ďThe God Story: Rising ActionĒ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† March 23, 2014

Exodus 16:2-4, 13-16 & Matthew 14:22-33††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.                   For me the Bible is one grand story even though the ďwho begat whoĒ is not very exciting, but there are chapters in Godís story where there is rising action and the drama is profound.

A.    We all studied this characteristic of literature in Middle School.

1.     Basically Rising Action occurs when the primary conflict in the story is complicated by the introduction of secondary conflicts.

2.     The secondary conflicts include various obstacles that frustrate the main characterís attempt to reach his or her goal. (Jacob Armstrong, The God Story, p. 45)

B.     The basic conflict of the God Story is our separation from God.

1.     Sin originated in the Garden of Eden and that upsetting matter runs throughout the whole story.

2.     Our Old Testament lesson is an example of Rising Action because while the primary problem is sin there are secondary problems like slavery, hunger and exhaustion from being on a long journey.

3.     The people need to stay connected to God so complaining is not an effective way to accomplish that, yet complain they do.

C.     Since one of the things we are trying to accomplish with our sermon series is to help you find your place in the God Story, is this unfortunately one of the spots you do find yourself in the God Story?

1.     Have you ever complained to God about how things are going?

2.     Do you have more than one problem in your life? I mean, you have a main problem and then a bunch of secondary problems?

3.     If you are like me I donít feel overwhelmed in life when everything is going well, but when I get a seemingly unceasing stream of secondary problems that hinder the accomplishment of my goals then I become frustrated and discouraged.

D.    Moses found himself in such a place.

1.     He was keenly aware that God had something good for him in the future, but his surroundings were noisy with people complaining about being hungry and thirsty and wanting to go back to Egypt where they may have been slaves but at least there was food and a roof over their heads.

2.     Moses was so exasperated that he told God that as far as he (Moses) was concerned that if that was the way it was going to be then God could just put the final period in the God Story.

3.     Mosesí focus was on his problems instead of remembering how God had been with him when previously he had encountered obstacles like the Red Sea where Pharaohís army was bearing down on him and the Israelites.

E.     Where are you focusing your vision right now Ė on those confounding obstacles or on the God who set the Hebrews free from their bondage and is with you to set you free?

1.     During the course of the day are you seeking to hear Godís voice above the noise of your problems or are you fine tuned into the static?

F.     For those of us who have a tendency to tune the dial to the static I would suggest that it would probably be good to do what Bishop Cho is encouraging each of us to do and that is to spend more time with God in contemplative prayer.

1.     Contemplative prayer is not intercessory prayer which is where you offer up your petitions and concerns to God such as: ďLord, please heal this member of my family who is sick, and Lord, help things to work out in the Ukraine which is a dangerous situation, and Lord, help me to get my life together.Ē

2.     It is totally appropriate to offer such requests, but you might discover that you get more guidance and even answers from God by doing some contemplative prayer which is where you quiet yourself and just listen.

3.     This is a sermon and not a workshop but one method related to contemplative prayer is to do as Jesus did in withdrawing from others on occasion to a quiet place so that it is just you and God.

4.     Allow God to do all the talking.

5.     Recently I engaged in contemplative prayer and my, oh, my, did God have things to say to which I needed to listen to for 20 minutes after which He was ready for me to respond.

6.     That experience produced an inner assurance in me that was absolutely necessary in order for me to take the step God wanted me to take.

7.     Had it not been for contemplative prayer I would have missed that blessing and could have failed to align myself with Godís purpose in that situation.

8.     There have been times in my life that looking back I think I may have missed taking my place in Godís story and there are times that I did take my place and I donít think my story is unusual.

9.     Does your story have similarities to mine?

10.            And maybe most importantly, would you be willing for even 5 minutes every day to practice contemplative prayer so that instead of complaining to God about the circumstances of your life as did the Israelites in the wilderness, that you hear how the Lord wants to help you so that you can survive and thrive?

11.            The same Lord who sent them manna will send you what you need.

G.    The rising action for the Israelites was their hunger but God intervened so they could overcome that obstacle on their way to the Promised Land and thereafter they told the story of Godís intervention over and over with each generation.

