Sunday, November 18, 2007

Psalm 25:4-5 - “The Map”

Farewell Sermon
Thursday, November 15, and Sunday, November 18, 2007


Seven years ago when the Seminary told me you had called me to be your pastor, I needed a map to find Manitowoc. When we did find our way to Manitowoc, then I needed a map to find Two Rivers, Valders, Mishicot, Newton, Francis Creek, and Shoto. Then I really needed a map to realize that Cleveland isn’t in Ohio and Denmark is a short drive and not across the Atlantic Ocean.


Now I need a map to find out how to get from Manitowoc to Brookfield, how to find my way around the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area. I needed to look at the map to see that Immanuel Lutheran Church is located in the northeast corner of Brookfield, across the street from Menomonee Falls, caddy-corner from Butler, two miles from Milwaukee. Since the church has called me to focus on evangelism, reaching out and connecting with the community, I’ll need a map to realize how many communities that Immanuel touches.


Yet there’s really only one map that we need, isn’t there? There’s only the map of God’s Word. It’s what guides me; it’s what guides you. So today let’s celebrate that map with the words of Psalm 25.

On the insert in your bulletins, you have verses 4-5 from Psalm 25. It’s from my favorite version of Psalm: an engaging paraphrase called The Word on the Street by Rob Lacey. For the psalms, Lacey writes them as modern songs, giving each one a type of music to imagine behind the lyrics. Psalm 25 happens to be an upbeat indie rock song, and verses 4-5 are the chorus. I don’t know the tune Lacey had in mind, so I’ll just read the words. But watch how Lacey makes the travel imagery really come alive.

I need a map and a torch if I’m going to go your way;
I need good shoes and a guide if I’m going to go your way;
Where else would I go? You’re my God;
I really want to go your way.
Who else is worth relying on? You get the nod,
‘Cos I really want to go your way.

We need a map—God’s Word. We need a torch—that’s British English for flashlight. We need a flashlight—God’s Word. If we’re going to follow God, if we’re going to know how to live how lives, if we’re going to go to eternal life, we need a map and flashlight from God.

We need good shoes—the Holy Spirit. We need a guide—the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our travel guide through life and death. He is the One who will save us from dead ends and hellish destinations. He is the One who will bring us to eternal life.

That’s what we’ve been doing here—getting together to study God’s map, letting Him be our travel guide. That’s what we’ve been doing, and that’s what you’ll continue to do even as I take the call to Brookfield. It’s what we all need to hear today.

I need a map and a torch if I’m going to go your way;
I need good shoes and a guide if I’m going to go your way;
Where else would I go? You’re my God;
I really want to go your way.
Who else is worth relying on? You get the nod,
‘Cos I really want to go your way.

This calls for a map story. Flip to the back side of the insert.

When we travel from Wisconsin to see Susan’s parents in Kentucky, we take Interstate 65 through Indiana. One of our favorite places to take a break is just north of Indianapolis at Exit 124 so that we can stop at Steak and Shake (it’s really good food).

That exit intrigues me, because you drive about a mile on a side road to get to Steak and Shake. And once you’re at Steak and Shake, there’s no reason to go back to Interstate 65 because the restaurant is right by Interstate 465 which you can see on the map is just about to link up with 65. Whether we go back to 65 or we get on 465, either way we can get to Kentucky.

That’s where I imagine you and I are right now, and it’s why we “need a map and a torch… good shoes and a guide if [we’re] going to go [God’s] way.”

We have been traveling down Interstate 65 together; we have been doing God’s work here, sharing His love and Word of salvation with our community, but now I am leaving that highway, taking exit number 124.

I’m cutting across and jumping onto Interstate 465. I’m joining Immanuel Lutheran in the work they are doing to serve the Lord, the ways they are reaching out with the Gospel.

However, even if you’re on Interstate 65 at Redeemer and I’m on 465 at Immanuel, notice we’re all still headed towards Kentucky, all still headed towards the eternal life that comes through Jesus Christ. [And yes, I just compared Kentucky to eternal life, and I meant to].

Anyway, we’ll all be headed the same direction—on two different roads in two different places—but both Redeemer and Immanuel are headed towards Jesus Christ. You have the map and torch, good shoes and guide of God’s Word, and so do I. We’re following God’s lead as we head down these roads.

The problem, though, would be if I took Exit 124 and stayed at Steak and Shake. If I never got back on the highway, I’d never get to Kentucky. If I didn’t keep following God, I’d be ignoring His map, His plan. If that was the case, you should be very concerned for me.

