Children s Sermon 1 John 3:16-20

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1 Calvary United Methodist Church March 23, 2014 PERFECT PLAN Rev. Dr. S. Ronald Parks Children s Sermon 1 John 3:16-20 We welcome our children to the front of this worship space this morning. Last week we talked about a trip that I made to my favorite store, COSTCO. While I was there I purchased a new toy, a Flying Alien Sphere. And the reason that we talked about this last week is because we talked about control. We talked about how control is the ability to make someone or something do what you want them to do. Control is only possible if you have a vision, if you know what you want that person or thing to do and how to make that happen. Control is possible only if you have power. Now you might say that your parents have power that they have all the power. In this particular instance, in the Flying Alien Sphere, we have 6 AA batteries and one control.

2 Now, control is only possible if you have a connection. We talked about, last week, that this connection is the remote controller. Learning this kind of control is relatively easy. And last week I gave up control of the Flying Alien Sphere to Braden and Braden took control of the Flying Alien Sphere and the hope was that Braden would spend a lot of time this week practicing his control over the Flying Alien Sphere because, when we got together this morning, I wanted him to demonstrate what it is to have control. He is going to do that at this time. Are you anxious to see what he can do? I know that he is. What I need is a volunteer Matt Barber, sitting way over there. Yes that is you Matt. Stand up. This is called unrehearsed. Now Braden, having spent a number of hours in the sanctuary this past week because his mom has access to this big room anytime she wants, has been spending a little bit of time exercising control and practicing the level of control that he would need to do some difficult thing. Right? Now, Braden, are you nervous? Yes I would be too because you are going to fly this thing from here all the way over to Matt Barber. Are you guys nervous? Now one of the things that caused me to buy this toy is that it says that it bounces off everything. It ricochets off walls and ceilings and floors and human heads. So, no worries. Just put your hand up to hold it out of the way if it looks like it is going to hit you in the face. Okay? Don t worry about the spinning blades inside. Ready? Matt, you are going to put your hands out to catch this thing as it comes towards you. OK. Let s go. Braden proceeds to work the controller and the sphere lifts upwards. He then attempts to move it toward Matt who is standing on the far side of the church. Things do not go too smoothly and finally Pastor Ron suggests that Braden change the course of the sphere towards him since he is standing closer to Braden. After one or two attempts, the sphere lands in Pastor Ron s hands.

3 Not bad. Right? Well, not great but not bad. And the point that I wanted to make was this kind of control is rare and it is also easy. Anybody can do that. See, the reason that I gave it to a young person and I didn t try it myself is that I know that I am not really good at that. Now, neither Braden nor I could completely control what was happening. And poor Matt back there, he is crying because he didn t get a chance to hold the sphere. He couldn t control it either. Braden couldn t control it; I couldn t control it; he couldn t control it; you guys couldn t control it. Nobody in the room except Braden had any hope of controlling it and even then the control was kind of what we call ify tenuous, difficult. It is difficult to control stuff. You and I try to control a lot of things and many of the things we have no control over what happens. What we can control is how we react. Now, should I be mad at Braden because he couldn t do what I asked him to do? No? Yes? Should I be mad? What do you think? See that is my control. I can control how I react but in a lot of things we don t have control. In those situations there are two responses that we come up with. The first is Oh no! What is going to happen next? That is called fear. Fear is something that you feel when you believe that no one can keep things from turning out all wrong. You feel that everything around you is going to get messed up. You ve had that feeling before haven t you?

4 The other reaction that you can have when things seem to be going all wrong is to have hope. Hope is what you feel when you believe that, no matter what happens, God and I can make it. Fear or hope, that is our choice. We can t control everything that happens but we can control how we react. Are we going to react with fear? Are we going to react with negative feelings? Are we going to react with hope? That is a really important question for us as Christians. And when we react to life and choose hope, when we react in hope we then act out of love. Hope is the idea that God and I can make it alright. To do that we have to do the loving thing for ourselves, we have to do the loving thing for each other. And, 1 John tells us exactly how that works in terms of living and being together.

