Monday, November 05, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of November 4, 2018

Sermon: “Cloud Therapy”

Two weeks ago as we wrapped up our series on the Bethany Blueprint, talking about sharing intentionally, Pastor Kevin made a reference to something he called cloud therapy.  He said that it would be a million dollar idea.

Just imagine… you are ushered into a room not unlike a planetarium, a large vaulted ceiling rises above your head, a few rows of incredibly comfortable armchairs below.  You take your seat, the room dims a bit, soft music starts to play and soon enough you are transported to a grassy hillside. 

You begin to survey the sky as clouds start to billow and blow.  You can feel the wind against your skin and the warmth of sun on your face.  You begin to make out shapes, faces and objects in the sky and your mind is drawn to some wonderful moments filled with magnificent memories and peaceful places. 

Before you entered, the weight of the world was on your shoulders; the stress of the daily grind and all the worries that filled your mind created crippling anxiety, and filled you with fear.  But an hour in cloud therapy and you feel, refreshed, revived, renewed and ready to take on life’s challenges once again.

What if I were to tell you that God has been in the business of cloud therapy since creation? 

It was the second day of creation and “God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’  So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it.  And it was so.  God called the vault ‘sky’. (Genesis 1:6-8)

I have no doubt that in that second day of creation cloud therapy began.  That water in vault above?  Yep, you guessed it, clouds. But it was far from the last time clouds would make an appearance in the narrative of Scripture.

Throughout the pages of the Old Testament we see God presenting Himself in the form of a cloud.  Many times it’s in judgment. 

For example, rain came in the clouds in Noah’s day to bring Yahweh’s righteous judgment upon a sinful people, and that is one of many such examples.

I’m sure you have seen the cartoon with the raincloud following over the head of someone.  Have you ever felt this way?  Like nothing is going right?  Like no matter you do, it’s all gloom and doom? 

We all feel that way.  It’s the result of sin in the world and no one is immune.  In fact, it’s worse than just a few raindrops.  Like the people in Noah’s day, we are destined for destruction.  Your sin and mine will kill and separate us from God. We are in need of a different kind of cloud therapy. 

Digging deeper and we see that the Lord also comes in a cloud to be with His people, to give protection and comfort.  After the flood God said, “I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”  (Genesis 9:13)

As the Israelites escape slavery in Egypt, as they were gripped with fear and crippled with anxiety, the Lord came to guide and comfort in a pillar of cloud. 

When the tabernacle is dedicated the Lord descends to earth and fills the place with the cloud of His presence. 

God sent clouds to a parched land in a time of drought when He reveals Himself as the only true God on the mountainside when Elijah encounters the prophets of Baal.

But these instances are not limited to the Old Testament.  At the mountain of transfiguration as Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah Mark tells us, “Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!”  (Mark 9:7)

At the end of His time on earth, once again on a mountain top, Jesus ascends in a cloud, Luke records the following, “And after he said these things, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”  (Acts 1:9)

On the night of His betrayal, in the presence of the high priest Jesus stood before His accusers who ask Him directly, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?  ‘I AM’, said Jesus.  ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Mark 14:61b-62)

For the first seven years of my life I lived in northern Arizona.  While we may have clouds here in southern California, there is nothing like the unpolluted deep blue Arizona sky filled with beautiful puffy cumulous clouds.

I remember getting my own cloud therapy as I would imagine which one Jesus was on, or what one I might be riding one when Jesus would call me home to heaven.

If you are familiar with the comic strip Family Circus there is a great one where Jeffy and his Mom are out working in the garden.  Jeffy is pointing to a cloud filled sky saying, “Look Mommy, there is a hole in the sky and I can see a bit of heaven.”   Click here to see that comic strip. 

For many of us, today is a hard day.  Many of us have a hole in our hearts.  As we celebrate All Saints Day, we remember those who have gone before us, who are in the clouds of heaven. 

For some of you, that memory is new and the sharp sting of death is fresh in your mind.  For others, time may have gone on but the feeling of loss continues.  

Today, I remember a good friend who entered heaven this summer, my grandmother who passed away just two, months ago, my uncle who went to be with Jesus just a few weeks ago, my mother who received her eternal reward almost 12 years ago and my father-in-law, whom I never met whose stole I wear today.   I think we all need some cloud therapy. 

Listen to the words from our Reading from the book of Revelation again, “…I saw a large crowd from every nation, tribe, people, and language. No one was able to count how many people there were. They were standing in front of the throne and the lamb. They were wearing white robes, holding palm branches in their hands,  and crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

It is the culmination of what the writer of Hebrews described as the great cloud of witnesses. 

All Saints Day is a day of cloud therapy.  For the God who came to earth in the form of a cloud to lead and to guide, to comfort and to lift up, came again in the person of Jesus to live, to die and to rise again so that a cloud of witnesses too numerous to count would be in heaven forever praising His name and singing songs to the Lamb.

He came to earth, to take the wrath and judgment and the storm of sin upon Himself so that you would not have to face it.  He faced death and was utterly forsaken by His Father.  He was utterly alone as He took your sin so that you might never be.  His death brings you life and a connection to all the saints who have gone before. 

Jesus came, to bring life where there was only death, to comfort you in your grief, to wipe every tear from your eyes.  In Christ you are forgiven.  For all the times you rebelled and turned away, for all the times you gave up on God, He never gave up on you.

One day that hole you feel on this side of heaven because your loved one is on the other side will be made whole (w-h-o-l-e).  One day you too will join the cloud of witnesses and you will be whole. 

Until that day, I invite you to partake in some cloud therapy, to come to this place where God promises to be, in Word, in Water, in Wafer in Wine and in the Witness of the Saints of God.  In this place God comes to you to refresh, to revive (literally) renew and make you ready to take on life’s challenges again. 

On this day, as we look to the saints who have gone before us, we partake in a little cloud therapy which makes you whole. 
-Pr. Seth Moorman


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