by Elaine Maust
Rev. 7:9-17; Is. 40:11-25
October 1, 2006
Flying is a spiritual experience for me. I love the God’s-eyed view that I get as I lean over in the seat of the plane and look out the window down at the tiny houses below. “God knows the person in that house,” I think. “And that house over there… maybe they just had a new baby, and God is there celebrating with them. And that house over there,” I say to myself, “God knows them too. Maybe in that house, they are trying to decide whether or not to put their mother into a nursing home. God knows all about that family and their decision and God is helping them…”
Flying reminds me that God is expansive. When I’m up in a plane I can see a whole town at one time. Wow. But God can see that village and one in Mongolia at the same time. At the same time. God has no limits and so can be everywhere. What must the world look like to God?
In my last sermon, we thought together about The God of all Comfort. Remember that? It was an intimate and I hope honest description of God. I talked about the God who cares for us, weeps with us, carries us. Isaiah describes the God of all Comfort. You can turn with me to Isaiah 40 if you like. (Is. 40:11, movements).
Today we expand our view of God. From the God who is tender and present to the magnificent king who reigns over the universe he imagined and created. This God is gigantic! (Is. 40:12, movements).
And this majestic God is brilliant (v 13-14). I imagine a God who never has to make a decision, because he knows everything and encompasses both all of history and all of the future.
So, God never needs to choose whom he will support. I suppose God never needs to say, “Hmm… Let’s see. Shall I help with the tsunami recovery today, or shall I heal the fever of an Italian child, or shall I create vision in the heart of some church leader in Thailand? God doesn’t need to choose because God is in all of those places, caring, leading, and convicting.
Our God is not some influential mayor of a big city or even the leader of the free world. This God is King of the universe. This is God, for whom all the archipelagos are simple dust. (15, movements)
Brothers and sisters, this is our God. This is the Holy One, who reigns over the entire globe
But let’s face it. A God this big is also overwhelmingly difficult to describe. What am I doing even attempting to introduce this God that we adore and serve? This is God talking… (Is 40:25)
Bob Baldwin and I always love to talk about sermons. He knows that I nearly always have a sermon brewing in a pot in the back of my mind (or is that pot in my heart? anyway) and he always asks me questions about my current sermon. I was only a little surprised that when I visited him on Tuesday, the day after his second surgery, that he asked me about the sermon for Sunday. I told him that, in honor of World Communion Sunday, I was feeling led to preach about the enormity of God.
“Well,” he said. “I had a dream last night about the enormity of God.” This is what Bob dreamed.
He dreamed that he was standing in front of the most immense piece of fabric he had ever seen. It was pure white. Billowing in and out, stretching as far up and down and right and left as he could see. As he was standing in front of this fabric, he was flicking tiny bits of paint on to it. “Just like this,” he said. (demonstrate) In his dream he flicked his fingers and tiny specks of paint appeared on the fabric. Then a voice said, “This is all we know about God.” Bob told me that compared with all there is to know about God, what we do know is only as significant as those pin points of color on the gigantic canvas.
Considering God’s complexity and magnitude can leave us feeling a little like, well, like grasshoppers, Isaiah says. (40:21-22) We could say, “Go away from me, God. I am afraid of you. You are too overwhelming for me.” Folks have done that, you know.
Or, faced with such a powerful and encompassing God, we could shrink him down a little until God is a size we can deal with, understand, and feel comfortable with. And even, control. People try to do that too, sometimes. But God cannot be minimized, domesticated, or manipulated.
Or we can find comfort in serving a God that is bigger than us. If God were just like my tribe and me, of what use would God be, really? I am grateful to belong to God and God’s kingdom. To someone that is bigger than anything I know. To be part of something beyond what I can see on the street outside this church. I want to be part of the work of this far-flung God whose Spirit is breathing out new life here in Meridian, but also, at the same time, in Mexico City.
And all of us do well to have a reality check about who is really the most important and influential being. Sometimes we seem to think the world revolves around us. “It’s all about me.” Our family, our church, our country, and us. And we are saints, precious to God to be sure. But God is just as enthused about some person, family, church in Mozambique as God is about us. Now that is a little humbling, isn’t it?
