What Must I Do - Sam Buehrer - Sylvania UCC - Oct142018
October 14, 2018
Sermon “What Must I Do?” October 14, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
23Then Job answered: 2“Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. 3Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! 4I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. 5I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. 6Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. 7There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.
8“If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him;9on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him. 10But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. 11My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. 12I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth.
13But he stands alone and who can dissuade him? What he desires, that he does. 14For he will complete what he appoints for me; and many such things are in his mind. 15Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. 16God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; 17If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!
17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Sermon “What Must I Do?” October 14, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
In today’s text from Job and from the Gospel of Mark, we encounter two very different texts that appear to be asking very different questions. In Job, the question is, “Where are you Oh God?” I cry out to you but do not hear your voice or feel your presence. In Mark the question is asked, “What must I do to experience eternal life?” Although the questions appear very different and unrelated, I would suggest that essentially they are the same question. For where God is there is eternal life. In other words, to experience eternal life is to be in the presence of God. Clearly Job did not feel that he was in the presence of God for he was feeling the absence of God. So was the young man that questioned Jesus for he was asking what did he need to do to experience eternal life. Clearly he did not believe eternal life was his current reality.
To be honest, I feel a greater kinship with Job than I do with the young man in the gospel of Mark. More often than not, more likely due to my own inability to perceive God, like Job I long for an experience of God so that I know that God is with me.
Whereas in the text from Mark, we encounter a seeker who asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” To be honest, my own scientific back round causes me to question what was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” For in posing the question, one is already giving direction to the answer that is to be formed. But what if the question its self is faulty, as I think it is in this case? In this situation, the young man asking the question is essentially asking what can he do (if anything) to inherit eternal life. The assumption is that there is something that he can do to bring it about. His assumption, we will find, out is completely off base. There is nothing that he can do to inherit eternal life. Jesus is quick to inform him that eternal life is not contingent upon anything that he does. It is entirely a gift freely by God. It is completely unearned. Not only is it unearned, it comes to us so seductively that more often than not will not even know that we are in its presence. Rick Hocker, the author of Four in the Garden, shares the following taste of how seductive it is to truly be aware of being in the presence of the spirit of God. Hocker suggests that God is closer than we can objectively or outwardly see. He writes, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). This same God who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) chooses to dwell inside creation.
Hocker uses a drop of water as a metaphor for God’s indwelling presence. Water droplets in the atmosphere are created when water vapor condenses on tiny particles of dust. At the center of every water droplet, is a particle of dust. Hocker suggests that similarly to every water droplet that every soul is wrapped around a particle of God. But this particle of God, although small, is boundless since the infinite God isn’t confined. God is found at our innermost center . . . and beyond.
It’s not just that God dwells inside us, but God is at the center of our spiritual makeup, an integral and enduring part of who we are. God is not added to us, but we are added to God. God is the foundation onto which our soul is built. This means that everyone we meet is also a God-particle wrapped in a soul.1
It has been my experience that in those rare moments when I become aware that I am in the presence of God that the peace of God not only comes upon me but consumes me. The imagery that Hocker uses of water droplets gathering around dust particles is best described as fog. For most if not all of us, fog causes us great fear. For who among us wants to be caught having to drive in thick fog. About eight years ago, I woke to a morning of thick fog. On that particular morning I had a meeting that was a 45 minute drive away. Because of the thick fog, I was facing a drive that was going to be well over an hour or more. It was clear to me that this was going to be a white knuckle drive for I could not see but a few feet in front of the car. Fear was going to be my companion for the morning. About fifteen minutes into the drive I noticed off to my left side what appeared to be a column of smoke. This column of smoke was a white column in the midst of the gray fog that surrounded me. How odd I thought. About a half mile later I noticed that the white column was again to my left side. I wondered, “How could this be?” It appeared to be moving with me. I began to watch for it more intently and it clearly appeared to be moving with me as I drove. I watched this phenomenon for over five miles of my drive as it continually moved with me and stayed to my left side. Then all of a sudden I saw that the fog that was hugging the ground cleared about 100 feet above the ground and above that the sky was clear and the sun was shining. In that moment, above the fog, I saw a rainbow. When the rainbow entered the fog, the foot of the rainbow became white as the colors were dispersed among the endless numbers of water droplets. I was in awe at what I was seeing. Once I realized what I was seeing, the fear that I had been holding within me left in that moment. Peace came over me. The peace that I experienced in that moment was unlike any peace that I had known for some time. Even though the fog in which I found myself from experience told me that I should be fearful for my life, I felt no fear. At that moment, I wished that that I could drive and stay in the fog for hours to come for the feeling of peace that I was experiencing I wished would last forever. I was sorely disappointed when the fog dissipated so that I no longer saw the white foot of the rainbow.
So how do we experience this peace, this peace that seems so fleeting? How can we encounter God who seems so absent but yet is found at our center like a dust particle at the center of a droplet of water? First, we must believe that our connection to God already exists. We can never not be connected to God. Second, we quiet our minds and peer inward with our heart’s eyes, placing our consciousness at our innermost center as best we can. Hocker suggests that this inward gazing is like diving into a well, but the well is full of debris. When we encounter debris, we lay hold of it, bring it to the surface, and deal with it courageously. Otherwise, it will block our way. We find God by peeling away ourselves. God is hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44) buried in the center of our souls, and we can find God when we tear away the onionskin layers of self.
If we persevere in clearing this well of its clutter, we’ll discover that the water of this inner well—the water in which we’re swimming—is God. We’ll find ourselves floating in God, encompassed by love. In a wonderful reversal, instead of the soul being wrapped around God, the soul is now wrapped in God, and God moves to the outside as described in John 7:37: From our “innermost being will flow rivers of living water,” which is God’s self spilling out into our life and into the lives. May we all come to know this peace as we experience the living water of God.
1Rick Hocker is the author of Four in the Garden, an allegory of relationship with God. Learn more at rickhocker.com.