Monday, February 21, 2011

Making the Sermon: Wrong Question, Right Answer

This sermon has been gestating in my spirit for some time, years even. I became aware of the text when I was reading through 1 Chronicles and realized that the lyrics to the song that we sing in between offering and our prayer over the offering were actually the words of King David. In that moment I also realized that I had been jacking up the words for some time. That's a whole 'nother story...

When asked to be ready to preach for the third Sunday in February, I began working with a text from Jeremiah. My work was not in vain, but it was clear that that particular message was not for that particular day. I moved from Jeremiah into Ephesians, worked through a text, but still that wasn't the on-time word, either. So, as of last Sunday, in the early part of the afternoon, I was without a text and without a word. I wasn't fretting. After all, I was still on schedule and I knew that God would give me a word for His people. Timing is everything.

During our installation of officers service last Sunday afternoon, the text made itself known and began speaking to me. The beginning of the week was busy, and the end proved to be even more so. I was scheduled to fly to New Orleans for the wedding and baby shower of a dear friend and wouldn't be flying back until Saturday evening. I read and reread the text on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but I did not have much of anything written down. When I got on Delta flight #1078 bound for New Orleans the floodgates opened up. By the time we landed, I had an outline and much of the meat filled in. God be praised! During my days and evenings, I was present for the bride and not much written sermonating was happening. When night came, I was too pooped to pop, so not much sermonating was happening then either. When I boarded Delta flight #2656 to Laguardia I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the weekend, exhausted, and halfway delirious. I couldn't decide whether to sleep on the plane and get to the sermon when I got home, or to work on the sermon so I could get a good night's rest. I was leaning towards the former option, mostly because I didn't think I was capable of producing anything that was comprehensible. But, God is able (especially in our weakness) and when I got on the plane, the floodgates opened again. When I landed at Laguardia airport, the written part of the sermon was complete. All that was left was for me to preach, for the people to hear, and for all of us to live it...

Like to hear it, hear it goes...

Text: 1 Chronicles 29:10-20 (emphasis on verse 14)
Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said:
“ Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O LORD,
And You are exalted as head over all.
Both riches and honor come from You,
And You reign over all.
In Your hand is power and might;
In Your hand it is to make great
And to give strength to all.

“Now therefore, our God,
We thank You
And praise Your glorious name.

But who am I, and who are my people,
That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
For all things come from You,
And of Your own we have given You.

For we are aliens and pilgrims before You,
As were all our fathers;
Our days on earth are as a shadow,
And without hope.
“O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own. I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You. O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You. And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made provision.” Then David said to all the assembly, “Now bless the LORD your God.” So all the assembly blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the LORD and the king.

Title: Wrong Question, Right Answer

Sermon Snippet:

Our text for today is a familiar one. It is an integral part of our liturgical practice. It is printed in our order of worship. Sunday after Sunday, we lift up our voices to sing it. It is neatly, and intentionally, inserted in the time between our time of giving and the prayer over the offering. We hear Jerry play the chord (play chord) and immediately we know what to say. I know it by heart. I don't even need the bulletin. I may not have the Apostles Creed memorized yet, I may not have the Church Covenant memorized yet, but when I hear that chord (play chord), I know...

All thing come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee...

But I believe that sometimes we can be so close to something, that we don't really see it for what it is. Sometimes we become so familiar with something, we fail to recognize the depths. Sometimes we can recite a text from rote memory, out of habit, as part of our ritualistic traditions, and in the process, we completely miss it...

As we move from tradition to intimacy, from knowing about God to knowing God, from following the order of worship to actually worshiping, from reading and singing the text to living and breathing the text, let us examine that passage of Scripture found in 1 Chronicles 29:10-14, paying particular attention to verse 14...


There is a sign posted on the wall at my gym. I took notice to it last week as I was trudging away on the treadmill. It reads, "Sweat plus sacrifice equals success." I thought about that to help me get through my workout, but then the Spirit switched it up a bit. He whispered in my spirit, in God's house, "Praise plus sacrifice equals success..."

Let's go back to the text...verse 10...And David began to praise God...

Praise is contagious. Sometimes we come to church and expect the worship leader, or the choir, or the preacher to praise so we can praise. In this text, it was the other way around. The people were rejoicing, the people were praising, the people were shouting down the aisles so much so that David, the king...who should have been dignified...started to praise with them.

In the midst of his praise. In the midst of his worship. In the midst of lifting up the excellency, victory, majesty, and glory of God, David asks a question... But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? God, you are blessed...but who am I? God, you are great...but who am I? God, you are powerful...but who am I? God, you are majestic...but who am I? God, you are victorious...but who am I? And he didn't just ask who am I? He asked, and who are we? How were we able to give so much? Did you see the piles of silver and gold and bronze and iron. The treasury could hardly hold all of precious stones... there were so many. And how were we able to give so freely? Mr. Tuck, ooops I meant Jehiel the Gershonite, didn't even have to make an appeal. Folks came willingly. Folks gave willingly. David was saying, God, something miraculous just happened in this house, it appears we had something to do with it. Who am I? Who are we?

The question was seemingly self-centered. The question was seemingly human-centered. On the surface, the question was about us. In the context of His praise...the question is just, plain WRONG, However, immediately after raising the question, David answers his own question. David could have said...I am the King. I am wealthy beyond measure. I have the title deed to so and so. I got it going on. My treasury is full of silver and gold and other precious metals. My people are landowners, property owners, and independently wealthy. But his answer, unlike the question, was not located in human accomplishment, human success, and human ability. Don't miss this. David could have bigged himself up and his people up, but he had a proper perspective. To His question: who am I and who are we, David responds, "All things come of thee, and of thine own, have we given thee." Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! David would have made it to final jeopardy off the strength of that answer. Biblical scholars note that, "Humans cannot gloat in the act of contributing to the Lord's temple, since all human success and wealth come from Him." The answer to David's question didn't lie in human ability, but rather in God's ability. He's able! He's able! He's able!

By saying, "All things come of thee..." David was acknowledging the authorship and ownership of God, which, when acknowledged ushers us into authentic worship of God...

- Posted using BlogPress on the fiercest device ever...the iPad!!!

1 comment:

  1. Rev I read your sermon again, once again the writting was great but the preaching was brilliant. you are an awesome writter, speaker and educator keep up the good work.