OVERFLOWING BLESSINGS-PART I

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1 OVERFLOWING BLESSINGS-PART I Blessings Understood A Sermon by David J. Droog October 12, 2008 First Presbyterian Church, Rochester Gen 1:20-22, Gen 2:2-3 Gen 12:1-3 Leviticus 9:22-24 Friends, this is the first full week of our stewardship campaign. The letter-ofintroduction was in the October newsletter. You ve heard from our first Stewardship speaker. Tomorrow a second letter will be mailed along with the Shared Ministries Opportunities Form for you to complete and return. An additional letter will be mailed near the end of the month with the pledge card included, and instructions on how the pledge cards will be received during worship on Nov 2 nd. Our theme is OVERFLOWING BLESSINGS. We have been blessed by God so that we can be a blessing to others. What I want to do this morning is to provide a brief look at the Old Testament concept of Blessing and some of its biblically historical significance. And I want to do that by beginning with the creation story verses that you heard read this morning. We find that when God is in the midst of creation- He had already created light, firmament, dry-land, seas, vegetation, the sun, the moon and the stars, and now he creates living creatures,- birds, sea monsters, fish, and it says, and God blessed them. What was the blessing? Reproduction! The ability to reproduce. Be fruitful and multiply. The first blessing, the very first blessing is the on-going life cycle of all creation, the ability to re-create. And then God creates the beasts, the cattle and the creeping things, and then human beings. God created humans in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female God created them, and God blessed them. And the

2 blessing was reproduction. Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The second blessing was the same as the first, the ability for all living things to recreate themselves. And God gave them food. I give you every plant yielding seeds and you shall have them for food. One of the definitions of blessing is unmerited gift. These living things that God had just created had done nothing to merit any gift from God and yet God gave them food to eat. God knew that what was needed was food and energy in order to carry out the blessing of reproduction. God didn t say, I already gave you life and reproduction therefore I ll sell you some food. God didn t say, If you do certain things, I will give you some food. God said simply, I have given you every plant for food. (v29) Life itself is a blessing from God. The fact that you are here, that you have great grandparents, and grandparents, and parents and the potential to have children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, is the blessing. And the fact that you can eat, for the most part, what you want, when you want, to the quantity you want is a blessing from God. Each of the people along the line of the food production, from the planting and harvesting to the packaging and transporting, to the grocery store personnel who stock the shelves, to the check out clerk,is a blessing to you, and you to them, when you purchase the product. We are blessed to be a blessing. When we jump all the way to the 12 th chapter, to Abraham, the faithful servant of God, note again what the blessing is I will make you a great nation and I will bless you. Abraham s understanding of a great nation meant many descendants, the ability to reproduce, and later in the Abraham story, old Abram is asking God, what s going on here, the only child you have given me is a child of my wife s slave? And God says, This will not be

3 the beginning of your great nation. Ishmael will be a great nation unto himself. You, look toward the heaven and number (count) the stars, if you can. So shall your descendants be. This is the blessing of family. Abraham will have a large family. How often it is that our families, both our nuclear and our extended families are a blessing to us and we to them. How often it is that the family of God, in this church has been a blessing to us and we to it. You are blessed to be a blessing. It is a blessing to be in this church. There is a long, rich history of nearly 150 years of a progressive, creative, inventive, open congregation. Every dollar we give, every minute of time, every word we speak and every action we perform in the name of God, is a blessing to this family of God, and to the community in which we live. A little later in the story, God says to Abraham, I shall make my covenant with your Son, Isaac. The blessing that Abraham received from God, to be a great nation, becomes the blessing of the covenant: I shall be your God, and you shall be my people. That is the covenant of God and that is our blessing. If God didn t care, if God didn t love us even more than we love God, if God didn t want to be our God, even more than we want to be God s people, there would be no blessing, there would be no covenant. But God does love us and God does want to be our God, and more than anything, God wants us to be his people. The whole of the Old Testament story is God creating, defining, designing, training, showing, guiding, leading and blessing a group of people into a nation of God followers and worshippers. This nation of people, the Hebrews, became the Israelites because of a blessing that Jacob received after wrestling with God. There are three kinds of blessing in the Old Testament: The blessing of God given freely to humans. We have already seen this to be life itself, food to sustain life,

