Where is God? Lent 4 Video and Manuscript

Where is God?”

Is God with us and for us, or not?  The revelation of God given us in Jesus is our definitive answer.   God is in Jesus Christ, bringing salvation and grace to all.  This is the message of incarnation that is essential to our understanding of God being in Christ, reconciling the world.

This post contains the sermon preaching on March 6, 2016, at The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.  The sermon is titled:  “Where is God? and is based on John 1:1-5, 14.  This is the third in a Lenten series of sermons titled:  “Life’s Essential Questions”

You can see the video read the manuscript below.

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John 1:1-5, 14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Associated Press reported that God had been found in Sumter County, Florida, located in the small town of Bushnell.
Who found God?  It was the folks at Publishers Clearinghouse.  They sent a sweepstakes notification to a church in Bushnell, addressed to “God.”  The notice contained good news:  “God” had been selected as a finalist for their $11 million sweepstakes prize.
The opening line of their letter said:
“God, we’ve been searching for you.”
That’s been the mindset for much of humanity throughout our existence.  “God, we’ve been searching for you.”
“Where is God?”
That’s the question to be asked when approaching today’s scripture lesson.  Today’s scripture lesson is typically read during Advent and Christmas, but it’s a good passage to also review during Lent and Easter.
“Where is God?”
We often ask this question when the events of our lives take a tragic turn.
Where is God when a tornado devastates a small town, leaving four dead?
Where is God when the doctor diagnosis terminal cancer?
Where is God after yet another mass shootings?
“Where is God?”
Let’s make the search more relational:
Where is God when your spouse leaves you for no good reason?
Where is God when a child grows up and strays from the path you taught them to follow?
Where is God in the midst of intense personal grief?
These tough questions deal with the actual realities of our lives.
“Where is God?”
There are no easy answers. That’s not to say there are no answers.  That’s not to say there are no good answers.  We just need to recognize that they are not easy answers.  There are no answers that will take away the pain, loss, and grief of our humanity.
“Where is God?”
Our answer has everything to do with the word “incarnation.”  That’s a theological term that describes God taking human form in the person of Jesus.  In today’s scripture lesson, incarnation is defined by the statement “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
That statement tells us that God identifies with us, becomes one with us, become one of us.  That “incarnation” includes the cross.  At the cross, God’s takes humanity into Himself, indentifies with our brokenness, and expresses his forgiving, redeeming, accepting grace and love.  Second Corinthians 2:19 says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting (OUR) trespasses-sins against (US).”
“Where is God?”
God is in Christ Jesus – reconciling, including, accepting, loving, forgiveness, adopting.
“God is here” is the message we heard at Christmas.  God came to be a part of the same things in life that we know and experience.
Jesus, God’s one and only Son, became a man.
Jesus is God among us as a human being. He is visible expression of the invisible deity.  Through Christ, God identifies with our hopes and fear, joys and sorrows, success and failures, frailties and tragedies. Through Christ, God gets up close and personal. God says to the world:  “I am here!”
When you are at the little league game and you proudly watch your son gets his first base hit, God is saying: “I am here!”
When you are at the school theatric performance and your daughter performs her first line, God is saying:  “I am here!”
When you are in the waiting room and your son enters and tells you that your daughter-in-law has just given birth to your first grand-child, God is saying:  “I am here!”
When you are in a different waiting room and the doctor comes with some tragic bad news, God is also there, saying:  “I am here!”
When you stand in the graveyard, putting your family member in their final resting place, God is there, saying:  “I am here!”
Wherever humanity happens, be it human celebration or sorrow, God is there.  God is with us.  God is there saying, “I am here!”
The incarnation means that God came to be with us as one of us.  God became a human being. The all-powerful made himself breakable. The one who had been Spirit became pierce-able. The one who was larger than the universe became an embryo. The one who sustains the universe took the nourishment of a young girl.
In all that, God is saying:  “I am here!”
“I have come into your brokenness, your humanity, your frailty, your pain, your sorrow, your sinfulness, your rebellion, and even your joyful singing and celebrations.  I have come to you,” God says:  “I am here!”
