Saturday, April 7, 2012

Living in the Saturdays of life as shared by Brent Beasley

I share a sermon written by Brent Beasley ...

___Tony Campolo preaches a sermon taken from an elderly black pastor at his church in Philadelphia. "It's Friday, but Sunday's Comin'" is the title of the sermon. And, as Philip Yancey tells it, once you know the title, you know the sermon.
___It's Friday, but Sunday's comin'. The world looks one way on Friday, but Sunday's comin'. On Friday, the forces of evil won over the forces of good, every friend and every disciple fled quaking in fear, the Son of God died on a cross. Yes it's Friday, but Sunday's comin'.
___The disciples who lived through both days, Friday and Sunday, never doubted God again. They had learned that even when God seems absent, he might be closer than ever; when God looks powerless, he might be more powerful than ever; when God looks dead, he might be coming back to life. They learned never to count God out, he's never out of the game. They learned that even when it's Friday, Sunday's comin'.
___That is wonderful news, but Campolo skipped one important day in his sermon--Saturday. The other two days have official names on the Christian calendar: Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But in a real sense, we live our lives on Saturday. We live between Jesus' first coming and his second coming.
___We live between promise and fulfillment. We live in the "until."
___And life goes on on Saturday. Can we trust that God can make something holy and beautiful out of a fallen, desperate world that includes Iraq and Afghanistan, and inner-city ghettos and over-crowded prisons in the richest nation in the world?
___Philip Yancey puts it this way: It's Saturday on planet earth; is Sunday comin'?
___Living in the 'until'
___Isaiah 62 is the cry of one who lives on Saturday. It is the proclamation of one who lives in the "until"--between the promise and its fulfillment. This poem is set in the context of exiles who have returned to Jerusalem.
___Chapter 62 was most likely compiled later than chapters 40-55 and much later than chapters 1-39. The historical background of chapters 1-55 includes the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the removal of the Israelites from Jerusalem known as the Babylonian exile.
___Chapters 56-66 probably belong to the period after the first stages of return and rebuilding in Judah around 520-500 B.C. or possibly even later.
___The poem found in chapter 61 anticipates a massive reversal of fortunes that will be brought about by the power of God. Through that reversal, those who are now abused and oppressed will be given joy, security, prosperity and well-being.
___In chapter 62, the situation is that God has not yet accomplished the transformation promised in the previous chapter. The exiles who returned to Jerusalem found the city to which they had returned far less than glorious. In fact, their beloved city, which had been mercilessly destroyed by the Babylonians, still lies in ruins; it is a source of embarrassment rather than pride. God has promised a new day, but that day has not yet arrived.
___So the people who have returned to Jerusalem live in the "until." "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch" (v. 1).
___How do we live in the meantime?
___With relentless faith
___The day is surely coming when God's promises of restoration and redemption will be fulfilled, but what do we do until? Life still isn't always fair now. The rain still falls on the just and the unjust today. Everything has not been made right, yet. That day of fulfillment is coming, but what do we do until? What do we do on Saturday? What do we do--we who live in between that time when God sent his Son, Jesus, into this world to save it and die on a cross and be raised from the dead and that time in the end when our world will for once and for all be fully reconciled to God, when God's love and justice will be complete?
___We live on Saturday. It's a good thing to remember that in the great drama of God and history we live out our days on Saturday, the in between day with no name.
___How do we live until? How do we wait for God to act as God has promised to act?
___Twiddle our thumbs? Kill time? Read a magazine? Crochet? Do crossword puzzles? What do we do in the meantime?
___One writer tells of a woman he knows whose grandmother lies buried under a 150-year-old live oak tree in the cemetery of an Episcopal church in rural Louisiana. In accordance with the grandmother's instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: "Waiting."
___Waiting is all right for someone already in the grave, but what about the rest of us who still have a life to live this side of heaven?
___The poet in Isaiah 62 does not spend time lamenting the fact that God has not acted; neither does he reflect on why God has not acted. He simply resolves to be vigilant and persistent in faith that God will keep his promises. He says he will not keep silent nor will he rest "until."
___The poet even devises a strategy to be carried out "until." Sentinels will be stationed on the walls around the city, and they will be relentlessly persistent in their work. Their task is to speak and never cease speaking in order to remind God and remind the people of the promises of God. They will "take no rest ... until" (v. 7).
___So, what do you do "until"--when everything is not right and everything is not fair? What do you do when you live on Saturday? You keep the faith. You remain relentlessly persistent in your faithful hope in the coming to pass of the promises of God--even when fulfillment of God's promises is not visible to you at the time.
___Elie Wiesel was a Jewish teenager when he and his family were uprooted, along with their whole village in Transylvania, and sent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. The book "Night" is about his experiences there. After they were forced out of their homes, Wiesel and his father were separated from his mother and sister. And they never saw each other again. Because all of them, except Elie Wiesel, were killed.
___Reading the story of the people in the concentration camp at Auschwitz will challenge a person's faith. Not necessarily because there is so much evil, but it will challenge a person's faith because our trust in God seems so weak compared with those who in the middle of torture and murder and separation from their families and complete humiliation kept the faith. They kept the faith.
___In the book, one evening several prisoners decided to put God on trial. They wanted to try God for the horrors of the holocaust. These were men of faith, but it seemed to them that their faith was failing them. They asked young Wiesel to witness the proceedings. The prosecuting attorney brought charges. God's people had been torn from their homes, separated from their families, beaten, abused and burned alive in the incinerators. The defense attorney made his case. But in the end, they found God guilty of failing his people.
___The trial was over. The mood in the room was somber, dark, depressing. The men were prepared for bed. A few minutes later, the time came for the Jewish evening prayer. These same men who had just found God guilty of abandoning them got on their knees and prayed their evening prayer.
___They knew their Scripture. The book of Habakkuk says: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The sovereign Lord is my strength" (3:17-19).
___Living between promise and fulfillment, the testimony of Isaiah 62 is that our task is to be vigilant and persistent in the faith until God's promises are finally accomplished.
___Sunday is coming
___The affirmation of Isaiah 62 is that God has indeed heeded the persistent faith expressed in verses 1-7. God did (or will) restore Jerusalem, and it is assured a joyful future (vv. 10-12). The "until" has given way to the "done." This city that once seemed to be forgotten will now be called "The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord." The city is clearly no longer "Forsaken" but "Sought Out," treasured, valued (v. 12). What was once only promise is now fulfillment.
___Living on Saturday, in the "until," the promises of God seem far away and perhaps even unbelievable or inappropriate. It is Saturday, and Sunday is coming, but sometimes it helps to make it through the worst parts when you know how the story ends.
___How do we live in the "until"--when life is not fair, all is not always right with the world, and all we have hoped for has not yet come to pass? We keep the faith--relentlessly. Because we know how the story ends. God will make things right. God is a just God. And God keeps his promises.
___No matter what day it is today, Sunday is coming.

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