5 Christ gave his life for us; love s perfect gift. That s why we re determined to live in love for others. People are in need. If you can help and choose not to, what happens to the love of God in your heart? You don t get to keep it. It s gone. No one gets it. It s wasted. We can talk about loving, but practice makes perfect. Caring for others brings God s hope into our reality. God is greater than the fear that lives in our hearts. He knows what we can do; both the good and the bad. And God has promised to make sure we get it right! Living in hope and acting in love isn t easy. There are lots of things and people who try to convince us that we should be afraid. There are lots of reasons to think that things are to turn out all wrong. You can think of a ton of reasons to be afraid and lock yourself away to try to protect yourself. But when you control your fear, your able to live in hope. It takes a lifetime of practice to get it right and we can fall back into fear at any time. That s why our faith is so important to us. It helps us to stay focused on living in God s love and hope. As followers of Jesus, our hope is that God will always help us to do our best. Braden only had a few days to practice with the sphere, and he didn t know what I was going to ask him to do with it. And yet, he spent a fair amount of time working on his skills so he could do his best. If we gave him another week, do you think he would be better at controlling the sphere? Of course! And he would do his best to meet whatever challenge I put before him. That s hope in action.

6 Not only do we trust that God will help us to do our best, we hope that God will get us through every test and not just the ones you take in school. Flying the sphere is a fun test! It tested Braden s coordination, his nerve, and his abilities. Once it took off and began to move around the sanctuary, it tested everyone s nerves! Many things, however, really test us; they try to convince us to be afraid and they re no fun at all! As we work at doing our best, God also gives us the strength and patience to go through a lot of experiences that push us to the limits of our abilities. We can make it because God has given us hope! Once we do our best to love in the Spirit of God s hope, and make our way through the tests of life, we can let go of all the things we can t do we can give them to God who will take care of the rest. We can do a lot of good things, and since all those good things come from God, God knows what is possible and what we can accomplish. And God also knows the bad stuff about us the stuff that sneaks around in our minds and hearts, telling us Be afraid and stay away from everyone. When we put ourselves first and act out of fear, God understands where that comes from and wants us to grow out of ourselves so that we can share the good stuff with each other. No one can control everything that happens! When we re afraid of losing control, we live in fear. But when we trust that no matter what happens, God and I can work together to make it all right, we live in hope. And hope is what makes every day worth living! Thanks for sharing in our time this morning. Message Jeremiah 29:10-15 There have been a number of studies that suggest that you can determine what generation you belong to by the events that you remember where you were when you learned about them.

7 For me, there are three events that meet that criteria. The first is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, I was seven years old; I was in Mrs. Grimm s second grade class when someone stuck their head in the door and said that the president had been shot and killed. The second one January 28, I was teaching an ethics class at York College and a student stuck his head in the door and said that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded after take-off. What was the reaction that you had to those particular events? What was the impact that they had on your life? For me it was sadness and shock. I was a huge fan of the space program, and I was too young to quite understand the charisma of John Kennedy. The idea that someone took the life of the president while riding in a car in Dallas and the idea that seven people who had taken off from Cape Canaveral had lost their lives in a horrific explosion made me sad. And it was shocking news. No one expected either of those two events. And then, there is the third event. This is one, perhaps for all of us, that was a defining moment in our lives. This is a picture taken that morning at about 8:30, a Tuesday morning the weather was clear the morning of September 11, We all remember what happened that day. I was downstairs in the administrative wing looking at some possible designs for a building project here at Calvary. That is how far back this goes. But the impact of that particular event for all of us had a different impact than losing a president or the explosion of a space shuttle. The impact of 9/11 filled all of us, without question, with fear. Not long after September 11 th the government established the Department of Homeland Security and that department established terror alerts. They developed levels of terrorism, green (low) through red (severe), as a means to provide a sense of awareness and preparedness. No one quite knew what to expect when the level went up and no one was sure what it was that you were to prepare for. But that became the