And so this morning on this World Communion Sunday, God is present with us here at Jubilee. And God is present as communion is served in France and in Iraq and in Japan. Just as we know God is here. They experience God’s Spirit too.
I imagine this Sunday to be the promise of the passage Marvin read this morning from Revelation 7. This morning we believers are spread out from Chunky to China, from Bailey to Bali, from Jackson to Johannesburg. All of us in our separate places and our different ways, praising God. But one of these days (to tell you the truth I can hardly wait) one of these days, we are going to praise God together side by side in one voice. (Rev. 7:9-10)
Now, I don’t know this for a fact and Revelation doesn’t say exactly, but I’ve heard, everyone speaks and sings in Spanish in heaven. (11-12) Imagine the sound as that great multitude sings. When I get to heaven I’m going to be able to play drums as well as Kelsey, James, and Joel. You’ll find me over there grinning from ear to ear, playing some percussion instrument with the Christian delegation from Cuba.
We don’t know what we’ll be doing there for sure, but at last we will be with brothers and sisters who we have served with in the Kingdom all these years, but never met. At last we will meet face to face this Jesus, to whom we owe our lives. At last with one voice we will praise our marvelous God.
But we are still waiting for that day. So in the mean time we praise God with other brothers and sisters around the world, in separate places and in different ways.
There’s a song we sing here at Jubilee that describes this worldwide worship. For the last week or two, “He Reigns” has been running through my head as I prepared my heart for World Communion Sunday.
“It’s the song of the redeemed, rising from the African Plain…” In the 1960s, about 40 years ago, Mennonites from Tanzania began to share the good news in Kenya. Today the Mennonite Church in Kenya has grown to about 28,000. In Kenya, pastors and evangelists travel from church to church on bicycles. And this Sunday our Mennonite brothers and sisters are in Kenya sharing in Communion Services in one of the 42 different languages of the country.
“It’s the song of the forgiven, drowning out the Amazon rain…” Fifty years ago five young men and their families felt God calling them to bring the Good News of forgiveness to the Waodani, or Auca, Tribe in Ecuador’s Amazon rain forest. At that time 60% of adult deaths in that tribe were from homicide. Well, as you may know, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, and their friends were killed by the tribe. But some of their widows went to live with the Waodani who began to be transformed by the power of God’s love. Within a few years, the tribes’ homicide rate dropped by 90 percent.
This morning the songs and prayers of our brothers and sisters in the Amazon jungle, join our prayers and songs.
“The song of Asian believers filled with God’s holy fire…” Where do you suppose the world’s largest congregation is worshipping today? It is an Assemblies of God Church in Seoul, Korea. How many believers share the Lord’s Supper in that church? Any guesses? 760,000. Dr. David Cho began this church less than 50 years ago. “Filled with God’s holy fire…” they are worshipping the same God who smiles on us this morning.
And here’s one more story… “Let praises echo from the towers of cathedrals to the faithful gathered underground…” The bread and the wine are served in the great cathedrals of Europe today. Oh, I would love to be there! If I were in Europe this morning you would find me at Mass in one of the grand Cathedrals. It gives me goose bumps to imagine it. I would not be able to receive communion, but I would slip out of the pew and walk forward with the rest of the congregation just the same. In the front I would cross my arms and receive a blessing from the priest.
But communion is also served among our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.
In the 1970s, there were only about 5,000 Mennonites in Ethiopia. But in the 1980s, the church was pushed underground because the pastors and many others were arrested. For ten years the church met secretly in cell groups. But God was with them and they were faithful. When the government fell, the Mennonite church had grown to 50,000 members. And today there are 120,000 Ethiopian Mennonites who join the song. Currently there are nearly 20,000 believers in classes preparing to join the church. “‘cause all the powers of darkness of darkness can’t drown out a single word…”
“All God’s children singing glory, glory, hallelujah, he reigns, he reigns…”
One of these days we will all be in heaven together, joining the song of the angels and the elders. But today we believers are on every continent with the bread and the cup in our hands saying, (Rev. 7:12).
And the God who will one day wipe all the tears from our eyes sees all of us, around the globe. God hears our song and sees the tears in our eyes as we take the bread of salvation and give thanks.
Rejoice. He Reigns!