that spell this name, referred to as the tetragrammaton, they chose to say out loud something different. So when reading the Hebrew scrolls and coming across this name of God, instead of pronouncing the name they would say,
“The Holy One, Blessed is He,” or just
“the Name” or
“Adonai,” which means Lord.
If you look in your English translation of the Bible, you will find the word LORD written in all caps. Whenever you see this, it is pointing to the unpronounceable name of God, “I Am.”
Remember how when Moses encountered God in the burning bush, God told him to not come any closer but to take off his sandals for the place where he was standing was holy ground? In the decision to not pronounce God’s proper name, the reader is showing respect and reverence for God’s holiness. God’s name is so special we don’t want to use it in any way that dishonors God. Who knows, maybe even in our innocent attempts to show respect, we accidently are negligent with God’s name?
Finally, we want to recognize that Jesus accepted this holy name as his own. In a conversation with the Jewish community on temple grounds Jesus speaks of his relationship with the Heavenly Father. He claims, much to the confusion of his listeners, that Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing his day, saw it, and was glad. In rebuttal, the people respond, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham!”
To which Jesus answers, “Very truly I tell you before Abraham was born, I am!” Now we know why the people responded with outrage and tried to stone Jesus. But Jesus slipped away. (John 8:54-59)
Not long after we hear Jesus speaking of the vine and the branches and inviting the people to abide with him. To abide is to be. The Great I Am is the One Who Abides. And Jesus is inviting us to be like him and to remain with him.
So church family, as we encounter this holy name of God. A name that was so profound that the depth of its philosophical strength was not brought to the world’s attention again until the time of Plato.A name that for some is too holy to pronounce. Yet a name that invites us to meditate on our existence in relationship to the One Who is the source of existence. The proper name which God revealed as his eternal name which we shall call him from generation to generation.
So church family, as we encounter this name of God, how does this revelation invite you to worship God in a new way? How does it change how you see yourself and see God? Will you find yourself saying with Moses, “Yes indeed, this is holy ground?”
His Name is Life (2X)
New Year's Eve Online Worship Service| Pastor Stasia Fine
New Year's Eve Online Worship Service
Pastor – Rev. Stasia Fine
Playlist – New Disciples of Cedar Rapids – New Year’s Worship Song List - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4k5Jd_U3rU...
You are invited to take some time to worship God using this order of worship for a New Year!
Introit -“I am the Light of the World” -
Opening Worship - “Here I Am to Worship” -
Opening Prayer – from Chalice Worship
“Everlasting God of all the years, you have been our companion through all the mysteries of the past to uphold us when we knew not the way. Take our hand now and share our pilgrimage to an unknown future. Open our eyes to recognize your presence with us this day that we may give you praise and celebrate the goodness of your guidance. Renew us. Refresh us. Fill us with your Spirit; we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Opening Worship –
“God is Good all the Time” -
Call to Worship – from Chalice Worship
L: “Our God, your throne has been established from everlasting to everlasting.
P: We come to you as your people today in the stream of ongoing history.
L: Long ago you prepared the way for your faith family, the children of Israel,
P: and in your everlasting love, you lead us today across the seas of uncertainty and through the wilderness of indecision.
L: You demanded obedience and covenant from those who wanted to the promised land,
P: and you would ask of us the same wholehearted commitment.
L: We stand on the threshold of a new year, full of expectations and apprehensions;
P: yet we are calm with the assurance of your loving concern and constant presence.
L: This new year is a time for taking stock of our life.
P: O Lord, you know us better than we know ourselves. Help us to look at ourselves through your eyes.
L: We come to you for aid, for without you we are sure to fail.
P: Give us great courage and fortitude. Save us from timidity and doubt. Open our eyes to the joy of simple pleasures. Give us noble tasks for our energies. Let us glow with the blessing of friendship. Help us to make this new year rich in growth, in vision, in service.
L: We look to you, O God, in the changing and flowing of days.
P: We trust in you alone for your mercy endures forever. Amen.”
Meditative Song – “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” -
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
Sermon - Please scroll down to bottom of post for online recording.
What do you want for 2018?
Pastoral invitation to You – Consider committing a year of your life to live wholeheartedly for God.
Much of our lives are spent being divided – divided between different things that pull on our attention.
Our responsibilities – work, parenting, home care
Our pleasures – reading, hobbies, athletics, television, and games.
Our self-care – exercise, eating right, getting sleep, staying hydrated
Our finances – trying to pay our bills, saving for the future, financial goals of wealth
But what if one year, we made a commitment that in all we do we would 1st & foremost be wholeheartedly committed to God!
No one likes a backseat driver, right? Turn left here. Watch out for that car there. You know you could speed up a little.
But often as Christians we live our lives as backseat drivers. When we become Christians, we hand the driver’s seat over to Christ. But that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes climb into this lap and take control of the wheel. This would be cute if we were just little kids, and his feet were still on the gas pedal & break - but many of us are grown adults & when we do this we block his view and get in the way of the breaks & gas.
This year, let’s move back into the passenger seat and enjoy the ride.
What would it look like to commit one year of your life to worshipping God? One year to living differently – with a goal to live in a way that pleases God.
This wouldn’t mean we would neglect our responsibilities, pleasures, self-care, or finances.
But it would mean that we would do and live in each of these in a way that reflects wholehearted commitment to God!
Why would you do this?
-Love for God.
-Nudging of God’s Spirit.
-Need Change – Something must be different – can’t keep going the way I currently am.
-Experiment – what would happen if I did this?
-It just seems right.
To become a disciple of Christ – someone who is spiritually growing and becoming more like and familiar with Christ.
Move from being born again – a Christian, to be a Disciple. You are a disciple if you are headed towards Christ.
-What does this mean for you? What are you committing to? Where is the focus?
Being - Relationship – relationship with God
Doing - Lifestyle – behavior/attitude/relationships
This year’s bulletin bookmarks – spiritual disciplines of both being & doing
Spiritual Disciplines help us to reflect upon our priorities & center our lives on God.
Things to consider
-Level of Commitment - Is this something you are just going to do – or is it a promise.
-Cautious of Promise to God?
Jonathan Edwards – a famous 18th century revivalist, at the age of 17 wrote down 21 resolutions by which he would live his life. Each week he would sit down to do a self-check to see how he was doing. And each week he would read the 1st resolution he wrote down, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions.” (Jan Brown, Christianity Online Connection, January 8, 1999; Illustration 731 in Laron and Elshof’s 1001 Illustrations that Connect.)
Sermon Song to Listen to – “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” -
Sung Response – “Create in Me a Clean Heart” -
Time of Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours.
Now and forever.
Response to Prayer – “Amazing Love (You are My King)” -
The Lord’s Supper – “In Remembrance of Me” -
Commissioned – “Let There Be Peace on Earth” -