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Sunday, May 31, 2015

05312015 Trinity Sunday - To God be the Glory

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

May 31, 2015
To God be the Glory

 As I entered the room, the people gathered around the bed had tears running down their cheeks.  The bed wasn’t like what I get into at night, it was metal, functional and looked uncomfortable.  The wires that were draped over the sides running to the machines were clear sentry’s with an unmistakable purpose, to signal when the battle was over.  The faces of the people that were huddled around the room and especially the bed were drawn and showed signs of the weariness that words could not heal nor take away the pain they were feeling inside.  But this wasn’t just a sterile hospital room, this wasn’t just a place that would witness the final hours, minutes and seconds of relationship between husband and wife, father and daughters, brothers and sisters.  This humble room was where God’s Glory would be fully revealed and the promises of God would be clearly and unmistakably fulfilled.  This was where God meets man and this is holy ground.
The people gathered around the bed are not unknown to me.  I have played games with all of them, I have eaten meals around the table with each of them.  I have worshiped God both in their church and mine.  This is my family gathered together, huddled, holding each other and helping each other because of the reality that confronts us now, death is about to intimately touch and visit us.  Laying in the bed is someone I am more like than I can truly comprehend or understood.  Laying in the bed, dying from four types of cancer is my Uncle Don.

Though we grew up in different times, had different experiences as well as parents, what my Uncle taught me in death has stayed with me for the last twenty two years.  Simply it is what Paul concluded our epistle with today.  Paul wrote, “To Him [that is To God] be the glory forever. Amen.”
Paul in his epistle clearly understood how death does separate loved ones.  Even when Paul finally encountered and understood on the road to Emmaus the Person Jesus Christ when he saw Him face to face, that place of his encounter with Jesus for Paul was holy ground.  Jesus Christ had died outside Jerusalem and right in front of Paul’s eyes Jesus stood and spoke to him.  From that moment on, Paul’s very existence changed from being destructive of human life and Christianity, to a life epitomized in what he wrote in Romans.  “To Him be the glory forever.  AMEN”

Some of us have not had this ‘mountain top experience’ of clear personal encounter with the divine while here on earth.  But we have encountered death in our lives, whether of children we never met, spouses that we built lives and experienced love with, parents that carried us and nurtured our very nature and even siblings or friends that died at a young age or even after a long life.  Death has touched each of our lives.  But for Christians, death is not an enemy, but a doorway to walk through in our lives and an opportunity for us to look beyond death and not just repeat Paul’s words, but know the connection we have with Paul and all the saints of all time and place.  Paul understood this and hence why he stated clearly for God’s glory to be forever.

But how can we have ‘God’s Glory forever’ here at Emmanuel?  I do not have the answer.  Let me state that again, so everyone can clearly hear my personal confession.  I, Darian Hybl, Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Goodland, Kansas, do not have all the answers.  I cannot by my own reason or effort explain what or why.  I cannot foresee what will happen in the next month, year, three years or five years.

This is a very humbling and hard pill to swallow.  What I have to do is like Paul, die to self.  I have to die to my knowledge, my ego and my ability, because with them, all I have done, and will do is drive people away from God and the church.  Like Paul, who captured Christians and dragged them to the authorities and to have them executed, all I am personally capable of in and of myself is the destruction of the church.

Hence, why Paul’s statement is so profound for me and for us today.  On this day that we celebrate the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit with the confession of the Athanasian Creed, I need to stand with Paul and say clearly and emphatically, “To God be the Glory”!

You see, in order to stand with Paul and make this confession that we all will do in a few minutes, I have to do something I learned from my Uncle Don, who died of cancer.  My Uncle Don loved to fish, and he was good at it.  He could horse fish out of the side of a stream bank that had been fished hard on opening day of trout season.  He could walk up to a part of the stream and tell exactly where every fish was and if there were multiple fish.  In less than 100 feet of stream he could catch his limit of 7 fish and easily go back for more, because he was that good.

