Sunday, 26 August 2012

Serenity and wholeness in life with God – step 2 restoration

Pentecost 13 year B Sermon
Title slide
The wisdom that comes from God through Jesus Christ…
wisdom to guide us through the fires of life…often this wisdom
comes as metaphor…as when Paul urges us to put on the armour of God

But how many times do we hear these words of wisdom
only to forget them…as we walk out the door to work…
or into the door at home? How many times have you failed…to pick up those… spiritual tools? When was the last time you consciously fastened on

Slide words
the belt of truth and
the breastplate of righteousness,
when did you last slip into  shoes …for proclaiming the gospel of peace,
or wielded the shield of faith…to quench the flaming arrows
of the evil one,
or protected yourself with the helmet of salvation,
and the strong sword of the Spirit,
who is witness to Jesus …the very Word of God… made flesh.

How seriously do you rise to Paul’s challenge

Slide words
for heaven sakes… pray all the time… in the Spirit. [pause]

Blank slide
This is wisdom to use…as we seek to bring about God’s will on earth these are spiritual tools to employ… when the flames of our own weakness… threaten to engulf us…
when the burning frustration…of our own powerlessness over others
is about to consume us…

the full armour of God is great wisdom to cling to…
wisdom… for life with God.  

Lake and sunset slide
And the gaining of wisdom is the aim of the first step we learned last week at the start of our teaching series on twelve steps…to serenity and wholeness
in life with God …twelve steps…twelve spiritual tools
which come from the teaching of Jesus
steps which have changed and healedmy life
and I pray will do the same for yours. [pause]

Last week the first step we learned was to accept
the wisdom Jesus offers… at the start of his sermon on the mount.

Slide words
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’
Which translates pretty well as,
‘It’s an incredible blessing… to accept that we’re not God.’

Word slide
So we take the first step and … humbly accept there are things about
ourselves… other people… and the physics of the universe
over which we are powerless.

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And as we reflected on our lives… we found… a lot of our frustration and unhappiness…came from refusing to take this step…
how bitterness and resentment …and even emotional exhaustion
result from trying to control… what is outside… our power to control.

And we learned how much… this refusal costs us…
disabling our feelings, wasting our energy, stopping us
from growing in faith, isolating us from God…
and damaging our relationships

and what’s worse…we found that clinging on to the illusion of control …actually prolongs our pain.

We concluded… there can be no wholeness and healing…
while we refuse to take this step…and our lives feel completely unmanageable. [pause]

And so we decide to take the first step… toward serenity and wholeness

Slide words
And we learned the serenity prayer
and we learn the words…Let go and let God.

In taking last week’s stepwe came to accept something about ourselves

But in this week’s step… we come to accept something about God

Slide word
A step which… is the beginning of restoration…
in our unmanageable lives.

When we own our own powerlessness and our utter dependence on God then we’re ready to take the second step.

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We come to believe… that God can and will… restore us to wholeness.

This step is expressed by Jesus… in his Sermon on the Mount.

Slide words
as blessed are the meek. In other words…it’s actually a blessing
to meekly trust in God…for wholeness and healing
to rely on God utterly… for our restoration.

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And that’s what I found thirty five years ago…when I was crushed and and defeated by the emotional violence which raged at me…
from my first husband…I was only twenty eight

at work in television I seemed confident and happy enough…
but at spirit had been crushed…I lost the joy and humour which had always characterised my personality…I walked on egg shells all the time at home… under the illusion
that it was somehow within my power…
to control the emotions of another person…my life was unmanageable

And if doing the same thing… over and over again
hoping for a different result …is the definition of insanity
then I suppose you could say… I was insane. [pause]

But by the grace of God through the compassion of others…
who’d taken these steps… I… not only came to accept my powerlessness
over that young man’s rageI saw how powerless I was…
over my own compulsion to change him…
And so I took the first step…and I learned the serenity prayer…
and I practiced… letting go and letting God

And then… a Christian friend encouraged me onward…to step two
when she told me… ‘God is just waiting for you to ask him to restore you.’