1.     Again, I donít know the specifics of your rising action, the present obstacles in your life, but I believe God wants to help you to overcome so that you will be His witness and retell the story of what God did for you, so that others will come to want to experience their place in Godís story and share their witness.

2.     If thatís going to happen then first you have to find your place and then second you have to witness.

II.                 Someone who became a great witness for our Lord was Simon Peter and his rising action (and this is ironic) was that he was sinking.

A.    Now like Moses who had seen the power of God when the Red Sea parted and the Israelites walked across the dry land to safety, Peter had witnessed the power of God flowing through Jesus when the Master had fed 5,000 people without the aid of a professional caterer.

1.     Johnís Gospel clues us in that at that point the people wanted to seize Jesus and make him King, but they didnít understand his kingship so Jesus withdrew from everyone.

2.     Jesus sent the disciples away and then he walked up a mountain Ė my guess is to pray.

3.     And thatís when it happened.

4.     While Jesus had gone to the mountains, the disciples had gone to the lake.

5.     By now it was a little past midnight and they were struggling with the oars, seemingly going nowhere (because you get nowhere without Jesus), when Jesus came to them, walking on the water.

B.     This is an ďOh myĒ moment because it means that Jesus is sovereign over all creation.

1.     Their Master is not only their Master but Master of everything.

2.     ďOh my.Ē

3.     And it scares them.

4.     They are so scared that they rationalize that they are seeing a ghost.

5.     Ghosts are scary so Jesus tells them not to be afraid.

C.     And thatís when Peter gets a unique place in Godís story.

1.     He does something no fisherman had previously ever done Ė he walks on water.

2.     Itís a wonderful moment because Jesus has called him to do so and Peter begins a walk of faith that is taking him straight to Jesus.

D.    And now Iíll interrupt Peterís story to ask about your story Ė how are you doing walking to Jesus?

1.     Did you hear his call to come to him?

2.     How many steps have you taken?

3.     Maybe you havenít walked on water but can you report having done some amazing things because of Jesusí call upon your life?

4.     By amazing things I mean stuff like giving up some bad habit or developing a daily routine of Bible reading and prayer in order to grow into a holy life.

5.     Is that what Jesus is calling you to like he called Peter to come to him?

E.     Unfortunately for Peter this is when it all goes wrong.

1.     The wind had been blowing throughout the story but now Peter notices it.

2.     For the first time he thinks, ďWhat am I doing? Have I lost my mind? Iíve given myself so much to this faith thing that Iím trying to walk on water.Ē

3.     And focusing on these thoughts and questions instead of on Jesus results in Peter starting to sink.

F.     Have you ever been on a roll with regards to your faith and suddenly you got that sinking feeling?

1.     One moment life had reached new heights and the next moment you were going down for the count.

2.     You had thought you could live a Christian life and now you think you canít.

3.     What are you going to do?

G.    What Peter did was to yell out, ďLord, rescue me!Ē

1.     Thatís not an advanced form of prayer, in fact, itís elementary.

2.     But it is such an effective prayer because as N.T. Wright, a former Bishop in the Church of England says, it is one ďwhich Jesus loves to answer.Ē (Wright, Lent for Everyone, Matthew, Year A, p. 56)

3.     You see, in the God Story, that is why Jesus came.

4.     He came to look for people in need and to rescue them.

5.     And people were in need because of that basic conflict we talked about in the beginning of the sermon Ė the separation from God due to sin.

6.     You can sink in water, but you can also sink in sin.

7.     Peter needed to be rescued from both.

8.     So Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter to keep him from drowning.

9.     Later he will stretch out his hand on a cross to save Peter and me and you from sin.

III.              So today weíve looked at Rising Action and the truth is that through the remainder of Lent the action is going to continue to rise.

A.    Thatís OK because God can handle it.

1.     He did for the Israelites, He did for Peter, and Heís doing the same for you right now because thatís Godís Story and Heís sticking to it.