While visiting him eight years before he lay in the hospital bed, I went out fishing with him to learn some of his tricks and tips, because I wanted to learn how to be a better fly fisherman.  We came to a stream that flowed out of the bottom of a lake not far from his house.  For those of you who don’t know, the coldest water is at the bottom of any body of water and the water flowing from this lake out of the bottom into the stream was about 35-38 degrees.  As I had learned from my father, get close to the stream and make a good presentation of the fly.  With clear determination I got as close as I could without getting wet and cast the fly.  It landed perfectly.  My uncle stood back and watched.  I held my breath and waited.  The fly floated closer and closer and finally went down stream past me, so I did as any fisherman does, I tried again and again, and again.  But I couldn’t get any fish to rise.

With the wisdom of many years, my Uncle Don, looked at me and said, ‘you have good technique, but you are in the wrong place’.  Being right next to the stream I looked at him with great pessimism and in a teenage tone said, where should I be, in the middle of the stream?  And he said simply ‘yes’.  You see I had to die to all the knowledge I had up to that point and be humble and in one sense get out of my comfort zone, on the side of the stream and get right in the middle of the stream.  I had to get wet.  As I inched into the water my ankles began to lose all feeling.  Not only were my shoes wet, my pants were drenched and I was getting cold.  For the next ten minutes I stood in the middle of the stream with cold water streaming between my legs and faithfully casting my fly to every part of the stream that I could reach in search of the illusive trout that was supposed to be in the water.

Each time I would cast and follow the fly, my teeth would chatter because I was thigh deep in the coldest water I had ever experienced.  My Uncle Don watched every move and would on occasion give me little nuggets of direction and advice to catch the illusive trout.  Then it finally occurred.  I was concentrating on my casting technique, and just happened to look down.  Lo and behold right behind me swimming right up between my cold legs was none other than a….mink.  At that moment, I was supposed to be fly fishing by picking up my fly for another cast up stream, but I froze.  Right underneath me was one of the most elusive creatures in the wilderness world.  And because I had been so concentrated on ‘fly fishing’, I was now blessed to have one of God’s creatures swim up behind me and between my legs like I was a part of nature that he called his world.

In utter disbelief I stood there trying not to breathe to hard, trying not to move, chatter my teeth or shake my legs and scare the mink.  And as quick as the mink swam up and between my legs he swam up stream in search for his next meal. What I experienced in that short window of time was nothing other than exhilarating.  My Uncle Don watched the whole experience from the shore and was in utter disbelief of how close I came to such a wild animal.  As I stood there in the stream I stood on nothing other than holy ground. 

The reason I tell you this story is because I didn’t deserve the experience that even my Uncle Don had never had in all his years of fishing, hunting and trapping.  The place where I stood in the middle of the stream of extremely cold water was holy ground.  In that one moment, being as close to the wild mink as I was I saw and experienced the greatest nature experience I have ever had.  Clearly at that time, I felt closest to God and nature all at the same time.  What it also did was cement an experience between me and my Uncle Don.  For me it epitomizes what Holy Ground was for Paul and what and why he meant for people like us to join together and confess our faith.  Where we stand or sit today when we confess our faith is holy ground.

Years later as I entered his hospital room, I stepped again onto holy ground.  In that place, where my Uncle met face to face with His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and was taken home, Paul’s acclamation of “To God be the glory forever and ever.  AMEN.” was surely felt though probably not spoken.  But God’s presence was palpable and tangible for everyone gathered around the hospital bed and in the room on holy ground.  Even for us today God’s glory surrounds us daily and this is a fulfillment of His promise to and for each of us gathered here this morning.  God’s glory is a constant and what we need to do is be active in what we are supposed to be doing and God will show up when we least expect it, like the mink that swam through my legs.


For when God shows up His plan and purpose is simply for His glory to be revealed.  Whether standing at the bedside of a loved one close to death, in the middle of a stream with a wild animal swimming between your legs or even here at Emmanuel as we work on the kitchen remodel or confess our faith in the Athanasian Creed.  God clearly shows up and we can celebrate the certainty of His presence with and for us today.  For God comes not only to gather us up into His Kingdom, but to clearly unite us in the faith we confess.  For this faith points to what God has done for each and every one of us on the Cross of Calvary.  May we today be emboldened to confess with Paul and all the saints of all time and place in the words of the Athanasian Creed what God offers each and every one of us through His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, eternal life.  AMEN.

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