Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of December 17, 2017

Sermon: “Inside Out, Upside Down, & Totally Backward”
Text: Isaiah 61

When I was a kid the anticipation of what was to be found under the Christmas tree was at times almost unbearable.  I was always very interested in the newest toy or play set, sports equipment or video game but there were two kinds of gifts found under the tree each year that I had little time for.  One, I talked about a couple of weeks ago…clothes.  The other…books. 

I know that for some people books are cherished objects of great value that transport people to faraway places, long ago times, or fanciful locations. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, books were fine…but this was Christmas!  I wanted the good stuff.  Perhaps I had it inside out, upside down and totally backwards. 

One gift I received on a Christmas long ago was a copy of this book.  It’s a Berenstain Bears book titled, “Inside, Outside, Upside Down”.  My original copy has been lost to me but I remember the book well.

The title has been stuck in my head this Advent as we have been exploring how often times humanity get things all mixed up.  If you have missed the past few weeks you can catch up on the podcast and listen to Pastor Kevin’s sermons from the past two Sundays.

In the book “Inside, Outside, Upside Down” Small Bear, also known as Brother Bear takes a trip to town as he crawls inside a box that his Papa takes outside.  The box is then flipped upside down, placed on a truck, only to fall off.   As Brother Bear pops out of the box on the side of road he runs home and calls to Mama, “I went to town. Inside, outside, upside down.”

This book reminds me that most days I experience the same thing.  I get things inside out, upside down and totally backward. 

Next week is Christmas Eve.  Many in the world have their attention focused on amassing treasure or pursuing earthly treasure that have nothing to do with the story behind the birth of Jesus. 

Society has the season inside out, upside down and totally backwards.  A red suited saint, a boatload of gifts (with no clothes or books in sight), the most audacious light display; these are just a few of the things that have captivated our society this season. 

With TV commercials and Internet ads quoting scripture this season broadcasting “Peace on Earth, good will toward men” many might find it hard to find peace or be of good will toward anyone.
Peace is indeed elusive.  It was what God’s people were seeking when the Prophet Isaiah wrote the words of our text from Isaiah 61.

Exile was on the horizon as the Lord’s chosen people ran after other gods to try and satisfy their desires.  Time and time again Isaiah begged and pleaded, asked and insisted that the people stop their evil ways and come back to the Lord. 

But the people remained in their sin.  They had it inside out, upside down and totally backwards. 

Soon their hearts would be broken, as they would become captives and prisoners.  They would encounter great grief, as they would be ripped from their homes, as loved ones would die in the struggle.  In their sorrow they would be clothed in sackcloth and spread ashes on their bodies as the tears streamed down their faces.

It would be a sad time for God’s people, indeed.  But listen to the comforting words of the Prophet,    
The Spirit of the Almighty Lord is with me
    because the Lord has anointed me
        to deliver good news to humble people.
    He has sent me
        to heal those who are brokenhearted,
        to announce that captives will be set free
            and prisoners will be released.
    He has sent me
        to announce the year of the Lord’s good will
            and the day of our God’s vengeance,
        to comfort all those who grieve.
     He has sent me
        to provide for all those who grieve in Zion,
        to give them crowns instead of ashes,
            the oil of joy instead of tears of grief,
                and clothes of praise instead of a spirit of weakness.
(Isaiah 61:1-3)

Those words spoken to God’s people generations ago, still ring true today; like the people in Isaiah’s time, we too have it inside out, upside down, and totally backwards.

Some of you have had your hearts broken by bad decisions or selfish ambition gone wrong in your relationship with others.

Many in this room, including me, have been captive to sin and its power over us and we feel stuck in a prison of guilt and shame.
Countless gathered here still feel the sting of death and the weight of grief that never really goes away.
While you might try to make things look good on the outside, numerous of you are clothed in sackcloth and ashes on the inside, and try to hide the tears that stream down your face on a regular basis. 

The joy of Advent is that God turns things inside out, upside down and totally backwards for He comes not inside a box, but wrapped inside frail flesh.  He comes outside the comforts of heaven to turn the world upside down. 

God in his coming brings good news as he comes to heal your broken heart, to set you free from the prison of sin, he is here to comfort you in your grief, to put a crown on your head, provide you the oil of joy and to clothe you with praise because your name is written in His book.  And he promised to do it again when he comes in glory to bring you home to heaven.

God in his coming turns mourning into joy and weeping into laughter. 

Therefore we can call out with Isaiah,
I will find joy in the Lord.
I will delight in my God.
    He has dressed me in the clothes of salvation.
    He has wrapped me in the robe of righteousness
(Isaiah 61:10a)

Perhaps clothes and books are not such a bad thing after all, for our Savior is coming to town, inside, outside, upside down. 

-Pastor Seth Moorman

*The Bethany Bullet will take a Christmas Break.
We will be dark for the week of December 24 & December 31. The Bethany Bullet will resume the week of January 7, 2018!*


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