Sunday, August 14, 2005

2 Samuel 22:1-4,7,17-18a,32,47 - “Blessed Be the Rock”

Vacation Bible School
Thursday, August 11, and Sunday, August 14, 2005

“I Will Call Upon the Lord”

I will call upon the Lord!
Who is worthy to be praised!
So shall I be saved from my enemies,
I will call upon the Lord!

The Lord liveth and blessed be the Rock,
Blessed be the Rock of my salvation!
The Lord liveth and blessed be the Rock,
Blessed be the Rock of my salvation!!

Words & Music by Michael O'Shields. © 1981, Sound III, Inc. Adapted.

That song fits perfectly with the theme for Vacation Bible School, “Build on the Rock.” All week we’ve talked in Vacation Bible School about how Jesus is our Rock, how Jesus protects us from death, how Jesus will give us eternal life.

The words of the song come from 2 Samuel, the Old Testament reading for tonight. They’re words of David who praised God, because Saul had been out to kill David, didn’t want David around because Saul knew that David was going to be the next king of Israel. David sings this song to God, because God kept David from being killed.

The TVs are out, because these words of David make me think of an image that I want you to see. David says, “He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy.” When David says, “He sent from on high, he took me,” it means that God reached down from above and picked him up. That makes me think of Will E. Coyote. (push play, run sequence to where he lands at bottom of cliff, pause)

You see, that’s how life seems sometimes, it seems like it’s all going downhill, all going the wrong way, it’s just crashing down. Busy days turn into stressful days turn into exhaustion. Tough situations turn into difficult messes turn into things that make you want to run away and hide.

But then you remember that Jesus is the Rock, that Jesus is our fortress and deliverer, the One who will protect us and save us from trouble. “He sent from on high, he took me.” He reached down from above and picked me up. . .(press rewind until Coyote is at top of cliff).

When I think of God reaching down to pluck me out of trouble, that’s the image that comes to mind. It’s like God pressing the rewind button, pulling us out of the fall, keeping us from crashing to the bottom. Jesus is the Rock, and so when I’m teetering on the edge, He comes and puts some more rock on that cliff to hold me up. If I don’t realize that I’m going to fall, He comes and finds a way to get me back away from the edge. If I’ve started to fall, He catches me and returns me to the top.

Karen, my godmother, has a disease that attacked her lungs. For awhile now, she’s had to have oxygen. She’s often been weak and tired. Karen’s only chance was a lung transplant. It’s been hard, because it didn’t seem like a lung would become available soon enough.

Karen’s been my mom’s best friend since they were in 8th grade. I grew up spending time with Karen and her family. Her children were my childhood playmates. Karen and her family are like family to us. Knowing that Karen was struggling to breathe, it was making me feel like I was falling off that cliff. I was losing hope.

Then this past Sunday we got the news that Karen had received a lung transplant. The surgery went very well. It is just such a miracle. Each day she is getting stronger just as the doctors are hoping. God reached out and pulled Karen back to the top of the cliff, giving her hope and a new chance to experience life. God reached out and pulled me back to the top of the cliff, giving me hope again for Karen.

It makes me want to sing, “The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock.”

Of course, just because I tell you one time when Jesus was my Rock, a time when He reached out to put me back on top of the cliff, that doesn’t mean it always works like that. Sometimes you still end up hitting bottom. (let video go to splat, pause)

Even then, I’m still singing, “The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock”—at least I try to keep singing to God.

I work with some young adults who have been in and out of jail, fighting addictions to drugs and alcohol, struggling to get away from a group of friends who keep leading them back to trouble. I visit them in the jail to share God’s Word with them—yes, to tell them where they’re wrong, but also to tell them that God loves them, forgives them, wants to have a relationship with them. It’s amazing how much it means to some of these young adults to hear that God loves them—even while they’re sitting in jail wearing an orange jumpsuit. These young adults are very aware at that point of how God is pulling them back to the top of the cliff.

Yet, I feel like the Coyote at the bottom of the cliff when I hear that someone is back in jail less than a month after getting out, has new charges that I hadn’t heard about, isn’t quitting the drugs or alcohol. My heart sinks; my heart gets broken. My hope is dashed on the rocks.

From the bottom of the cliff, I try to keep singing “the Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock.” It doesn’t always happen; I don’t always keep praising God. Sometimes I let my grumbled words take over, my fears and worries and anger. And yet, even when I’ve seen how the enemy keeps attacking, how the devil keeps trying to figure out ways to keep me from sharing God’s Word with these young adults, still I want to sing and praise God and thank God that He does love them, He gave them a chance to hear about Jesus, that whatever happens to them, no matter how times they fall, I want to praise God that they’ve heard His Word and maybe one day they’ll remember that He is with them.

So even at the bottom of the cliff, even when it feels like we’ve gone splat with the Coyote, David’s song is still our song, “The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock.”

And that’s the most important thing that the students have learned this week, that the teachers have taught, that our youth helpers have remembered: Jesus is our Rock for eternal life. Vacation Bible School wasn’t just about Jesus being our Rock for difficult days in this life. It’s more than that. He is our Rock, our salvation, our protection for eternal life.

When we think about our spiritual lives, it’s pretty clear that we’re down at the bottom of the cliff. The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God, and what do we call that event? The Fall. Watching the Coyote keep falling down the cliff over and over again, that’s a perfect image for what our spiritual lives are like. We keep falling. We keep sinning and going against God’s ways. Spiritually, we’ve gone splat so many times at the bottom of that cliff.

Yet, that’s not where God leaves us.

(press rewind until Coyote is at top of cliff)
He lifts us up. He reaches down and picks us up from our sins. He gives us the promise of eternal life. No matter how many times you’ve fallen into sin, no matter how deep that valley is, no matter how ugly your spiritual life might be, the forgiveness of Jesus brings you right back up to the top.

You see, this week we learned that Jesus is our Rock. When the Coyote is on top of the cliff, he’s sitting on rock. When we have a relationship with Jesus, we’re on the Rock.

But just like how it takes the rewind button to bring Coyote back up to the top of the cliff, so it takes a rewind button to get us to be on top of the cliff with Jesus. We can’t climb out of our valley of sin. It’s too far for us to climb. We can’t get ourselves back into a relationship with God.

So God sent Jesus to be the rewind button for our spiritual lives. We’re sinners at the bottom, and Jesus jumped into the valley and climbed out, bringing us with Him.

When Jesus dies on the cross, that’s when Jesus jumped into sin and death with us. He did what a rescuer should never do—He put Himself into the same dangerous situation. He ends up dying there just like all of us who will die because of sin.

Then when Jesus rose again on Easter, that’s when Jesus pressed the rewind button. He got Himself out of the valley, got Himself out of the grave, but He brought us out with Him. He will give us eternal life. When we die, He’ll press the rewind button and give us eternal life, bringing us to the top of cliff.

Except this is even better than what we can do with Coyote here, because when Jesus gives us eternal life, there won’t be anymore cliff or valley. We won’t fall again. There won’t be sin; we won’t walk away from God; we will never leave God’s side again.

And that makes me want to sing, “The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock.” Praise God that He will reach out and pull me out of the valley when I face trouble in life. Praise God that He will stay with me when life has gone splat. But more than all of that, praise God that He will press the rewind button and bring me back to the top of the cliff, give me eternal life to be with Him forever. “The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock.”