January 24, 2016
Text: Nehemiah 8:1-10
I Corinthians 12:12-31
Day of Discovery
Ever followed a two year old around on their time schedule? It’s an experience. They are busy exploring-looking at things as if for the first time-questioning- and in the process, discovering new things they didn’t know about before- and it fills them with joy and excitement! What if we lived life that same way? I believe God wants us to live the life of an explorer- on a quest to discover things we didn’t know before- especially in our faith- wanting to discover the depth and height and breadth of a holy and righteous God who loves us by grace and gives us great joy. Pray.
We hear in the news about some new “discovery” that scientists, biologists, archeologists, and astronomers have made. Centuries ago- explorers such as Columbus “discovered” new lands- the Americas. Webster defines the word “discover” as to mean: “to find out- learn of the existence, realize, to reveal; disclose; expose, to uncover.” But those new discoveries were not new things- they merely found out; exposed and uncovered things that always existed but hadn’t known before.
God wants us to discover Him in new ways. The Psalmist said: “the heaven’s declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims it’s maker’s handiwork.” Creation needs no words or language for us to discover the wonder of God’s power and creativity. We simply need to look up and see. Creation proclaims it’s maker. As Christians, we don’t worship creation- we worship the creator and the more we know about Him- the more we want to know more. And God has spoken to us in our own language so that we can know the heart and intention of God.
The Old Testament lesson from Nehemiah this morning is an amazing story. It takes place in Israel almost a hundred years after the first remnant of Israel had come back from captivity. They were in the midst of a long process of rebuilding the infrastructure of the country. Nehemiah had been called to supervise the building of the wall. And then one day, all the people stopped what they were doing- and gathered in the town square to make a request- read us the book of the law! It was a ground roots movement of people desiring to come to God and know more of Him. Today we call it a revival.
And so a wooden pulpit of sorts was built so that all could see and hear better-the reading of the law- and when Ezra the priest opened the book of the law he began by blessing the Lord. In response, all the people stood and worshipped God. Then Ezra began to read the scripture, explaining the meaning as he went- and everyone drank it in- thirsty to hear every word.
From early morning till midday they stood there together in the hot sun. There is no mention of anyone being impatient or bored or wanting to go home but listened as if it were the best news they had ever heard for the first time. That day for them was a day of discovery.
Martin Luther wrote in the small catechism that the Holy Spirit calls and gathers us as one- with the intention of discovering what God has to say to us. And when we do that- it is His good pleasure to explain to us what it means in a way we can understand.
The Psalmist said that the teaching of the Lord is perfect- reviving the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple. The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean and endures together; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More desire are they than gold, even much fine gold.
During the gold rush- people willingly left behind their homes and family and headed for California in the hope of discovering gold. It seems people have always searched for riches in one way or another down through the ages. The Psalmist wrote that the bible is like a rich gold mine- just waiting for us to go and mine. The good news is that there is more than enough for everyone.
Living in America, we have been blessed with the freedom to worship God. Most homes have multiple bibles they can pick up and read anytime. We have all the riches of the world at our finger tips- if only we open it and read. Why then are so many bibles left unopened? Because only when we understand and believe that the bible is God’s word- perfect in everyway, will we seek and explore and discover what God has to say to us.
Reading the bible can lead us to discover things about ourselves we did not anticipate. The Psalmist asked: “who can detect one’s own offenses?” In two and one half weeks, the season of Lent will begin. It is a time of remembering the suffering and death Jesus willingly endured for us. We find it easy to see faults in others- but find it easy to overlook our own. But God’s word reveals our need for a savior- lays bare the inward thoughts and desires our hearts and convicts us of our sins.
The Psalmist prayed: “cleanse me from my secret faults.” Most people want to be cleansed of their faults and short comings that others can see- but to ask to be cleansed from things only you and God know about is another thing. To desire that takes a total surrender of self to God.
As Jesus began his formal ministry- Jesus first laid the framework that defined his ministry. First He made his way down to the Jordon river to be baptized by John the Baptist as an outward sign of his surrender to His Father’s will for all to see. From there He immediately went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days. I believe He did that to show the devil that he could not be bought- using the sword of scripture to make the point if you will. From there he headed for his home town- and entering the same synagogue he had grown up in He stood up to talk as was the custom of traveling Rabbis. The priest handed him of all things- the scroll of the prophet Isaiah to read and teach from- and finding the place he had come to share, He began to read:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind- to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. All eyes were on this home-town boy- no doubt with jaws hanging down. They had just discovered something about Jesus they had not seen or understood before. This boy they had watched grow up into a young man was the one Isaiah had prophesied about!
All of us here have been blessed to have grown up going to church and Sunday School. We have grown up hearing of Jesus and have grown to know him personally. But there is so much more to be discovered about Him that we yet don’t realize. He is everything He says He is- He will do everything He says He will do- His love really is unconditional- His grace really is enough- and to know Him is all that is really important. We may know that in our minds- but it is another thing to know it without a doubt in our hearts.
It seems that it is in those times of struggle that we are more apt to discover things we knew in our heads but not in our hearts. In times of financial struggle we discover that Jesus really can be trusted to take care of all our needs. In times of sorrow- we discover that Jesus really does care about us- is able to comfort us and give us peace that passes all understanding. In times that we feel alone and misunderstood- we discover that Jesus never has left us nor will He ever leave us or forsakes us. In those times we discover that He can be trusted with our deepest thoughts and fears as we pour out our hearts to him.
And looking around- we discover that we are part of the body of Christ- each needed and of great worth. If you would- look at your hands please- they are part of your body aren’t they? They are part of what makes you who you are- and if you hit your finger with a hammer- your whole body knows it- and aches. Now look at the person sitting next to you- they are part of the same body of Christ we belong to as fellow believers and followers of Christ. When someone experiences pain, the whole body of Christ knows it- and aches with them. We are part of the same calling- yet each called in a unique way.
That morning in Nazareth when Jesus opened the scrolls and read aloud the prophesy from Isaiah- He let it be known that he was the fulfillment of that prophesy. This morning-I want to invite each of us to open your pew bibles to Matthew 28- starting with verse 19 on page 811 and read with me please. “Therefore go-and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father ad of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Now, I want to ask you to confess in unison- “today this scripture has been fulfilled in us?”
It is my hope and prayer that as we leave here this morning- all of us will go with the joy of the Lord –excited and ready to share the news with others in a way they can understand – so that they too will discover the love of God for them that was there all along. In Jesus name, Amen.