That was thirty five years ago…
my life today is blessed…I am restored… I have serenity and I feel whole most of the time
and yet I still take…these two steps… every day of my life. [Pause]

One of the most helpful things we can learn
is that God is just waiting to restore us…to help us…if we only ask for God’s guidance and healing. And God doesn’t work alone…you know
the Trinity of love…is surely a revelation of that.

For this reason God often operates through other people…
who can share their experience …strength and hope with us…
So it’s important to trust there are others…
who’ve been exactly where you are…
 and that sharing your burden with them will help in your restoration.

Unfortunately there are two lies…two false beliefs…which get in the way of our accepting…. God can and will restore us…

One is the lie… that we should have enough faith and strength already...
to get through anything…to faith everything out
We become angry at the demands and expectations of others
because pride won’t let us admit… we can’t do it all.
And we insist on carrying an emotional load… that threatens to crush us
We can’t admit we feel out of our depth and don’t have all the answers.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ may have to remind us that our refusal to ask for help… may demonstrates the sin of pride…to remind us that confessing and repenting of the sin of self sufficiency
can be the beginning of our healing.

At times like this we need encouragement… to ask for God’s help
And to seek out wise friends or maybe even trained professionals…

Some of us are programmed from childhood …with the illusion that everything depends on us… this false beliefthis lie… comes from
not being able to trust anyone as child…and as a coping strategy…
it may’ve worked well for us once…but it’s not helpful for adults

We have to take the step of asking for help because… not asking
for practical, emotional or spiritual help… can drastically limit
how much we can accomplish… in God’s service
whatever we achieve… will be restricted to the limits of our own energy.

When we refuse to delegate or ask others for help…
when we insist on doing everything ourselves…
We’re in denial there are limits to our strength and power.
This amounts to a refusal to trust God… and the children of God.

The second lie we buy into…the second false belief
is to think we’re so unique… we can’t be helped…even by God.
Oh we recognise help is out there,
but just not for us.

Instead of refusing to ask for help…we buy into the lie… there’s no point
in asking…because we’re beyond help. We isolate ourselves…even from God.
You might call this…the illusion of ‘terminal uniqueness’.
A false belief …that no one else can understand our suffering…
even God.  Or we don’t deserve help… because our suffering is our fault. Or our sins are too great… to be forgiven.

The real issue… is to recognise we’re a child of God like everyone else deserving of God’s love and healing…
If we elevate ourself… to the special status of un-helpable
once again we’re suffering from the sin of pride..
and need to repent… and turn our face back to God.

Step two… is about trusting that you
even you
are worthy of God’s help and healing.

One of the greatest ministries the church can provide
is to encourage supportive networks and home groups…
so people can share how God is working in their lives. And it’s helpful…
to set up these supports before a crisis hits. If we wait …it may be too late for some people.

In the realities of life…in our relationship, our work and spiritual journey… we will hit the wall… many times…and when that happens, it’s nice to have people around …we can count on. And so the church can be a vessel of God’s healing …and we are committed over the next year
to make group formation a top priority.


Slide words
You know there’s an old saying
some people come to the fountain of knowledge to drink…
Other’s com just to gargle.

And most of us will laugh at these words…till we start worrying about whether we’re a drinker… or a gargler. And if you see life
in black and white
then you’ll think it has to be one extreme… or the other…

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But the reality for all of us… is both… sometimes we drink … and sometimes we gargle…and sometimes we stub our toe on the fountain as we stumble by.

But the gift of God’s grace means we don’t have to be perfect. We’re seeking progress not perfection.
So we can relax and enjoy the joke.

And as I’ve found…redemption is a daily thing…
I take steps one and two every day. There are situations where I have to let go and let God every day.

My prayer is that these steps will be the beginning of wisdom for you

Waterfall slide
Let us say the serenity prayer together as we drink from the fountain of wisdom.