Advent; Recapture the Wonder ~ 20211128 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/28_1st Sunday of Advent; Recapture the Wonder (Mark 4; Matthew 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211128_advent-wonder.mp3
Recapture the wonder
When is the last time that you saw wonder in the eyes of a child, simple amazement, delight, awe?
What causes you to wonder? When is the last time you stopped to savor a sunset, or gazed up at the countless stars in the dark night sky, or stood at the brink of a precipice that caused you to simply catch your breath in stunned amazement?
This is the first Sunday of Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advent means coming, anticipating the coming of the Christ. For the next four Sundays, my goal is not to give you new information or teach you something you don’t already know. My goal for us together is to go back and recapture the wonder. My hope is that we would regain our amazement at what this season celebrates.
Wonder and Information
We might be tempted to think that we grow up out of wonder, as if wonder is caused by immaturity or a lack of information. We learn how things work and we lose our sense of awe. We grow up and we mature out of wonder. The twinkling lights at Christmastime was an almost magical experience as a child, but now we have put childish ways behind us. Instead we think about who took the time to put up all those lights and how much electricity they use and when are we going to find the time to put up our lights, and oh, one of the strings went bad last year, I better pick up a new set if they are on sale.
L.E.D’s and Electricity
But I’d like to argue that it is not maturity or more information that causes us to lose our sense of wonder. If anything, more information should increase our wonder. Those twinkling lights, many of them today are light emitting diodes, a one-way semiconductor gate which emits light photons when a tiny amount of current passes through it. Current is the flow of electrons through a conductor or semiconductor, invisible parts of atoms pushed around by a magnetic field from an electric motor running in reverse, being turned by water or a wind turbine or steam, possibly harnessed by the heat of the sun’s rays. Electricity that may have passed through hundreds of miles of cable all to make those twinkling lights twinkle.
The Night Sky
Or consider the lights in the night sky. The closest of those lights may actually be one of the planets in our own solar system. Venus is somewhere around 25,724,767 miles away. The closest of the actual stars (Proxima Centauri) is 4.24 light-years away. By the way a light year is 5.8 trillion miles. And there are literally countless stars that we can see. And that hazy white glow behind the stars, that is our milky way galaxy, about 100,000 light years across, made up of somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 to 400 billion stars; and ours is one of an estimated 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe. [https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/blog/1563/our-milky-way-galaxy-how-big-is-space/].
No, our lack of wonder is not a result of more or better information; if anything our wonder ought to increase with increased understanding.
Made to be Amazed
And we were meant to wonder. We were made to be amazed. We are commanded to stand in awe. Psalm 33 says:
When we look at creation, we ought to fear the Lord and stand in awe of him. That should be our instinctive response.
Soul Sickness and the Parable of the Sower
What if our lack of wonder is actually a symptom of a sick soul? I think Jesus gives us a clue as to the root cause of our broken wonderers in his parable about the sower and the soils. Jesus tells a story of a sower who sowed seed indiscriminately. Some fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some on thorny ground, and some on good soil, which grew and produced good fruit. The seed was the word. For some, the seed was snatched away before they ever understood it. Some received the word with joy, but it was not rooted deeply, and did not survive adversity. For some, it began to grow, but was choked out by other things. And some grew and produced fruit. One fruit that the word ought to produce is joy, lasting joy, wonder, amazement; we ought to fear the Lord and stand in awe of him. But there is a disease down deep in our souls that prevents us from being filled with wonder.
Not Rooted in the Gospel
They found joy in the gospel, but that joy was not rooted deep enough to endure a time of testing. It proved to be shallow and superficial. If our roots go down deep, if we truly grasp the gospel, we will respond with Paul:
Paul suffered more than any of us have. But his awe in God was so monumental that it dwarfed all his hardships so that he could call his sufferings ‘light’ and ‘momentary’ (2Cor.4:17) and ‘not worth comparing’.
It could be that our lack of wonder is a symptom of not grasping the glory of the gospel. We need to sink our roots down deep and let the simple truth that ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom.5:8) overwhelm us and amaze us.