8 image that carried over green, yellow, the orange, the red an image that became symbolic of an entire decade. If you visited New York City about a year after September 11 th, you saw signs all over the place that suggested that if you see something you should say something you should contact police. Those posters were everywhere they were in the subways, they were in public areas all over the place. The idea behind this was that there are 16,000,000 eyes in this city that should be open, be prepared, be vigilant, and be communicative. We have to help each other out. This is called terrorism, brothers and sisters. Terrorism was probably not part of our lives before September 11 th, yet we heard about planes being bombed, we heard about enemies being attacked. We knew that there were acts of terrorism. As a matter of fact, the word terrorism goes all the way back to the 19 th century the reign of terror in France. Terrorism is the use of violence, or the threat of violence, to intimidate people and generate a people s sense that life is to be lived in fear and in submission to whatever authority you have to answer to. Six weeks after September 11 th, the United Methodist Church did something that I thought, at the time, was extraordinarily courageous. And, as I look back on it, I can t help but admire the person who had the guts to say, You know what? There is another way to respond to this. Maybe it is not fear. They generated a 30 second video through the Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors campaign. Tell me, when you put yourself back in the mentality of September, 11 th, tell me if this doesn t seem a little courageous to you.

9 Video: (over a background of different nationalities praying in their language, this text is heard) No matter how you pray or where, the people of the United Methodist Church are praying with you. Amen. No matter how you pray or where, the people of the United Methodist Church are praying with you. What do you think the reaction was in this country to that kind of an idea that people of every faith, people who worship God anywhere in any way, we are all praying together for one thing? You see that conviction of hope was hard to come by six weeks after September 11 th. We were too busy being afraid to think about being together in community. And, when that particular 30 second spot aired, it generated a fire storm of controversy, not because of its content but because of its timing. Nobody wanted to hear about hope, about the idea of community, about the idea of people from different backgrounds working together to achieve a common goal, which was I pray for peace; I pray for justice; I pray that every person may be secure. The reason the United Methodist Church took the bold step, telling everyone You know, fear isn t the only reaction you can have to this; maybe there is something to hope about was based on this simple five word passage Perfect love drives out fear. Perfect love - not the love that you and I feel for each other - perfect love that God has shown to us. God s perfect love is the only source of hope in this world. It is the only source of hope that thrives, the only thing that will get us through. And Jeremiah the prophet writes to the people in exile 200 years before Jesus was born with this message of hope: God s Word is clear: Don t be afraid. I ll be there at just the right time. I promise to bring you back home. I know what I m doing. The plan is perfect. My plan is to take care of you and give you the future you hope for. Call on me. I m listening. Pray to me. I m right here. Look for

10 me. I m not hiding. Do you want me in your life? I won t let you down. (Jeremiah 29:10-15) We all have to make a decision about what the posture would be for our fear. How much of this we are going to practice and how much of this we are going to allow into our heart and into our lives. And why is fear such an important part of who we are? Because fear is the Failure of Everything Appearing Real. It is the possibility that my entire world and everything in it, everything that I have worked so hard for may collapse and br taken away from me just like that. The fear becomes so real to us that it paralyzes us but there is a posture of hope that we as believers follow in Jesus Christ. We have been taught, we have been trained, we have experienced this posture of hope and this posture of hope is Hands Out to People Everywhere. That is what hope is all about. Hope is that I can love in the same way that God loved me and not worry about how I am doing, about whether it is effective, about whether other people receive it. I am supposed to be faithful; I am not supposed to be successful. I am supposed to be true to the calling; I am not supposed to be efficient. I am supposed to do what I can, the best that I can, in terms of reaching out my hands of love to all people. That is what we are about. I am hungry for that hope because there are times when that hope is not easy to find, when that hope is tough, when the hope that I hope would guide my life eludes me and leaves me behind. Everyone has experienced loss and grief but we have a hope that is bigger than sorrow and death. We hope in the resurrection of Christ and in the gift of life everlasting. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14) Be hungry for that hope. Be hungry for the knowledge that this life, as joyous as it can be, as difficult and trying as it can be. This life is a gift and that at some point when this life is over there will be a gift waiting for each one of us. Yes, we have all grieved. Yes we have all lost. Yes, we have all been subject to fear. Yes, we have had triumph

