Does God Carry A Purse?

Our weekly worship gathering at was cancelled due to ice and freezing rain.  So I have dug up a couple of old sermon files based on the text for the day (Matthew 3:1-12).  I’ll be publishing them on the blog this week – starting with this post, titled:  “Does God Carry a Purse” (with gratitude to Preaching and Worshiping in Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2005) for the basic idea and exegesis of the text).

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What´s in my bag 02/06/08

Does God Carry A Purse? 

That was the question posed by the drama team just a few moments ago.  It is not a question about the gender of God.  That is a trivial pursuit.  This is a question about the provisions of God.  Do we have in God all that we need to face the challenges of this life?

The image of God carrying a purse has crossed my mind each Advent season for the last several years.  It started a couple years back when I read a story by Martha Brunnel.[1]  .  The setting was a hospital waiting room, where a woman named Jan was getting a report about an auto-accident involving her college-aged daughter.  The doctors were sharing the tragic news that the injuries from the accident would too soon claim her daughter’s life.

The hospital waiting room was small and packed wall-to-wall with friends and family.  All that was left for them to do was keep a loving and painful vigil.  Family and friends were ren­dered silent and powerless when it came to reversing the inevitable ebbing away of life.  The loss of a child at any age is devastating to all, but especially for the parents who will limp with that pain forever.

The unrelieved silence deepened in the waiting room.  Unspoken remnants of hope grew ever more distant and faded.  Suddenly and without explanation, the silence was broken.  Susan, Jan’s best friend, began to rummage through her purse.  With noisy franticness, she tore through item after item, search­ing for a stick of gum, a breath mint, a peppermint, lip balm, anything to provide the tiniest increment of comfort.  Unable to locate what her shaking fingers sought, Susan resorted to dump­ing the contents of her purse in full view, on the waiting room floor, in front of her.  There, unedited and unprotected, were the gifts she bore.  Under the weight of hours of stinging tears, she turned to Jan and implored her, “Whatever it is that you need, please, take it.  Take it, now.”

Through the pain, we witnessed the image of a friend with a deliberately upturned purse.  It is a tender image.  It is a picture of profound faithfulness and love.  It is an image of exposure and vulnerability.  It is, for me, a parabolic picture of the gospel.

Does God carry a purse?

I cannot answer that question in any sort of literal fashion.  What I can say, however, is that the Bible paints a picture of a God who is willing to overturn and pour out all of heaven for the sake of our redemption.  This is what we remember and celebrate each Advent and Christmas.  God was willing to overturn and pour out heaven itself that we might be redeemed.

Paul wrote about this pouring out of God in his letter to the Philippians, when we said that Jesus…

…though He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phillipians 2:6-8)

Did you hear that?  God “emptied” himself!  God poured out everything in order to come and be among us.  God is not some distant, disconnected, uncaring and unfeeling deity out-there somewhere beyond the stars in the sky.  The truth is that God is near – that God is here.

God emptied himself to come and be present with us.  That is why we call Jesus “Immanuel”, a name that means “God with us.”  Here is a picture of a God who yearns for intimacy.  Here is a God who desires to make a connection when we feel most disconnected.  Here is a God who brings comfort when no comfort seems possible.  Here is a picture of a God offering what is needed—whatever is needed.

See heaven overturned and poured out as an expression of God’s desire to love us, save us, and be connected to us.

God is with us!  God pours himself out for us.

We see God pouring Himself out as the angel Gabriel visits a young virgin named Mary with the announcement she would give birth to a son who would be called Jesus (which means Savior) because he will save his people from their sin

We see God pouring Himself out through the angelic choir as they herald Jesus birth not to Priest, Princes, or Potentates, but to simple shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

We see God pouring Himself in Bethlehem as Mary gives birth to Jesus (God’s only son) in a barnyard where he is wrapped in rags and laid to rest in a feeding troth.

We see God pouring Himself out at the end of Jesus life, at the cross, where God’s grace and love are offer through Jesus, as he becomes an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

John the Baptizer was talking about this when he came preaching in the Judean wilderness, saying “The God’s Kingdom is near!”  The Kingdom of God – the rule and reign of God – was not a promise about some coming age in the great by-and-by.  It was for here.  It was for now.  John came preaching a message to prepare the way for the Advent of God’s Kingdom.

There is great opportunity in John’s message.  The opportunity is to experience God’s salvation and peace.  God yearns to grant us peace.  God desires nothing less than to intimately connect to us.  Our Advent picture of God is Immanuel, which means “God with Us!”  It is a picture of the nearness of God.  It is am image of an overturned purse, with everything poured out so we might be intimately connected to God.

Here is the great truth of John’s preaching.  Wherever we are, God is with us – The Kingdom of God is near.  That said, we will miss seeing God is we remain focused on self.  That’s why the Baptizer calls for our repentance.

To REPENT is to turn around, to change course, to move in a new direction.  Our default programming is to focus on “The Kingdom of ME!”  When God’s enters the picture, our default programming prompts us to try and establish limits for God.

God will have none of such foolishness.

If we want to know the fullness of God’s love, we must repent of our self-sufficiency and efforts to limit God to what we find acceptable.  Instead, we must allow God to stretch us to fits into God’s mold.

The Kingdom of God is near.  “Repent!”

Immanuel has come and God is now with us.  “Repent!”

God has overturned heaven, pouring out everything so that we might be redeemed.  “Repent!”

God has all that we need to face all that we face.  “Repent!”

“Repent, the Kingdom of God is near!”

“Repent!”  Stop trying to save yourself, and cast yourself instead into the love and grace of God.

“Repent!”  Stop seeing God as your possession, and start seeing yourself as one belonging to God.

“Repent!”  Stop following your wants, whims, and wishes – and obey God’s will instead.

“Repent!”  The Kingdom of God is here – reorient yourself to God’s rules and reign.

“Repent!”  Do not trust in your possession, power, sense of privilege, or pedigree.  Trust Jesus instead.

“Repent, the Kingdom of God is near!”

Sometime back, I came across a description of what it would be like to live in a perfect world.  Here are a few of the thoughts.

In a Perfect World, a person should feel as good at 50 as he did at 17, and he would actually be as smart at 50 as he thought he was at 17.

In a Perfect World, pro baseball players would complain about teachers being paid contracts worth millions of dollars.

In a Perfect World, the mail would always be early, the check would always be in the mail, and it would be written for an amount that is more than you expected.

In a Perfect World, potato chips might have calories, but if you ate them with dip, the calories would be neutralized.

In a Perfect World, every once in a while at least, a kid who always closed the door softly would be told, “Go back and slam the door.”

We all long for a perfect world, or at least for a world that is at least a bit better than this one.  Here is the thing – a better world does not come from the outside in, but from the inside out.

A better world comes by knowing and following Jesus Christ.

[1] Preaching and Worshiping in Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2005). 16.

Preaching and Worshiping in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany: Years A, B, and C
by: Abingdon
publisher: Abingdon Press, published: 2005-06
sales rank: 2955723
price: $0.98 (new), $2.01 (used)

This helpful one-volume commentary resource provides brief preaching commentaries and prayers for worship for the first Sunday in Advent through Epiphany of the Lord (Years A, B, and C).  This book includes: lectionary readings for each Sunday and Holy Day in the season; three sermon briefs for each Sunday in Advent and the Sunday after Christmas; sermon briefs for Christmas, Christmas Eve, and the Day of Epiphany; creative prayers for each Sunday and Holy Day in the season; scripture index; and calendar of First Sundays in Advent, 2005-2015.


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