God with(in) us

Kevin Gasser

Staunton Mennonite Church

12/21/08

 

Luke 1:26-38

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 

            A woman, 9 months pregnant with twins, is involved in a serious car accident.  She awakes from a coma after two months to find that she is no longer pregnant.  “Are my children okay?” the woman asks the nearest nurse. 

            “Yes, they are fine” replies the nurse.  “But we needed names for them for their birth certificates, so we asked your brother to name them.”

            “My brother” thought the woman.  “He’s an idiot.  I can’t believe you let him name my children!  Well, what did he name them?”

            “He named the girl Denise” said the nurse.

            “That’s nice, I like that name.  Maybe he didn’t do such a bad job.  What about the other one?”

            The nurse replied, “He named the boy De-nephew.”

            We are talking about pregnant women today, particularly one named Mary.  Protestants have been a little reluctant to study Mary ever since the Protestant Revolution.  But lately it seems like we have found that we have a lot to learn from this young lady.  And today I would like to look at Mary to show us how we need to be willing to offer all of our being to God if we desire to truly be his people.  And I also hope to show how when we allow God complete control of our lives that it will be obvious to others.

            Our scripture for this morning is not an unfamiliar one to many of us.  We tend to focus on these verses around this time every year in the church.  The angel Gabriel comes to Mary and he delivers the news that she will have a son named Jesus.  He will be great, the son of the Most High, heir to the eternal throne of David.  And Mary, being the practical thinker that she is, says, “Hey, Gabe.  I don’t know how to tell you this…but that aint happening.  I don’t know if they explain how this works to you angels up there in heaven, but when a man loves a woman…”  Mary says to the angel, I can’t have a child.  I am a virgin.

            So Gabriel explains to Mary that the child in her womb is not sired by a man, but by the spirit of God.  And as an example of God’s miraculous works, Gabriel tells Mary that her old, barren relative Elizabeth has conceived a son as well.  And Gabriel says in verse 37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

            Mary found favor in God’s eyes.  For some reason, God chose Mary to be the earthly mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I don’t think that she could have ever really begun to understand all that this would mean.  A popular Christmas song asks, “Mary, did you know?” and I would have to guess that Mary didn’t have a clue.  Sure, she expected great things from this child born of the Holy Spirit, but I don’t believe that Mary ever expected the things that Jesus was able to do; that the blind would see, the lame would walk, the deaf would hear.  But we are getting ahead of ourselves here.  Mary has just been told that she is about to bear the child of the Holy Spirit.  The Ruach of God that hovered over the earth in the creation story was now creating something new within her.

            For the next 9 months, Mary’s womb would be the home for God’s only begotten son.  He would grow and develop; ten fingers, ten toes, eyes and ears and nose and toes.  This fetus grew like any other fetus, but was quite different from any other before or after it.  But for those nine months Mary’s womb was Jesus’ home.

            If we were to read through 2 Samuel 7, we would find a story about King David and his desire to build a home for God.  David is sitting up in his fancy cedar palace, liking what he is seeing, enjoying the amenities that come with being king.  But it strikes him that he has this beautiful place and God has no place to call his home.  The Ark of the Covenant is out in some tent while the king is living it up in a palace.

            So David runs his idea to build a house for God by the prophet Nathan.  And at first this all sounds good to Nathan.  Sure, build the house.  But later Nathan is given a message from God.  And essentially God laughs at the idea of David building a house for God.  It is kind of like God is saying, I’ve been without a physical house since before the beginning of time.  What makes you think that this is important to me now?

            Homes of bricks and mortar really are not important to God.  What God really desires is homes of flesh and blood.  Just like the son of God found a home within the womb of Mary, God desires to live within his people.  God desires to dwell within the people that he has created in his own image.

            Yes God did eventually allow David’s son Solomon to build the temple, but God did not need the temple.  The temple was more for the people than for God, giving them a place to go to connect with God and with one another.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  But as God pointed out to David, it is silly to think that God “needs” a house of bricks and mortar.  What God desires is homes of flesh and blood.

            God has a desire to live within the people that he has created in his own image.  And in order for God to do so, we need to have the same attitude as Mary in verse 38 when she says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  In order for God to dwell within his people, we need to give up our plans for life and give it all to God.  Our selfish ambitions, our career oriented behavior, our self centeredness.  All of these things need to be destroyed before God will dwell within us.

