At Anchor we've started off June by joining in the OnePrayer series - over 1,600 churches around the world! OnePrayer is a movement of churches coming together to serve, share and give as part of the Church. Anchor is all about that!
Last year for the preaching themes, we prayed: God, make us...
This year, the preaching theme centers on: God is...
One of the ways that the OnePrayer series connects churches is through video-sermons. Preachers from all over the world videorecord a sermon and submit it to the website. Then other churches can download it and show a video-sermon of a preacher from some other part of the nation or world. Cool idea. We did three of them last year, and it went over okay. The upside is that it's a neat way to connect the congregation to other good teachers. The downside is that the preacher goes on for more than thirty minutes on the video - you've got to be really really, really good to do that. Unfortunately the ones I previewed for this year didn't pass the test. Maybe we'll find some that do, yet.
The first sermon was inspired by U2's masterpiece Magnificent. Haven't heard it yet? Check it out at YouTube. Great song about worship - about how a husband and wife want their life together to be one of worship of The Magnificent. The song inspired me...and it prompted me to develop a sermon about God being The Magnificent.
The obvious text was Mary's Song - traditionally titled the Magnificant (because in Latin the first word is magnificant). Interestingly, Psalm 34, in my opinion, is a foundational song for what Mary created. I read through both songs for clues for why David and Mary magnified the LORD.
Here's my summary:
God is...Magnificent because he is
Beauty-Full, Strength-Full, Mercy-Full, and Remember-Full.
God is Magnificent when he is Beauty-Full. What are the times when you walk outside into Creation and gasp - when you sigh in relief, when you stare in wonder, when you soak up the sunrise or sunset -and then you breath out a prayer of praise and thanks to God? It's in moments when we notice the world saturated in magnificent beauty that we see the magnificence of God.
Sure enough it is easy to see what is ugly and defiled in the world. Rivers polluted and forests hacked, mountains stripped and fields gouged. It's easy to see what's wrong in the world, to miss the beauty because of what's been battered. And yet what is most beautiful in the world is not seen in Creation alone, but within each Human. God made us Imago Dei - in his image. We are made in is magnificent image - to look into the eyes of another man or woman is to look upon beauty-fullness. Except that most women and men I know refuse to look in the mirror and see beauty. They keep choosing to see what is wrong. But if we are crafted in Imago Dei, then we have the option of seeing in ourselves and one another The Magnificent.
God is...Magnificent when he is Strength-full, Mighty-Full, when he is Capable. When God comes through, when he helps us turn a corner, nail down a victory, start again, push through to the other side - then we praise God, thank him, and magnify Him. How many times have you needed help from the outside - when you were too tired or confused to do the next right thing. And so God comes to you - in the guise of a friend or stranger - and makes possible a new way forward. When we go over these moments, we see the magnificence of God - we don't deserve those miracles, and we can't barter for them - they are gifts that God loves to give.
Scriptures repeatedly refer to the power of a seed as a picture for the power of God. Take whatever seed you want - a peach core, a wheat grain, a mustard seed. There is latent power and capability in that tiny little pod. It gets put in the ground, it gets watered, it gets fueled, and then out if sprouts a seedling, and then it stretches high, it bends with the wind, and then it increases in firmness and height and it's leaves soak up sunshine; some power is at work bringing out of that seed something that is new and yet natural. And at the right time a harvest is made possible - all from that little seed. And so God's power is at work in you - you are the seed, your deeds are the seeds, your attitude and choices are seeds from which God will take and plant and fuel and bring forth from it more than we could possibly imagine or hope for.
God is Magnificent when he is Mercy-Full. When God gives you a break, when he helps you let go of your sins, when he helps you replace despair with hope, when he helps you yank out the root of bitterness and fill the space with shalom - that is worth uttering prayers of praise. When God brings people into your life who forgive you, who make amends to you, who guide you into freedom from past guilt and shame, when you find opportunities to give mercy - when we think about it - that's a beautiful moment to magnify the Lord. God is merciful to us, and we best value that mercy when we give out mercy to others in response. To those who see this at work in their homes and schools, in churches and workplaces - it's magnificent!
God is...Magnificent because he is Remember-full. God never forgets us, never abandons us, never leaves us alone. God is loyal, he is faithful, he is persevering, he is patient, he endures. God thinks of you - a citizen of the world he created and loves - and continues to work to help you receive mercy and give it. He remembers you - and for those of you who have chosen to follow the way of Jesus - he remembers your sins no more. When he remembers you - and he does it very often - he does not remember someone who is a failure, prone to mistakes, a flop - he remembers you as one made in his Imago Dei - every deed and word a seed for his work as the Great Farmer!
When God thinks of you, he thinks of you as you are according to his reality, his perspective on the world. He remembers you according to his great mercy and might - he seeks to redeem and restore all people - his interest is not in reminding you of your sins, but of reminding you of his gifts of grace and new opportunities. When God thinks of you, he is interested in helping you work through the consequences of your actions, which are seeds for him to do a new thing. How magnificent is that?
Psalm 34 has become a central song for me - in where I am at in my journey. Maybe it can be for you also - a song inspired by a Magnificent God at work in his Magnificent World.