Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.


Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.


Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)


About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.



The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.




Thursday, June 11, 2009

"As Far as the East is from the West"

“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so is his mercy great upon those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us. As a father cares for his children, so does the Lord care for those who fear him. For God knows whereof we are made; he remembers that we are but dust.”

- Psalm 103

That is a scripture full of power and hope. As far as the east is from the west. . . The Priest sings God’s praises, the people of Israel gathered in the temple and sang this hymn of praise, celebrating God’s mercy. “He has not dealt with us according to our sins . . . “ he has not! “nor rewarded us according to our wickedness!” “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.” And, with that the Holy Scripture has gathered our sinful selves up and turned us in-side out. If you receive this scripture in your heart, it will bring you to confession, to repentance, and in the same breath, to celebration of grace! “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us!” The acknowledgment of sinfulness, and the celebration of grace in one spiritual movement, in the one movement of faith, we find who we are and who God is, and how who God is determines who we are – and, who we are does not determine who God is. If you can make this movement in your hearts with this scripture, you can walk away a changed person, a new man, a new woman, a renewed person, cleansed, made whole by God’s Holy Spirit.

What would it be like to walk out of here today, set free from the heavy weight of past sins, sin and shame that hangs on us, wraps around us, on some, like vines growing around a tree, keeping new growth from coming, threatening the health eventually; for others, the effect of past sin is even worse, it wraps itself around us so tight that it squeezes the life out of us, and leaves us gasping as we go to bed at night and as we get up in the morning. These memories of bad things that we’ve done, or that have been done to us, and somehow it all mixes together in the choking air of sin and shame and guilt. And, we come here today to hear the word of the Lord. And, this scripture opens to us a way of hope, a way we could not have imagined was open to us.

AS FAR AS THE EAST IS FROM THE WEST, SO FAR DOES OUR GOD REMOVE OUR SINS FROM US.

God deals with our sin, our guilt, and our shame for us because he knows we can’t. Wouldn’t you like to walk out of here with that weight removed so that you could walk again with some spring in your step, set free by the grace of God to live for his glory. Set free from the sickness of sin so that you can praise God and love your neighbors.

Today, I want us to come before God, and to receive something – the power of Jesus death and resurrection. The victory over sin . . . I want us, O Lord, to receive it. Deliver us, O God, we are tired of our burdens. We love your ways, but something, some evil, some despair or fear keeps us away from your power and gifts. Lift us, Lord. Redeem us to live fully for you. To live fully in joy and love and hope. Remove the weight of sin from our hearts. We turn from sin, and cling to your righteousness, O God. We know your righteousness through Jesus, your Son.

But, what is it that keeps us from our calling? What is it that keeps us from being the man or woman that God has created us to be? Sometimes, there are moments that we really do get there, when we truly find our stride, and are at one with the movement of God’s Spirit. There are days when the worries are gone, when joy is present, when your work is excellent, when your mind and body are working together, then you are in harmony with others, when you feel the power of God’s Spirit working towards the great goal. There are days like this. As Van Morrison sings: “when there’s no need to worry – there’ll be days like this – when you don’t have to hurry ‘ there’ll be days like this – when . . . my mama always told me there’d be days like this”. Or, even when misfortune strikes, even then, we sometimes feel ourselves in stride with God’s Spirit, being carried by the current of God’s river of peace and love and purpose.

But, then, for me and for many of you, there are days when we seem to be stumbling at every corner; struggling just to keep from falling behind; and just glad to have made it through another day or another week. There are too many days when we don’t feel at peace with God and our neighbor and ourselves. There are too many days when our work doesn’t seem to add up to anything of value, our conversations and dealings with our neighbors lack understanding, purpose and real concern. Now, I’ve been told there’d be days like this too. There are too many days like this – days when our prayers seem to die before they are prayed; when our desire to be close to God vanishes before anything comes of it. There are too many Sundays when we come to worship and leave without being renewed. There are too many Mondays when we walk back into work already defeated within our minds.

Where, I ask you, is the power to run the race? Where is the living faith? Where is that abundant life that Jesus died and rose to give us? Where are you today? Are you ready to come before the LIVING GOD? Are you ready to ask for and receive his mercy and help? Have you carried the burdens of your sin and sorrow long enough? LISTEN TO THESE WORDS FROM GOD TO US.

Psalm 103

Again: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Now, the victory of God in Christ is for us to receive. Now, does that mean we won’t suffer any more? No. But, it means that our sufferings can become a part of God’s saving work, whether they cause us to experience hope for the day of resurrection, whether they cause us to increase in compassion and understanding, or whether we experience healing and deliverance now to God’s glory. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. “Be still and know that I am God.” That’s what we need to feel - God’s presence now.