            It is pretty common in evangelical circles to talk about receiving Jesus into your heart.  Some people criticize this language saying that the phrase, receiving Jesus in your heart, isn’t in the Bible.  And that is true.  It isn’t in the Bible.  But that isn’t why I don’t use that phrase.  I am not a fan of saying that I have Jesus in my heart because there is a lot more to me than just two atria and two ventricles.  I am more than just a lub and a dub.  The average human heart weighs just under a pound.  So for a 200 pound person, the heart makes up less than .5% of your body by weight.  I think Jesus deserves much more than less than .5% of my body.  We need to be like Mary.  We need to be willing to say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your will.”  God wants all of us, not just our heart.

            Jesus should not only be the Lord of your heart, but the Lord of your checkbook.  Jesus should not only be the Lord of your heart, but the Lord of your date book.  Jesus should not only be the Lord of your heart, but the Lord of your every being; mind, body and soul.  And anything that we keep to ourselves, refusing to allow Jesus to be the Lord over it, is called an idol.  And we therefore become idolaters.  God wants all of our being.  Though not in the same way as God dwelled within Mary, God wants to dwell within us.

            Now we as human beings tend to like to have control over our own lives.  I know that I like to have things planned out because uncertainty, to be quite honest, scares me.  As I was finishing up college I knew what I wanted to accomplish in the next 10 years.  I had what you might call a “Ten Year Plan”.  I wanted to get married.  I wanted to graduate.  I wanted to attend seminary.  I wanted to be employed in a church setting.  And for the most part, I have stayed with that 10 year plan.  And I have been able to keep to that 10 year plan because I have tried to align my 10 year plan with God’s 10 year plan for my life.  My previous 10 year plan…well, I had to scrap that one when God got a hold of my life.

            I don’t think that getting pregnant as a teenager before she was married was a part of Mary’s 10 year plan for her life.  I bet that she knew that having a child before she ever got married would hurt her social status among the pious Jews of her day.  Maybe she would be rejected by family and friends.  Maybe her betrothed husband would try to dismiss her.  Aligning her life with God’s plan meant significant sacrifice on Mary’s part.  But Mary said Here I am Lord, not my will but your’s be done.

            And when she spoke those words, God came not only into her heart, but he became Lord of her life.  Her total submission to God’s will allowed Mary to be a dwelling place for God.

So here we are, 21st century Christians with the desire to submit completely to God (at least I hope that is where we are).  And when God is within us, we cannot keep this from other people.  When we have God within us, others will know.  Why?  Because God is much bigger than we are, and there is no way we can keep him all inside! 

Think about Mary for a moment.  Now the thing about pregnant women is that they can’t keep it a secret for too long.  The first three months or so nobody notices anything different about a woman after she conceives.  Her clothes still fit, her feet haven’t swollen up yet.  But then others begin to take notice.  By the second trimester a woman begins to show; she wears pants with elastic bands in the waist, cravings for strange and exotic foods like dill pickles and ice cream or maybe even dill pickle ice cream start to come to the surface.  And by the ninth month, everyone knows that the woman is pregnant.

The same thing is true when we have given over all power and authority over our own lives.  When we offer ourselves as Mary offered herself to God, saying Here I am, the servant of the Lord, do with me as you will, others will know it.  We should be as easy to point out as a nine month pregnant woman among non-pregnant women.  There should be something distinct about us.

Things that we maybe don’t even think about should be reflecting the love of God to others so that they will recognize us as Christians right away like you can recognize a 9 month pregnant woman.  For instance, we have several business folks in this congregation.  I’ll pick on two of you right now.  Glenn is a contractor; Danny is a manager at Hershey Tire.  Now how many of you have ever heard a horror story about an unfair contractor or mechanic swindleing people out of their money?  “Somebody promised to build an addition on our house, took our down payment, and never came back.”  Or, “I went into get an oil change and they told me my engine needed overhauled.  Later I found out that it did not need overhauled…”  But as Jim has pointed out before, these guys are honest business men.  Jim says that in all of his time in this area, he has never heard a single complaint about these guys.  And I bet that if someone did complain, they would make it right.  Jesus is not just in their heart.  Jesus has made himself known through their lives through their integrity and honesty.