4 and the reproductive ability of all creation- humans, animals, and plants. And, the Covenant, the promise of God, which we read in Deuteronomy, Because you listen to me, and follow the rules I have given, God says, I will keep the covenant. In other words, if you will continue to be my people, I will continue to bless you, and bless you and bless you. Notice by this time in the covenant discussion that covenant now includes the steadfast love of God. Again, from Deuteronomy, The Lord your God will keep with you the covenant, and the steadfast love, which he swore to your fathers to keep. God will love you, bless you and multiply you. And then notice how those blessings that God has promised us extend to everything wee have: God will bless the fruit of your body, the fruit of your ground: your grain, your wine, your oil, the increase of your cattle, the young of your flock and you shall be blessed above all peoples. The second type of blessing in the Old Testament is that of one human being blessing another. I ve already mentioned some of the ways that we bless each other, by the business we do with others, through our families, and how we support the church, the community and each other. Here we need to remind ourselves of the definition of blessing: A blessing is the active outgoing of the divine good will or grace which results in prosperity or happiness, health, strength, wisdom, success or life. (let me repeat that) As one continues to read the Old Testament one begins to see a movement from the blessing of one person to another person, usually one family member to another family member, as in the case of Isaac to Jacob, to the blessing of one person to the

5 whole tribe, or several tribes. If you were to read Genesis 49, you would find Jacob, who received a single blessing from his father, now blessing all twelve of his sons, and each son represents a whole tribe or clan of people. So we get this movement from one person blessing one person to one person blessing a whole nation. Remember that the whole of the Old Testament story is God trying to create a nation of followers and worshippers. This is reinforced all the way through the Patriarchal narratives, that is the first five books of the Old Testament, and we come to the end of Deuteronomy, the last book and we read in the 33 rd chapter, this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. (33:1) Moses blessed the whole tribe, the whole nation. There is one more piece we need to touch on because it completes the circle of blessing. God blesses humans with life, food, reproduction and the covenant. Because of God s blessings and the power of God available to each of us, we can put words and actions to God s blessings so that I can bless you and you can bless me and we can bless each other, and the circle becomes complete when we bless God. Yes, we can bless God. God created a nation of believers and worshippers. I have to go back to the creation story one more time. On the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done, so God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it because on it God rested. One day a week, one seventh of our time, 24 hours, has been set aside to worship God. This is the time of blessing. When we look around this church we see that we have OVERFLOWING BLESSINGS. We have almost 150 years of blessing behind us, people who cared about the church and how it worshipped God. Visionaries who started a Sunday School, built a building, called pastors. Committed people, who kept the church alive and well. There are 850 people who

6 claim this congregation as their current church home and several thousand who have passed through these doors on their faith journey. This church is blessed with many musicians who are multi-gifted and talented. Pianists and organists, choir director and choir members, guitar and drum players, tone chime and bell directors and players, children s choirs and a multitude of others who offer special music. What a blessing! By numbers alone, counting some overlap because so many folks are involved in more than one aspect of the church, there is about 30% of the membership involved in some way in the ministry that takes place here- that is half-again the national average. There are Sunday School classes even when we don t have a CE director or struggle to find teachers. There are committed elders and committee members. There is an incredible staff with multiple gifts. There is a youth program that is organized and structured, and involves both youth and parents. There is Kids Klub and multiple adult classes and groups. There is outreach to the community through others using this building, including a Sudanees congregation.. There is someone here almost every day of the week. There is property- this building, the new construction, the parking lot, the columbarium. Many have been a blessing before us. Many now present are a blessing with us. We have been blessed to be a community to this community and to future generations. Ask yourself these two questions: in what ways has this church been a blessing to you? And what is the greatest blessing this church has to offer to its members and the Rochester community? We have been blessed to be a blessing to others. Worship has been defined as: Our response to what God has done for us. In worship we respond to God s many, many blessings by rejoicing, giving praise through sermon and song, prayer and offering. The ways in which we give of ourselves, our time, our talent, our treasurers is the way we worship God. If we

7 believe that God has truly blessed us then we will bless God by what we give of ourselves. Our worship is our response to what God has done for us. In the Old Testament we find that when the people gathered for worship many of the prayers offered began with the words, Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, creator of all that is In Deuteronomy we read, you shall bless the Lord your God, for the land God has given you. We can replace the word land with property, or house, or family, or friends, or job, or talent, or church, or any other item for which you are grateful. You shall bless the Lord, your God in gratitude and worship for all that God has done for you. God has blessed us with OVERFLOWING BLESSINGS. We will bless each other as we share our blessings with others. Amen.

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