Jesus goes on to say:
Jesus points not to a lack of information; the seed was planted. They heard the word, they had the truth, but the truth was choked out and failed to produce wonder. It was choked out by other things, competing things.
The path is the path, and rocky ground is rocky. But good soil can become weedy through neglect or inattention. Weeds compete for the same resources that allow good plants to thrive. They soak up water and absorb nutrients from the soil, they grow up and steal the energy of the sun. Weeds choke out wonder. We must be on guard against weeds.
Cares, Riches, Pleasures
So today we may need to do some weeding to make room to allow our wonder to flourish. Jesus points to three things that choke out wonder; cares and riches and pleasures. These are the things that we like to call maturity; cares and riches and pleasures. Do you have a good job, are you making enough money? What are your plans for the future? What do you really enjoy in life? Are you taking time for yourself? For the good things? You see, weeds might be bad things, but they don’t have to be. They could be good things that are allowed to grow up and choke out the main thing.
Jesus got to the heart of the issue in Matthew 6.
Where is your treasure? What do you most value? If what you most value is able to wear out, break or depreciate, if it is vulnerable to be taken away from you by other people, then what you treasure is not secure. It is not safe, and you’re going to have to worry about it and spend a lot of effort and time to protect it and maintain it.
In the first section of Matthew 6, Jesus warned against ‘practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them’. In your giving, in your praying, in your fasting, beware of seeking the approval of others. It is only the approval of the Father that matters. It matters who you are aiming to please.
It matters what captures your attention. What do you let in? What are you fixing your sights on? Is you focus single, or is it divided?
Many people try. But Jesus says you cannot. You gotta serve somebody. Choose you this day whom you will serve.
How does the ‘therefore’ follow? Whose approval do you seek, where is your treasure, what is your focus, who are you serving? If you have a master, it is his responsibility to take care of your needs. Your responsibility is to do what you have been given to do. It is his responsibility to take care of what belongs to him. And he is a good Master, and he values you.
Jesus could have said ‘how many hours does worry cost you, both in wasted time and shortened life?’ You are certainly not going to gain more time by worrying. God is good at what he does, just look around! It comes down to a matter of faith. Who are you trusting in? Who are you depending on? Do you really think that you can be self-sufficient, that you don’t need God? Or do you recognize that any ability to provide for yourself is a gift from God, that you are dependent on him, and you should thank him for it?
Anxiety is a disease of the soul. Anxiety kills awe; worry kills worship. The cares and riches and pleasures of this life choke out our capacity for wonder. We need to be on guard against weeds.
Careless and Irresponsible?
But is Jesus telling us to be careless and irresponsible? Are we not to work and provide for ourselves? Paul goes so far as to say that if someone is unwilling to work, he shouldn’t eat (2Thes.3:10), and if someone doesn’t provide for his own family, he’s worse than an unbeliever (1Tim.5:8). So where is the balance? What is Jesus warning against?
He is not telling us to quit our jobs and ‘just trust in Jesus’. But he is warning us against cares and anxieties for things that are out of our control. We need to be reminded just how little is actually within our control. We desperately want to be in control, and we aren’t.
This is advent season; it is a time to prepare our hearts to receive our King, and to let our hearts overflow with wonder and worship. Let every heart prepare him room. What is choking out your wonder? What weeds need to be pulled? What is crowding out the King of kings in your heart this season?
2021.11.28 Sermon Notes
1st Sunday of Advent – Recapture the Wonder
What causes you to wonder?
Understanding ought to increase wonder
We were made to be amazed
Lack of wonder is a symptom of a sick soul
-We must be rooted in the gospel
Mark 4:16-17; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17
-We must clear the ground of weeds
Diagnosing a sick soul:
Matthew 6:1-18 – whose approval do you seek?
Matthew 6:19-21 – what do you value most?
Matthew 6:22-23 – what captures your attention?
Matthew 6:24 – who will you serve?
Matthew 6:25-30 – an issue of faith; to whom do you belong?
Matthew 6:31-34 – anxiety kills awe
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org