The apostle John used one word to embody and personify this revelation of God. For John, the incarnation of God in Christ was summed up in a single word—DWELT.
“The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
In “The Message” Eugene Petersen paraphrases this verse:  “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14).
The WORD became FLESH and DWELT among us.”  God brought his tent to humanity.  As one theologian puts it, God came “to tabernacle” among us.
So, when God became flesh and blood in Christ Jesus, He moved into our neighborhood; He took up residence; He planted himself in the middle of our joys and celebrations, as well as the mess and muck of our lives.
Humanity says:  “God, we’ve been searching for you.”  Humanity asks the question: “Where is God?”  In the incarnation God says, “I am here!  I am with you.”
This is more than just a theological doctrine to be pondered and placed on a list of things we believe.  This is THE central conviction of Christianity.  Nothing about the Gospel makes sense without the incarnation.
The incarnation means:  Jesus became a human being to show us God.
When Jesus became a human, He showed that God was not merely a principle but a person. Jesus was not an idea about God – Jesus was God Himself in human form.
Two young men on a battlefield in World War II made it to the safety of a foxhole in the midst of enemy fire. As they looked out across the battlefield they saw the horrific view of dead and dying men, twisted barbed wire, and the earth scarred with deep holes left by cannon fire. They heard the voices of many crying out for help. Finally one of the men shouted in despair: “Where in the world is God?” As they continued to watch and listen they soon noticed two medics, identified by the red cross on their arms and their helmets, carefully making their way across the perilous scene. As they watched, the medics stopped and began to load a wounded soldier onto their stretcher. Once loaded, they began to work their way to safety. As the scene unfolded before them, the other soldier now boldly answered the honest, but piercing question of his friend, “There is God! There is God!”
When Jesus became a man He came to show us God. He came in the midst of the loneliness and the horror of a world gone mad. Yet in the chaos and confusion Jesus announced that God is here. Where in the world is God? God is here in Christ. Christ has come among us to show us who God is and what God is like. Jesus shows us God in a way that we can understand. In a way that renews us. In a way that gives us hope.
In the incarnation, Jesus became a man to feel our hurt.
In the act of becoming human, God identified with us in our pain. The pain of loneliness, He felt it. The hurt of rejection, He felt it. The sadness of losing a loved one to death, He felt it. The scars of mental or physical abuse, He felt it.
When we suffer pain, we want others to understand. We don’t want to be alone. We want others to grieve and feel sorrow with us.
I was taught many care-giving skills in pastoral care classes.  I was taught what to say in certain situation.  More importantly, I was taught what not to say in those same situations.  But the most important thing I was told in all that training was that what people want most in the midst of their sorrow is to not feel alone.  “Most of the time, you don’t have to say anything,” one professor said.  “You just need to be a loving and caring presence.”
In the incarnation, God came in Christ Jesus to be a loving and caring presence in our lives.  He came to be with us in our pain and our hurt. When Jesus became a human being He understood us; He identified with us; He became one with us.  .
Joseph Damien was a nineteenth-century missionary who ministered to people with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. Those suffering grew to love him and revered the sacrificial life he lived out before them.
One morning, before Damien was to lead daily worship, he was pouring some hot water into a cup when the water swirled out and fell onto his bare foot. It took him a moment to realize that he had not felt any sensation. Gripped by the sudden fear of what this could mean, he poured more hot water on the same spot. No feeling whatsoever. Damien immediately knew what had happened. As he walked tearfully to deliver his sermon, no one at first noticed the difference in his opening line. He normally began every sermon with, “My fellow believers.” But this morning he began with, “My fellow lepers.”
In a greater measure, Jesus came into this world knowing what it would cost Him.
He bore on his body the marks of evil, that we might be pure.
He bore in His sinless soul the weight of sin of the whole world, so that the world through him might be saves.
He bore in human frame the hurt and pain of injustice, that we might be understood.
God is here. God understands our hurt and identifies with our pain.
In the incarnation, Jesus became a man to reveal that God is touchable, approachable and reachable.
Ask a child, “Where does God live?” and they might answer, “Heaven!”  Adults aren’t must different.  We refer to God as “the man upstairs.”  When we reference God’s location, we point upwards.  We speak of God as being up there, far removed from the cares and concerns of this created world.
