Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of May 19, 2019

Sermon:        S___________

On this day as we witness our youth as they are confirmed in the faith (this past Sunday) our text comes from a special Bible verse for me.  It was on a warm June Sunday 35 years ago, I knelt at the front of the church and had this verse spoken over me by my father,

“Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
They will run and won’t become weary.
They will walk and won’t grow tired.”   (Isaiah 40:31)

I don’t know about you, but it’s not often that I feel like an eagle.  Let me tell you, I have run, and become weary, I have walked and been tired, so, why did my father choose this as my confirmation verse?  Well, I’ve never asked him, and I probably should, but here is what I have come up with. 

Most times I really don’t feel like an eagle.  My strength is weak.  It’s not just in being physically active; it’s also in looking at the to-do list.  It’s endless!

There is an old saying that goes like this, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die.”

Some days I just want to soar on wings like an eagles, high above the storms of life, above the frenetic fray of this sinful world, but often I feel more like a turkey, than an eagle.  Perhaps you feel the same way. 

When I was younger I had a teacher who had a coffee mug that said, “It’s hard to soar like the eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys.”

Turkeys are grounded poultry, they aren’t that pleasing to look at, they are loud and obnoxious and their round shape is better suited to be lying dead on a table on a national holiday than soaring in the sky.

But honestly, I am much more turkey than eagle.  I’m guessing you are too.

Probably the most famous thanksgiving episode of any television sitcom is titled "Turkeys Away," from the first season of "WKRP in Cincinnati." The series was about a struggling radio station that changed formats from easy listening to rock and roll. The conflict, and thus, the comedy came from the contrast between the people who worked for the station beforehand, including bumbling but kindhearted station manager Arthur Carlson and the new, young and hip hires.

The seventh episode of the series, titled "Turkeys Away" showed Mr. Carlson trying to take on more of a hand's on approach to prove that he still had what it took to run the station. He came up with a secret promotion for Thanksgiving. It was all hush hush until the end of the episode, where long time newsman Les Nessman was on the street, reporting live when the event occurred.

As it turned out, the secret project was that Carlson was having a bunch of turkeys dropped from a helicopter high up in the air into the crowd below. The trouble, of course, is that turkeys aren't particularly known for flying. Nessman called the drop in the style of Herbert Morrison's famous radio call of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, right down to Nessman echoing Morrison's famed cry, "Oh the humanity!" and described turkeys hitting the ground like bags of wet cement.  Whatever turkeys survived then turned on the crowd and attacked.

When Mr. Carlson and long time station salesman Herb Tarlek walked back in to the station they were in shock, their suits were torn up & they were covered in feathers. As the episode ends, he uttered the famous line, "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!" The episode was a classic!
You can watch a quick recap here: https://youtu.be/ST01bZJPuE0

Well, as God as my witness I know that this turkey can’t fly. Often times it seems that my best efforts are like wet bags of cement hitting the pavement. I don’t think scripture is calling us to soar on our own.

But what is the meaning behind my confirmation verse after all?  Perhaps the annals of history can give us some clarity.

In 1782 the United States adopted the great seal of the country with a bald eagle as the centerpiece.  About a year and a half later, founding father Benjamin Franklin penned a letter to his daughter expressing is displeasure in choosing an eagle.  He wrote the following:

"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

"[The Bald Eagle] is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward…For the truth the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and… a true original native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack…the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on."

Perhaps there is hope for us turkeys. Our hope is to soar, be we have been grounded by our sin.
What has grounded you?  What is that thing that keeps clipping your wings causing you to crash?
I know there is something. 

Perhaps its doubt or debt, lust or lying, greed or gluttony, anger or envy, vanity or apathy…should I go on? 
There is not one person here who has not been grounded by their own sin, entangled by temptation and destined for destruction. 

But we have a God who desires us to soar, to walk, to run so He sent not an eagle but a Lion.  The Lion of Judah, the Messiah, the Redeemer has come to take upon himself all those things that ground us and by his death and resurrection he says, “You are forgiven!”

The waiting is over, our hope has come! In Christ alone we are given the strength to soar to walk to run for him.  Perhaps we have come to the core of the text.

How can a turkey like me, like you, soar like an eagle?   We can do so by Standing On (the) Almighty Rock.
Our standing is not based on our ability or inability to fly, but comes to us in our greatest need when we have been grounded, mired in our sin, stuck in the pit unable to get out.

It was Christ who stood in our place, taking the shame of the cross, bearing the weight of sin, and exchanging the acts that ground us and by is death he enables us to soar.  In his resurrection we find life.

In this life there is nothing that covers everything but there is someone who covers everyone and in Christ our sin is covered, we are no longer grounded by sin but we can stand in His victory because He is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!)

We stand on the almighty rock of Christ who grants us forgiveness.  It’s not some bag of wet cement, but a solid foundation.

Perhaps David said it best in one of my favorite Psalms of all time, Psalm 40:
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined & heard my cry.
He lifts me up out of the pit, out of the mire and clay.
He sets my feet upon a rock, made my footsteps sure.
He puts a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

As a special bonus for Bullet readers- the reason that Psalm 40 is my favorite comes from the rock band U2 and their song that used David’s words.  You can watch a video of that song here- https://youtu.be/1XzHlySYR_Y

Perhaps it’s not for me to figure out why my father gave me that verse and look to the Lord who directed the process.  The Lord knew that this turkey would ground himself and in so doing I would need to be driven to the cross where in Christ I Stand On the Almighty Rock and SOAR and so do you!
-Pr. Seth Moorman


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