God is Great and God is Good

Gratitude Sunday
Psalm 145
10 November 2013
Elizabeth M. Deibert                                                                                  
God is great and God is good.   Thank you God for a new neighborhood.   Yes,  Peacemakers, you have a new home.   What an amazing job you did responding to the need at the beginning of this calendar year, responding with generous pledges and gifts.   What a super job you did yesterday moving from warehouse to Aurora.   And I’m going to stop calling it Aurora.  It is the home of Peace Church now, thanks to the generosity of God.  Let’s praise God in Hebrew:  Hallelujah.   I say, ‘great” you say “good”  God is great.  God is good.   God is great.   God is good.   

I asked to make your list of 100 things for which you are thankful.   I made a list every week since I started asking.  Here’s my first 100:  For the one God, whom we see in Jesus Christ’s life and experience in the presence of the Holy Spirit with us wherever we go, for thirty-five children and youth, teaching us that we should not just glorify God but enjoy God.   For thirteen elders on session helping lead the church to full maturity, for about eighteen of you who can remember when Peace met at Living Lord, for these eight years together building new friendships with all the people who have become Peace with us, for the twelve ministry teams, for the five music groups and their one fabulously fun director, for two building vision plans that fell through, while God was leading us to a better promised land, for my five immediate family members whom I love dearly and this loving church family.
Here’s my most recent list:  for Bob Seiter coming home on Friday, for forty-eight people at Faith & Film on Friday night, for one peaceful grass snake found yesterday, for truckloads of yard clippings cut and taken away for us at great discount, for the ministry of the Aurora Foundation, making cassette tapes, especially the Bible on cassette for the blind in 70 different languages, for the patience of a dozen or more strong men yesterday, who did not lose their patience yesterday when we sent them the wrong way with heavy furniture, for new paint colors on the wall to consider, and for 250 freshly cleaned chairs.

For three guys named Don & Bob & Grant leading a super diligent and unflappable Building Vision Team, for two newspaper articles coming out soon, thanks our zealous Outreach Team, for the tireless and cheerful service of the Property Management Team, for two refrigerators, three sofas, a grill, desks and bookcases and truckloads of stuff that we did not have eight years ago when we started, or even three years ago when we moved here.   For the generosity of so many of you without whom we would not be here and for those who will join us in making building fund commitments to carry us through to the building of a sanctuary in 2015 and who knows what by 2025 – maybe an assisted living facility on the far side of the lake for all of you will need it by then.  I can see it sitting the sanctuary in my imagination every time I drive onto the new property.
Here’s my list of 100 from a week ago: for twenty-seven wonderful years of marriage to a very kind, prayerful, and generous man (we’ve been married twenty-eight but you know, there were a few rough patches), for four wonderful children and their two dogs and three nice boyfriends, for my mom still with us and three parents praying for us on distant yet nearby shore, for siblings and in-laws and nieces and nephews, for Montreat, for friends in Alabama, England, N. Carolina and SW Florida.

And now for my stream of consciousness list:   For laughter, walks, moonlight, gardening, warm showers, hugs and gentle, caring conversation, trees that change color, for Stephen Ministers and other caring listeners, movies, Sunday night freedom, Monday morning rest, sunsets, Dove dark chocolate, Asian food, red wine and full bodied beer, for cell phones and computers – when they work, for moody teens transforming into mature young adults, for vegetables of all types and soups, for faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control.  For singing and prayer and scripture and sacrament.  Forgiveness, renewal, and courage.  Energy, intelligence, imagination and love.   For saints and sinners.   Old and young, male and female, people from many backgrounds and cultures living in harmony.
Let us read Psalm 145 now, a psalm of gratitude for God’s attributes:

Psalm 145
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you.
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
12 to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.
This is a Presbyterian psalm.   It’s all about the sovereignty of God, the theme-song of the Reformed tradition.   This psalm says that God and great and God is good.    The psalmist gushes with praise in the first paragraph.   I will bless you name forever and ever, praise your name forever and ever.  Every day.   Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.  God’s greatness is unsearchable.

Then the second paragraph speaks of the generational nature of faith traditions.   I love to think about the fact that we are in a very tangible way telling the next generation of the greatness of God by not just being the church, but by planting a church house -- a physical structure which when we finish will communicate something of the glory of God and of our commitment to love God and neighbor, through the faithful use/management/sharing of this wonderful resource.   
When you make donations to Peace’s building fund, you are shaping the future generations toward Christian faith, just as faithful people who gave and developed churches did generations before us. You are saying to all the cynicism in today’s world about the decline of the church and to all those who think that one can be spiritual but not religious, to all who think that God is just a figment of our imaginations, we give an emphatic “No”   God is great.   God is good.   God is great.   God is good.