The incarnation means that when we point toward God, we don’t point upwards toward the heavens.  God’s clearest revelation was down here, in Jesus, who lived among us as one of us.  Where does God live?  He lives among us in the person of Jesus.
If God only lived up there, somewhere, in the heavens, then God would always and forever be out of our reach.  So God, the God of the heavens, moved into our neighborhood as one us.  He became touchable, approachable and reachable.
Listen to what Christian author and pastor Max Lucado wrote,
“Just call Me Jesus,’ you can almost hear Him say. He was the kind of fellow you’d invite to watch the (FOOTBALL) game at your house. He’d wrestle on the floor with your kids, doze on your couch and cook steaks on your grill. He’d laugh at your jokes and tell a few of His own. And when you spoke, He’d listen to you as if He had all the time in eternity.”
Make no mistake about it, people loved being around Jesus. They came at night; they touched Him as He walked down the street; they followed Him around the sea; they invited Him into their homes and placed their children at His feet. Why? Because He refused to be a statue in a cathedral or a priest in an elevated pulpit. He chose instead to be Jesus. Deity dressed in humanity. God, here among us.
As you read the gospels there is not a hint of one person who was afraid to draw near Him. There was not one person who was reluctant to approach Him for fear of being rejected.
Remember that. Remember that the next time you find yourself amazed at your own failures. Or the next time guilt burns holes in your stomach…Remember that it is (you) who creates the distance. (But) It is Jesus who builds the bridge.”
In Christ Jesus, God is revealed as touchable, approachable and reachable.
There is one more thing I want you to think about in terms of Christ’s incarnation.  We’ve been speaking about God’s identification with us.  We’ve been speaking of God coming in Christ to reveal mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, and inclusion.  We’ve been speaking of how God through Christ graciously brings us into intimacy with the Divine.  We’ve seen in the text tat Jesus brings us the life of God into our lives and that this life is the light that overcomes all our sinful brokenness.
When we let this magnificent goodness begins to fully permeate our lives, then all the darkness of our alienation from God vanishes.  We realize we are loved and made loveable.  We realize that we have a place in the embrace of God’s grace.  It calls us to repentance and faith.
That’s when this incarnation thing becomes practical.  You see what happens is that we begin to be a reflection of God’s grace, goodness, and light in the world.
Paul teaches that Christ-followers, the church, are “the body of Christ.”  That’s a powerful concept.  It means, as John Killinger, that “we are the incarnation of Jesus in the world, just as he was the incarnation of the faith.”  It means, as the reformer Martin Luther wrote, that we are “little christs” in the world, carrying on the mission and ministry of Jesus.
What does that look like?  It looks like radically inclusion love.  It looks like us accepting and making a place for everyone.  It means that we are making connections outward toward everyone we meet, building relationships of  compassion and kindness.  It means that we are declaring the gospel of God’s grace, inviting people to express repentance and faith in the goodness of God, revealed in Jesus.
That’s the kind of love included in the invitation of God to participate in this meal.

Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ
by: Thomas F. Torrance
publisher: IVP Academic, published: 2015-03-25
ASIN: 0830824596
EAN: 9780830824595
sales rank: 182108
price: $20.00 (new), $25.55 (used)

The late Thomas F. Torrance has been called “the greatest Reformed theologian since Karl Barth” and “the greatest British theologian of the twentieth century” by prominent voices in the academy. His work has profoundly shaped contemporary theology in the English-speaking world. This first of two volumes comprises Thomas Torrance’s lectures delivered to students in Christian Dogmatics on Christology at New College, Edinburgh, from 1952 to 1978 and amounts to the most comprehensive presentation of Torrance’s understanding of the incarnation ever published. In eight chapters these expertly edited lectures highlight Torrance’s distinctive belief that the object of our theological study?Jesus Christ?actively gives himself to us in order that we may know him. They also unpack Torrance’s well-developed understanding of our union with Christ and how it impacts the Christian life, as well as his reflections on the in-breaking of Christ’s kingdom and its intense conflict with and victory over evil. Decidedly readable and filled with some of Torrance’s most influential thought, this will be an important volume for scholars, professors and students of Christian theology for decades to come.



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