Sure, there are honest people that are not Christians.  I am not suggesting otherwise.  But people should be able to look at our lives and take notice, seeing that God dwells within us.

I have grown increasingly more aware of how I spend my time and my money over the last number of years.  I realize more and more that these things are gifts from God and that to call them my own is again, idolatry.  To have Jesus as Lord of your life means that he is Lord of your checkbook and Lord of your date book.  And as a sign of that, we give a portion of our income to the service of the Lord each month.

And tithing is a good way to begin to allow Jesus to be Lord over your checkbook.  But we cannot stop there.  We know that God cares about all of His people, and that includes His people receiving fair compensation for their work.  Scriptures like Colossians 4:1 remind us that an employer (or master) should provide what is fair for their workers (or slaves).  Issues of justice abound in the Bible.  And as redeemed people, we are called to live a certain, unique way.

So a part of my faith that I believe can be seen by others is that I choose to drink fairly traded coffee rather than simply looking for the cheapest cup.  That is why I don’t buy coffee from Starbucks.  Because Starbucks has such a large share of the market and buy in such large quantities, they can essentially tell the coffee bean growers how much they (Starbucks) will be paying the grower for the beans.  And it tends to be an unfair wage.

So instead of buying my coffee at Starbucks, I choose to buy coffee at the local coffee shops like Coffee on the Corner, Mugshots, or Blue Ridge Coffee.  They all serve Fairly Trade or Equal Exchange coffee, where the grower is guaranteed a fair wage.  Where I buy my coffee is a manifestation of God living in me.

The same can be said about where I buy my clothes.  I don’t go to the largest retail store on the planet just to save a few bucks.  I know that Walmart tends to treat their employees poorly, not offering fair wages and/or insurance for their part-time employees.  So I buy elsewhere.

I love to eat out.  And I love a lot of food.  So a place like Ryan’s or the Woodfired Grill appeal to me.  But because of my faith, I choose to eat at comparable places like the Buckhorn Inn.  The Woodfired Grill isn’t going to miss my business as much as a smaller restaurant might.

I buy what hardware I can at Young’s down the road rather than Lowes.  I buy food at local restaurants and farmer’s markets, and grow my own.  I ride my bike or walk when I can rather than driving my car.  I hope you can begin to see my point.  My faith in God influences every decision that I make, like where I buy things and how much I buy.  My faith is the reason I have different colored tubs on my back porch where I sort my garbage so that it can be reused by someone else.  And perhaps we would need to sit down and discuss these things further so that you can understand my theological purposes for doing some of these things, but ultimately my point is that faith in God should affect every aspect of your life.  You should stick out from the rest of the world like a pregnant woman.  Because while we are in the world, we are not of the world.

And when people that are not familiar with our God witness us acting differently from the world around us, asking us why we do the things we do, we tell them that as redeemed people we are called to a different life.  This is a part of God living within us.  This is a part of us living as a part of the kingdom of God.

Over 500 years before the birth of Jesus the prophet Isaiah had a message from the Lord.  Matthew recorded this prophesy in his gospel as well.  God said, “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel” which means “God with us.”  Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians that as Christians our bodies are to be temples for the Holy Spirit.  So I say that we as Christians are not to be satisfied simply by having God with us; and we need more than just Jesus in our heart.  We need to give all of ourselves, all of our being to God.  So not only will we have God with us, we will have God within us.  We need to be willing to say, like Mary, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Mary didn’t say, Here is a portion of my life.  Take it.  She didn’t say, Do what you want, just don’t mess up my 10 year plan.  Mary said, Here am I, a whole being at your disposal, Lord.  Do with me as you wish.  And when we respond to God’s desire to live within us, it will be obvious to everyone; as obvious as a 9 month pregnant woman.

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About Kevin Gasser

I envision this site to be a place where I can post my weekly sermon text and invite feedback from anyone who is interested in the church, theology, or life in general. Please note that these sermons are rough drafts of what I plan to say from the pulpit, so typos are common.
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One Response to God with(in) us

  1. MOM says:

    YOU NEED TO FINISH THE STORY OF THE WALLET KEVIN. AND I DID QUIT AKING ABOUT BABIES. REMEMBER, I GOT A PUPPY !

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