11 and hope, but there is something that has been promised to us. There is a presence and a power that is ours and I am hungry for that hope. I want to know that hope. I want to give that hope. But being hungry for it is enough. I have heard that hope and I keep hearing it. I keep hearing it in the voices of those whose hope spills out of their hearts into the way that they live it, the way people look at their lives, and the way people look at death. My brother had a stroke on Monday and I went to see him on Friday. When I turned the corner and stood at the door of his hospital room he looked at me and he pointed, and it took him ten seconds to say my name. The stroke affected his speech and his mind, not his body. That was the nicest thing I have heard in years Ron. That is hope! Hope that what it is isn t what it will always be. Hearing the word is a beginning. Doing what God commands, however, makes the hope real. Hearing must lead to doing. That is what makes the difference to God. (Romans 2:13) Hearing leads to doing. Hear the words of hope. Hear the words of hope in everything that you say and do and in what is said and done around you. There is always the message of hope even if it is just Ron. I am holding on to that hope. I am holding it tight. I am not going to let it go. I am not going to allow the lack of control that I exert in my life and the lack of control that I exert in other people s lives to take away my hope. We know we re guilty. Time and time again, we betrayed you and sinned against others. Your goodness is all that we can count on. Your our last hope. (Jeremiah 14:7-9) Yes, I know that I am guilty because time and time again I have betrayed your hope, other people s hope. And I have sinned against God and against you. I know that about myself. It s an invocation I offer

12 every morning and a confession I lift up every night. I m going to hold tightly to that hope. I am going to hold tightly to God s grace being sufficient for my life. On my own, I ve got nothing. I want to live in that hope day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute. I want to be at home in that hope. Jesus said, I am going to prepare a place for you. When everything is ready I will come for you. We ll go to a place not made with hands but eternal in the heavens. (John 14:4-5) I want to be there. I want to be there, not just at the time of my death, but in life. Several months ago, a member of our church family, Ginny Huber passed away at the age of ninety. I spent a few minutes with her in the hospital the day before she died. When I walked into her room, her graceful countenance lit up with a childlike smile that I ll take with me the rest of my days. Standing beside her and holding her hand, I asked her how she was doing. The moment the question was spoken, I felt like a fool. Her body was wracked with cancer and her life was slipping away with each passing moment. I don t know if she sensed my self-inflicted discomfort, but her response was so perfect and humbling that I blushed: Pastor, I am doing great. I was speechless. It was all I could do to stop myself from gentling grasping her shoulders and shaking her back to reality: Ginny, you re NOT doing great. You re dying. Thank God I kept my thoughts to myself. As we talked, I realized that she was right. She was and is doing great! She s at home in heaven, and heaven was already at home in her. I am a herald of hope; one whose purpose in life is to speak a message the world is dying to hear. Our hope is to share the glory of God. It won t be easy, but difficult times teach us patience. Patience strengthens our resolve and character. That s why we re hopefully working to see what God will do next. He built a bridge of reconciliation to us. Now we re building one for everyone. (Romans 5:2-5)

13 There are times when speaking a word of hope seems ill-advised or out of touch with reality. In the days following 9/11, few voices heralding the possibilities of hope were raised in the midst of angry cries for vengeance and justice. Those who had the courage to speak of reaching out to extend the offer of reconciliation to people of diverse cultures and traditions were accused of treason. Some were mocked for their infantile gestures of peace-making and communal understanding. But we confess and proudly proclaim that a life of faith is not governed by fear. Drawing ourselves into a ball of anxiety in a corner of our world is a faithless act of hopelessness and defeat. We are not going to live in fear. We will not be terrorized by random acts of senseless cruelty. We are a people of hope, and in the spirit and footsteps of our Master, we will extend our Hands Out to People Everywhere.

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