St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church

3800 East Third Street

Bloomington, Indiana 47401

(812) 332-5252

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent(December 21, 2014)

Liturgical Color: Blue

Marissa Tweed, Pastoral Intern

God Doesn't Need a Box

I recently saw a picture on the internet of a decent-sized moving box, and this box was lying in a corner somewhere; flaps open, looking like it had just been tossed aside onto the floor. And inside of this box there was a small, white note and it read, "I don't fit in your box" — God.

This is the image that comes to mind for me when I read our passage from 2 Samuel for today.

We hear that when King David was all settled in his house, when all the fighting was over, he said to the prophet Nathan, 'See now, I am living in a house, but the ark of God stays in a tent. It's about time I built a house for God.'

But that same night the Lord came to Nathan and said, “Nathan, go and tell my servant David: Are you seriously considering building me a house? I have not ever lived in a house, not since the day I brought up the people of Israel out of Egypt, not to this very day. I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the leaders, saying, 'Why have you not built me a house?'

I am the Lord God who took you from the pasture, from following sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you have gone, through thick and thin, and never once did I need a house. I don't need a temple. I don't need a box.

I am that I am.

I am the one who delivered your ancestors. I am the one who made a covenant with my people Israel. I am God, and I am with you whether or not I'm in a house. My purposes and my promises will be fulfilled whether or not there is a temple. I am going to do great things, so get ready.

In fact, David, I the Lord God am going to make YOU a house.

2 Samuel 7 is our first revelation of the messianic promise, and it happens through the establishment of the Davidic Dynasty. This promise from God is a continuation of God's love for Israel. God promises David, "I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established forever."

David's house is the Davidic Dynasty.

In the verses following this passage (starting with verse 18), David responds to this divine commission...

1) First with an incredulous and humble reply, "Who am I in your sight O Lord God?" David says.

2) Second with recognition of being blessed: "O Lord God, you have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed for ever."

3) And finally David offers his >openness to God's will: And now, O Lord God, as the word that you have spoken confirm it for ever; do as you have promised.

David responds, "Yes Lord. Do as you have promised." And he praises God.

Fast forward a thousand years and God comes to Mary through the angel Gabriel. The angel has a message from God, "Mary, I am going to do great things, so get ready! I'm going to fulfill my promise to David in a most astonishing way."

The angel informs her, "You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He 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. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

And Mary responds to divine commission

1) First with an incredulous and humble reply, "How can this be since I am a virgin?"

2) Then Mary gives recognition of being blessed saying, "Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed."

3) And, Mary illustrates an openness to God's will: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

Mary responds, "Yes Lord. Let it be according to your word." And she praises God.

It can be risky business to be open to the will of God.

God's got a big agenda with big ideas. God's on a mission to love, bless, and heal the world in ways we may not expect or be prepared for. God is bigger than the boxes we try to fit God into. Author Josh Riebock jokes, "Every time I put God in a box I'm left sweeping up the pieces of shredded cardboard."

God is bigger. God has bigger purposes. God turns things upside down. God busts out of the boxes we try to create. And it can feel like a risk to be fully open to what God might have in store.

We hear stories throughout the biblical narrative of divine commissions to God's people: God calls Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Mary ... God calls them in unusual ways to unusual tasks that they aren't prepared for. God challenges the status quo and says "Get ready, I'm about to do great things!"

God sends a baby as the savior of the world. God conquers death. God cannot be contained in our human conceptions of the Holy and Mighty and Immortal.

And even so, even without full comprehension or understanding, God continues to invite us into God's work. God's promises endure and continue to be fulfilled throughout the ages. God calls Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Mary...and God calls you.

God's story isn't finished yet — God still has healing, salvific work ahead! God is calling to us, inviting us to partner with God to continue writing the narrative of God's love for the world. We as followers of Jesus have a main role in that narrative. We are the hands and feet of God's promises.

We are connected to this story, and it's a story with purposes so much larger than ourselves.

I was 16 years old when I went my first ELCA National Youth Gathering in San Antonio. Every night we met in the Alamodome for praise and worship, keynote speakers, and engaging videos about our theme for the week, which that year was Cruzando: crossing over borders of division toward wholeness and healing.

In the midst of that experience I distinctly remember for the first time feeling with my whole body that I was a part of something so much greater. This faith thing wasn't just between me and God, or just about God and my home congregation, or just about God and the ELCA, or just about God and Christians in the United States...this story and this call involves everyone.

And not only that, I remember feeling more fired up than ever that God was going to do great things through my generation as youth. I was just one person going home to one community, on fire with the Spirit and excited to participate in God's work in the world...but there were 30,000 of us!

30,000, each playing a part in our own ways: going back into our communities, standing up for those who were bullied in school, seeking opportunities to volunteer in service to others, returning back to our regularly scheduled lives, but feeling a part of something so much bigger than ourselves…returning home open to the promises of God and excited to partner with God to make those promises happen in the world.

As we have talked about in the Book of Faith Bible study, God is at work today in every life that walks on this earth, just as God was at work with Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, and Mary. Just like them, we too are a part of God's salvific history.

God fulfills God's promises. God's work will be accomplished whether we recognize it or not, but what a blessing it is when we can partner with God to engage in that work.

When we are open to the will of the creator, when we follow Christ into the world to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the ill and dying, visit with the lonely, and reach out to the souls in this world who are aching to feel the love of God — who are aching to know those promises are still alive and well.

We are the hands and feet of God's promises.

We get to lift our voices with David saying, "Yes Lord. Do as you have promised." We get to raise our voices with Mary, "Yes, Lord. Let it be according to your word."

We get to say, "Yes, Lord. I know you're going to do great things and I'm ready! Take me out of the box with you, God. We've got work to do."




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