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Thursday, February 6, 2014

01262014 3rd Sunday After Epiphany - Annual Meeting

Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Many of you sitting in the pew have experienced sitting on the combine or tractor and watching the sky either to the North, West or South that potentially would blow up a storm.  Unlike in the winter, early spring or late summer where a good rain or snow would be a blessing, some of you have watched storms blow in as you were headed to the field or sat on the edge of it ready to cut your winter wheat that was ready for harvest.  You wish you could have driven faster, harvested the wheat and got it to the elevator and beat the wind and hail that could easily ruin your winter wheat harvest for the year.  At times you beat the storm or it just stayed the other side of the draw or field that you had just cut or on your neighbors side of the line.  But ironically, it was all about speed and getting finished before the storm arrived.

This morning as we consider the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray a petition that is not only about speed, and getting things accomplished before a storm, but about God’s kingdom coming.  Let’s pull out our bulletin insert for this morning and read responsively as a congregation the “What does this mean?”  and “How does God’s kingdom come?” sections.  “The Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer,  Thy Kingdom come. What does this mean?  The Kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.  How does God’s kingdom come?  God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead Godly lives here in time and there in eternity.  Let’s ask God to fulfill this petition with our prayer.

Let us pray, Heavenly Father, in this petition we ask for Your Kingdom to come.  In doing so it is in faith that Your Word will have accomplished Your divine plan and we will have fulfilled our calling as Your servants, in order that Your Glory will be revealed, not only for us, but also for all of mankind.  For when Your Kingdom comes, we will celebrate and want to speed in order to get into Your Kingdom to be with You for all eternity.  For this only occurs because of what Jesus Christ did for all of mankind on Calvary, and especially all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

If one were to measure the speed that a person travels when going to a Denver Bronco’s or Kansas Chief’s football game, or a Colorado Rockies baseball game, or to a KU or K-State football or basketball game it would probably be a little above the speed limit.  We as fans clearly are excited for ‘our team’ and the experience we will have and want to support them and have a good time.  Sometimes we get overly excited and our foot gets a little heavy and we go above the speed limit.  At other times we drag our collective feet when it comes to certain events, either because we wanted it over yesterday or we really don’t even want to be at the event.  Unlike sports, worship here at church or annual meetings like today are events that all of us, including me avoid or at times believe they are not important or won’t make a difference, because worship or meetings like today’s seem to always have the same outcome.  We see the same people do the same jobs, we hear the same reports, but nobody wants to speed up or charge ahead and get excited about how God is working here at Emmanuel in Goodland, KS.

But let’s consider this, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, and especially the Second Petition, we are asking God to speed up His kingdom coming.  It may seem out of place, but I have three speed limit signs here this morning to help us understand and put into perspective this concept of speed and its perfect application for us when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Yes, these are signs we see everyday, whether when we drive the streets of Goodland or the highways of Western Kansas, but we don’t expect them in a church.  But when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to come sooner rather than later, to speed up and come faster.  Paul in Romans gives us a great indication of this when he talks about the kingdom of God, it “is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17). 

We find peace when we remember that God in perfect timing and at the right speed sent His Son into the world in a little city called Bethlehem in a lowly manger.  God also sent the Holy Spirit not to replace Jesus Who ascended back to the Father after dying for our salvation, but to bring a perfect peace and joy for each of us.  When we careen down the highway or back roads of Sherman, Cheyenne, Wallace or Thomas Counties doing faster than the posted speed limit, we may not have much peace, especially when we meet a stock or harvest truck or vehicle that doesn’t share the road as generously as we might.  We clearly become worried if the kingdom will come sooner for us because of their speed or ours, but the reality is that no matter the outcome, we need to trust God.

Today we as a congregation are at a crossroads.  We sit looking at a speed limit sign and have the opportunity to ask God are we going above the speed limit, or below the speed limit in our ministry here at Emmanuel?  We collectively in our annual meeting will talk about matters of the church that deal with money, the bounty or lack there-of, we will make decisions about who leads our congregation and the direction we have been going in the last year and where we want to go from here.  We will consider how faithful we have been as a congregation with God’s gifts to each of us that we return to Him of our offerings, no matter the amount, and what we can do differently in order for God’s glory to be fulfilled in our midst.  And we will ponder the speed that we have been moving, whether at warp speed with decisions and actions, a snails pace with growth and outreach or at some happy medium.  Each of us will have clear and distinct feelings and opinions and we need to share these openly and honestly, we need to accept everybody’s individual opinion and not understand them as an indictment by nor against anyone, including me as your shepherd.  And we are called by God to journey through this together in order for God’s Glory to be fulfilled here in Goodland at Emmanuel.

My prayer is that God would embolden us to move at a speed that is right for Emmanuel.  Either speed up and trust God to provide and run in faith that God will provide for our needs or slow down and make the hard decisions that are best for us, or both of these opportunities in a God pleasing way.  When I came here to candidate to be your pastor, I was amazed at the wide open expanse, the area and the speed that one could go, even on the two lane highways.  What I was also amazed about was the opportunity and the drive the congregation had to be a change agent here in Goodland.  God is calling us to this still and my prayer is that we as God’s children will come together and walk in faith and trust and at the speed God wants us to, not at the speed we relegate the church to because of our other business, interests or obligations, but at the speed that gives God the greatest glory.

Remember even Jesus Christ experienced speed in His day.  From the time of His arrest, to trial by the Sanhedrin and then Herod and Pilate and His crucifixion, Jesus crucifixion was faster than all of recorded history.  But when Jesus was crucified for all of mankind, no one knew how the world would radically change on Sunday with His resurrection.  Jesus resurrection radically changed the trajectory and speed of Christianity and still impacts us today.  May we lay claim to Jesus resurrection and may it speed up our prayer that He taught all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
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