Psalm 103

The Church through the centuries has been focused on doctrine, teachings, knowledge. And, knowledge is a wonderful thing if it arises from the experience of the Living God or leads to the experience of the Living God. What we need in our time is a new foundation, the one foundation that can give life, and truth, and purpose, and love and salvation. And, that foundation is the direct experience of the Living God. We need to be immersed, not in water, but in the Holy Spirit. And, then knowledge can come, and be built up and grow into wisdom.

Now, the experience of God in your life can be when you are alone, when you are together with others, when you are in prayer or worship. And, this experience may knock you to the floor, or leave you sitting straight up and quiet as a mouse. God may touch your heart and tears may flow, or you may become solemn and as quiet as you have ever been, and your face may look as grave as a tombstone. God’s Spirit moves in different ways and is received in different ways. But, unless we personally receive the touch of God’s Spirit we have no strength, no power, no newness of life. Pray within yourselves now for the coming of God’s Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, come into our midst, into our worship, into our speaking and hearing, into our praying and into our homes and work places and into our hearts and minds and bodies.
Amen.

I don’t want to simply stand up here and teach you something about the Bible. I want to get you in touch with the ONLY ONE WHO CAN REALLY TEACH AND HEAL AND SAVE – OUR GRACIOUS GOD, THE FATHER OF JESUS CHRIST.

These words from the scripture should be like food for our hungry hearts. Listen again. LISTEN SO THAT THESE WORDS REACH YOUR HEART, AND THEN IT WILL BE TRUE TO SAY THAT THESE ARE GOD’S WORDS TO YOU.

Psalm 103.

Pray for THE conversion of your hearts, conversion from confusion to understanding, from instability to stability, from hatred to love, from a desire for harm to a desire for healing, from shame to a feeling of God-given dignity, from guilt to a humble and grateful sense of being forgiven. We need to be changed fully. Then, our lives will glow in this world. Our health will bring God’s healing to others. Our love will flow to others. The Good News in Jesus Christ will reach out to others because we will have become good news in this world. Do you feel this good news inside? Do you feel like your life is good news now or not?

Have you felt the gracious presence of God in your life? Have you felt the peace, the healing the faith and joy that comes from God’s beauty and truth and love and purity?

Is your life GOOD NEWS to those near you – in your family, your friends, your co-workers, your classmates at school? Is it good news when you arrive at a gathering? When you children gather at school, and when a certain child is usually cast out and looked down upon, is your arrival good news or just more of the same old bad news for this excluded child? Adults, the same for you at work, in the neighborhood.

If your life is not good news to others, then you need to make more room inside, so that God can bring his light, his peace, his strength and his love. We spend a lot of time worrying over our bodies, but little time worrying about our spirit, the inner places where God speaks to us. We need to prepare that inner room as a place of worship, and healing, where God’s Spirit is always honored and praised and embraced.

Pray for the conversion of your life completely by God’s grace, so that everything about you is GOOD NEWS TO EVERY BODY AND in EVERY SITUATION. I didn’t say you have to be smiling every second, or go about pretending all is well. What makes your life good news to you and others is that God’s Spirit is telling you from within that all things are moving towards a great day of redemption and glory and love and joy. Not only is God’s Spirit telling you the good news, God’s Spirit is bringing it about and partly through the awakening of your mind and heart to do God’s will.

And, God assures us of the good news in so many ways. Through the scripture, Psalm 103, through prayer, through the love of others, through deliverance from evil and sin, through healing and help and the courage of faith. And, these come through these holy words. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us.”

If you can let these words sink in to your hearts and know how good your Lord and Saviour is, and how powerful is his grace. If you can hear these words and feed on them. If you can let everything else go right now. Let it go. Whether it is worry over a loved one, anger at someone, stress over debts, or sickness. Let it go right now and seek God’s kingdom within you, God’s truth, God’s peace, God’s word. Let God heal you right now; Let God forgive you right now; Let God lift up your heart and redeem your shame by the gift of the Holy Spirit. I say to you, in the glory of God, in the grace of Christ, and to the glory of God, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and be still and know that the Lord alone is God. He has called you to his work, for his purpose. Let’s go forward today, we’ve gone backwards long enough. Let’s look forward today; we’ve looked back long enough. If you keep looking back, you are going to crash into what’s in front of you. Look forward, God has freed you. Whatever, your bondage has been. He is taking you through the Red Sea right now. He is holding back the waters on each side. And, those evil powers from the past, those sins, those enemies are not able to pursue – if they dare try, the Lord will make the waters rush upon them and leave them drowned and cast up on the shore.

Get up and walk today. Jesus looked at the paralyzed man, and said your sins are forgiven. And, then he said to the man. Take up your bed, get up and walk. We’ve been down too long, we’ve been paralyzed too long, we’ve been stuck too long in one place; reach out your hand for the future God is giving you. Get up and walk and shout to the glory of God. You are free.

Who can separate us from the love of God? Can anything keep us from this good news? NOTHING IN ALL CREATION. In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us and gave himself for us.

Psalm 103. AMEN.

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