God’s Story and Our Story…On Repeat

November 20, 2016    God’s-Truth: Jeremiah chapter 36:1-8; 23-24, 27-28 and  31:31-34.

Have you heard?  The Oxford dictionary people have declared the word, “post-truth” as the word for 2016. Their definition: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

And King Jehoiakim is our post-truth king in today’s reading. God is initiating an intervention and he’s called upon his most controversial prophet to bring the noise. Jeremiah. Jeremiah is so controversial for his time that he’s been banned from entering the house of the Lord. Even Jeremiah’s contemporaries clear a wide path for him.  So he has to send a messenger to bring the news to the people of Israel and Judah – it’s time to change, it’s time to give up their evil ways.

And King Jehoiakim rips up God’s message, as each line is read, and tosses it into the fire, as if he is saying, “No. Not true. No. Not true. No. Not true.”

But God is not discouraged. A little fire and a stubborn heart doesn’t make God say, “Oh, never mind.” God repeats the promise again and again, renewing our hearts by transforming them, changing our hearts through God’s faithful love and forgiveness. The 31st chapter reminds us: The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke… But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, …  I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

God repeats the promise, makes a new promise to us through Jesus and writes it on our hearts. God had to resort to our hearts since we weren’t getting the message from hearing it read out loud, from mere words on paper. God needed flesh and blood, so God writes it on our hearts.

And today, River of Hope, I want to remind you of how God is writing on our hearts together as a community, and how that message of love is being lived out and repeated because of the amazing work of the Holy Spirit using all of us: our denial, our great faith, our rough edges and mistakes, our awkwardness. Our hands and our feet. Our hearts. God can bring life out of it all.

12688000_10156528355090015_306625183801043220_nWe’ve seen and heard God’s repeated promise to us through baptism, reminding us that we are each children of God, as we’ve surrounded 5 new baptized children of God in 2016.

God’s promise is being repeated in confirmation. This year alone, *29 adults in this congregation have promised to walk alongside 29 youth to grow deeper in their faith in Jesus Christ and to discover that faith comes alive in community, in relationship with other people. It thrives on it.

The promise is being repeated through marriage vows, 4 couples this year from River of Hope promising, d207ae01-38cd-45c1-8c04-3b987b42b2eain the name of God to love and serve and forgive each other.

God’s promise is still repeated all around Hutchinson as over 40 people participated in our first annual “God’s Work, Our Hands” Sunday. In response to this work, the City of Hutchinson sent us a letter of thanks as did one of the homes where much yard work was done. While it is satisfying to be thanked, we serve without a requirement of being thanked and instead imagine kids being fed, families in crisis being helped. All these little acts of love are a repeat of God’s promise to us.

The repeat of God’s promise continues through participating in Laundry Love with our Vineyard Methodist sisters and brothers. Hanging out in the laundromat, hearing stories, and being changed by human lives simply by showing up to plug quarters in machines. It figures you’d meet Jesus in the midst of dirty laundry.

God’s promise is repeated in handing out root beer floats at the Center for the Arts and learning our servers name at restaurants where we hold meetings. It’s repeated when the 55+ diners pay it forward to an unsuspecting family or couple in the restaurant or take up on offering for Haiti.

The repeat of God’s promise is seen as our community continues to grow. God’s promise is repeated not just for us but for us to share with others, to invite others into a life of being continually transformed through Jesus Christ. When you see an empty chair in worship, pray for those we do not know yet and that God might work through you for a new person to be part of this community as you share God’s love with them.

The repeat of God’s promise is seen as a Financial Peace University class is being planned through River of Hope starting in the new year. A class that recognizes that 70% of Americans live breathlessly from pay check to pay check and strives to help people find peace and generosity where before they found panic and scarcity.

The Vision Table’s focus is always around how God is calling us into living out our purpose. We are always asking who we are called to love and serve here in Hutchinson and in the world. In the past years, our neighborhood has been Main Street Sports Bar and Library Square and the McLeod County Fair Grounds, and any restaurant where a meeting happens.

The Vision Table has begun to ask: who is our neighbor here. In this neighborhood. Where we meet 52 Sundays in a year and 9 Wednesdays during school months. 61 days of the year, we are in this building between 2-4 hours.

So we ask you, River of Hope, to begin to pray with us about our neighbors and how we can repeat God’s promise that has been written on our hearts to them. And, this is critical, that we listen to them first, before we speak. Chances are we’ll see and hear the promise from them before we speak it. Pray that we will listen. Pray that we will be changed. Pray that we will show God’s love. Pray for River of Hope to matter to this neighborhood.

You can believe Oxford’s English Dictionary and their word of the year. You can believe we have entered bleak times. And you can see that God has called us directly into this time of “post-truth” just as Jeremiah was called into his own chaotic time and place. This repeated promise can never be pulled off repeat. We need to read it and see it and hear it and feel it in lives of ordinary people like you and me. It’s why we exist, it’s what we do: we repeat God’s promise.

Just look at who we are, River of Hope:

Please stand if you are currently serving on the Vision Table.

Please stand if you have ever served on the Vision Table. (Remain standing)

Please stand if you have helped make treats or ushered or put signs outside or led the children’s sermon.

Please stand if you currently serve on a table.

Please stand if you have ever served on any tables of River of Hope.

Please stand if you are a Confirmation mentor or youth.

Please stand if you have ever been a mentor or have been confirmed.

Please stand if you have participated in a service project, Laundry Love, Men’s Bible study, or 55+ diner’s club, Women’s Circle.

Please stand if you have found yourself in worship at River of Hope and been welcomed by strangers and friends alike.

Please stand if you are a Child of God – because that’s what this is all about!

 

Well it’s only because of God’s-truth. As Christians, we live in the reality of God’s-Truth. God’s truth is never burned in a fire and blown away in the wind. God’s-Truth cannot be undone. God’s truth propels us toward our neighbor. God’s-truth is our story and God’s story and it’s written on our hearts. And even when we forget, God repeats the promise, renews the promise in each of us.

It’s the truth. God promises. That is our future, River of Hope.

And we say, thanks be to God.

Let us pray. God of Vision,

You are our God, we are your people. You repeat your promise by writing it on our hearts. Make us repeats of your promise and send us out to love all people. Amen.

 *As I was preaching, my mind went “that’s not right! that number’s not right!” But I couldn’t spit out the right one. I said, if you listen to the audio, 37.  The number is actually 29. There. I feel better now.

 

 

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