Hear now all the exalted language about God’s greatness and goodness and think about which one of these attributes or actions of God you most appreciate:   Greatness unsearchable, might acts, glorious splendor, majesty, wondrous works, awesome deeds, greatness, abundant goodness, righteousness, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, good to all, compassionate, glory of your kingdom, your power, your mighty deeds, everlasting kingdom, enduring dominion, faithful in all words, gracious in all deeds, upholds the falling, raises up the bowed down, giving food, satisfying desires of all living things, just in all ways, near to all who call in truth, fulfills desires of all who revere God, watches over all who love God, gets rid of wickedness.
Okay, let’s talk about that wickedness line.   We had an interesting discussion of this at the women’s pray walk.   What to do with verses like this?   All the wicked God will destroy.   Believing that God desires good for all people, and believing that God is powerful enough to get what God really wants, I have a hard time believing that God simply destroys people.   No, God purifies the wickedness out of us, so that ultimately, there are no more wicked people.   But God never takes our freedom away. God limits God’s own power to preserve our freedom.   Real love is not coercive, so God must win us over freely.   This is what I believe happens when we trust in a God who is all powerful and all loving.   God’s love trumps the wickedness in every one of us in the end.   God is great and God is good.
And that’s why we have ten thousand reasons to bless the Lord because God’s love wins, God’s love is greater than evil, God’s grace and mercy is wider than the ocean, higher than the sky.   God’s sovereignty is a mysterious thing.  While I was rejoicing in the successful closing of Peace’s property purchase, my first cousin Cynthia, was losing her husband to a long battle with cancer.   Cynthia lost one sibling to alcoholism at 33 and another to AIDS at 25.  I’ve got all three siblings still living.  Both her parents died in the last ten years.  I still have a living mother, and Cynthia now has lost her 51 year old husband.    

Andrew, our son, went to the memorial service today.   The pastor read three beautiful statements of faith and love by the 18 and two 15 year old children of Cynthia and Frank.   Such a tragedy that for most of their lives, they had a dying father, but such a joy that with a dying father, they learned to trust in God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Cynthia has had tremendous losses in her life, but with three children who can beautifully articulate their Christian faith, she is truly blessed, even in her grief.   God is great and God is good.

As I was reading over this sermon, I looked at the BBC news online today to discover that the estimated deaths in the Phillipines, due to the horrific Typhoon – 10,000.   How fragile this life is! Just as I was reading about that, Rebecca came in the door with tears in her eyes.   She was driving home last night on Lorraine Road, just at the old Faith Church that we did not buy, when she suddenly hit a wild boar.    But this is what makes it even more strange.   She had moments before hitting the boar been thinking about how terrible it would be to have an accident.   That thought made her alert in the darkness of Lorraine Road.   We can never understand why tragedy strikes in some places and why others are spared, but we do know that the Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds, good to all and compassionate toward all.  Just in all ways, kind in all ways.   Near to all who call.   God is great and God is good.   Let us thank God for our new neighborhood.
Gratitude Brunch
So let’s figure out mathematically how each of us can thank God ten thousand times.  You could stay up 24/7 for one week, dozing off only occasionally and thank God every minute of every day, and that would be 10,000 thank you’s.  You can volunteer 25 hours/week for the church for 50 weeks/year for eight years, and that would be 10,000 hours of work.   But it might actually be easier to find 10,000 ways to give money in response the thousands of gifts that come from God.  Some of us have given $10,000 to the building fund this year and/or $10,000 to the operating fund.    

If you’re on a tight budget, you could give the equivalent of 10,000 dimes, which is $1000/year.  That’s 20/week.  Most of can simplify our lives to free up $20/week if we work at it.   Peace is happy to receive 10,000 dimes or 10,000 Abe Lincoln.   In fact, without the 50,000 special gift this year, we’d be challenged to meet our goals as we move into a new building, but every gift counts with God, and together we can do this.   
This talk about numbers got me thinking of other numbers, so I’ll tell you, as I always do, what Richard and I will give this year, to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone, challenging ourselves to give more generously every year.   The joy of giving is sort of like the joy of any other disciplined activity – it comes with a little hard work.   To get better at running, you run a little further each week.   To develop generosity, you push yourself to give a little more than you think you can.   Giving builds trust in God.   We all want to make a difference somehow because we believe in the vision of this growing congregation.   We have seen the power of God at work, building Peace.   

This year for our operating fund pledge, in celebration of our new building, Richard and I will give one dollar for every square foot over there.  We have already pledged to the three-year building fund, but we are going to make an $800 extra contribution now to pay for the pulpit, communion table and two flower stands which are already ordered.    We are giving those special pieces in honor of all of you – for your dedication and your generosity in bringing Peace this far, and this is just one more new beginning.   You might think of some meaningful gift you’d like to give Peace – please make it something that Peace already wants.    Or you can give an amount that has significance.  One hundred dollars for every child and youth at Peace – 3500 dollars.  One thousand dollars for every year of Peace existence, or since Peace chartered or one thousand for every year you’ve been at Peace or 100 dollars for every year of your life or every year of your child’s life.  That’s not much to give back – considering all God gave you in each of those years.   
Or if all these different numbers are making your head spin, then go back to the tried and true Biblical plan:  10% of your income/your wealth.   Eight years ago we had about ten pledges to enter the 2006 year.    In 2014 I hope we will have 100 pledges – of all sizes – the gift is acceptable according to whatever you have.   Prayerfully consider & bring these back next week, or even better, take that leap of faith today before you leave.   Be an early giver so we can encourage the congregation with a growing total from today.