But that’s not what I’m doing. I’m not stopping my travel towards God’s destination. By the time December 9 rolls around and I’m installed at Immanuel, I’ll be back on the highway of ministry. Please pray that there’s no Steak and Shakes that keep me from getting back on the road.

And I’ll be praying for you, because I don’t want you getting stuck at the Steak and Shake either. As I take Exit 124, you might be tempted to take that same exit. You might be thinking, That Steak and Shake sounds like a good place to stop. You might be thinking, If Pastor Squires is leaving, maybe we should just leave, too. Of course, if you do that, you’re ignoring the map of God’s Word.

Instead, you’ve got to go back to Psalm 25:

I need a map and a torch if I’m going to go your way;
I need good shoes and a guide if I’m going to go your way, [LORD];

You’ve got to stay on Interstate 65. You’ve got to keep moving forward in ministry together, you’ve got to keep looking for ways to reach out into this community, you’ve got to see how God will continue to use you to share His love and salvation with the people around you. There’s no reason for you to take Exit 124; there’s no reason for you to stop traveling down Interstate 65; there’s no reason for you to stop doing what you’re doing.

God has placed you on Interstate 65 for a reason, so don’t lose focus. Don’t follow me down that exit ramp; don’t get stuck at Steak and Shake. You’ve got to keep going past Exit 124, keep seeing where God will lead you.

But none of this is easy. It’s not easy to read the map of God’s Word. It’s not easy to keep following God’s map when a lot of the people around you are following other kinds of maps. It’s not easy to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing with your life—why you’re living according to God’s Word, why you’re so sure that Jesus is your Savior—it’s not so easy when everyone seems to misunderstand you.

Which makes me think of another map story.

To help me tell this story, we need to listen to 30 seconds of a song by the rock band R.E.M. It’s a song called “Maps and Legends,” and you have the lyrics on the insert.

Down the way the road’s divided
Paint me the places you have seen.
Those who know what I don’t know
Refer to the yellow, red and green

(Can’t you see)
Maybe he’s caught in the legend,
Maybe he’s caught in the mood.
Maybe these maps and legends
Have been misunderstood.

This song got me through a tough period in high school. Maybe you’ve heard me tell stories before about spending every summer during junior high and high school at a canoe camp in Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Those canoe trips culminated in a 36-day expedition to Hudson Bay in Canada. It was an incredible journey, exploring territories few people have seen, going for days without seeing another person, surviving by trusting each other in the group and learning how to travel on the wild rivers and lakes.

When I came home from the trip, no one around me seemed to understand how important that expedition was, how it had changed me, how hard it was to come back off the trail. When I found myself reminiscing and retracing our route on maps, I listened to this song by R.E.M. as they sing about following maps. When I felt misunderstood, I sang those words in my head: “Maybe these maps and legends have been misunderstood.”

I started thinking about this song again, because people don’t understand us when we follow God’s map. Even though it might be tough to hear, I know you understand when I say that I accepted the call to Brookfield because that’s where God is leading me. If I say that God’s map is telling me to head to Brookfield, you might not like it, but you understand that I need to follow God’s direction.

However, when I’ve talk to other people, people outside of the Christian faith, and tell them I’m going to Brookfield, they don’t understand why we’d pick up and leave with 3 little kids, why we’d leave when we had come to love this community so much, why we’d leave when I have obviously loved working with the people at Redeemer. I tell them that I’m following God’s direction, but when they give me a funny look, in my mind I’m singing, “Maybe these maps and legends have been misunderstood.”

I’m sure it’s the same way for you as you tell people about following God’s Word for your life. People who don’t know Christ, who don’t have an active faith, often don’t understand what it means that God’s Word is our map, the guide for our lives. “I need a map and a torch if I’m going to go your way.”

We want to follow God’s Word, we want to follow His map, but that means that people around us will misunderstand us. “These maps and legends have been misunderstood.” People will not understand why you don’t exit the highway, why you don’t stay at the Steak and Shake, why you don’t make other things more important in your life, why you make sure that you’re always moving forward to serve others with God’s love and Gospel.

And when people misunderstand God’s map and your life, support one another. Just as the R.E.M. song helped me when I came home after my canoe expedition, so you can be that song for each other, encouraging each other when the world doesn’t understand, comforting each other when the journey gets difficult, and urging each other forward to keep driving, keep going down Interstate 65, keep focused on God’s map, keep moving forward in your ministry together, because

(use hand motion that is kind of my trademark)
God’s love has come down to you,
so go out and share that love with the world.