December 20, 2020

Oops, God did it again!

Preacher:

1 Samuel 1:9-28
9-10 One time, after they had finished their meal in the house of the Lord at Shiloh, Hannah got up. She was deeply distressed, and she cried bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. Meanwhile, Eli the priest was sitting in his place by the door. 11 Hannah made a solemn promise: “Lord Almighty, look at me, your servant! See my trouble and remember me! Don’t forget me! If you give me a son, I promise that I will dedicate him to you for his whole life and that he will never have his hair cut.”[ HYPERLINK “https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+1&version=GNT” \l “fen-GNT-6852b” \o “See footnote b” b]
12 Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time, and Eli watched her lips. 13 She was praying silently; her lips were moving, but she made no sound. So Eli thought that she was drunk, 14 and he said to her, “Stop making a drunken show of yourself Stop your drinking and sober up!”
15 “No, I’m not drunk, sir,” she answered. “I haven’t been drinking! I am desperate, and I have been praying, pouring out my troubles to the Lord. 16 Don’t think I am a worthless woman. I have been praying like this because I’m so miserable.”
17 “Go in peace,” Eli said, “and may the God of Israel give you what you have asked him for.”
18 “May you always think kindly of me,” she replied. Then she went away, ate some food, and was no longer sad.
19 The next morning Elkanah and his family got up early, and after worshiping the Lord, they went back home to Ramah. Elkanah had intercourse with his wife Hannah, and the Lord answered her prayer. 20 So it was that she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[ HYPERLINK “https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+1&version=GNT” \l “fen-GNT-6861c” \o “See footnote c” c] and explained, “I asked the Lord for him.”
21 The time came again for Elkanah and his family to go to Shiloh and offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and the special sacrifice he had promised. 22 But this time Hannah did not go. She told her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will take him to the house of the Lord, where he will stay all his life.”
23 Elkanah answered, “All right, do whatever you think best; stay at home until you have weaned him. And may the Lord make your[ HYPERLINK “https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+1&version=GNT” \l “fen-GNT-6864d” \o “See footnote d” d] promise come true.” So Hannah stayed at home and nursed her child.
24 After she had weaned him, she took him to Shiloh, taking along a three-year-old bull,[ HYPERLINK “https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+1&version=GNT” \l “fen-GNT-6865e” \o “See footnote e” e] a bushel of flour, and a leather bag full of wine. She took Samuel, young as he was, to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 After they had killed the bull, they took the child to Eli. 26 Hannah said to him, “Excuse me, sir. Do you remember me? I am the woman you saw standing here, praying to the Lord. 27 I asked him for this child, and he gave me what I asked for. 28 So I am dedicating him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he will belong to the Lord.”
Then they[ HYPERLINK “https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+1&version=GNT” \l “fen-GNT-6869f” \o “See footnote f” f] worshiped the Lord there.

Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee named Nazareth. He had a message for a young woman promised in marriage to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. Her name was Mary. The angel came to her and said,  Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!
Mary was deeply troubled by the angel’s message, and she wondered what his words meant. The angel said to her, Don’t be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end!
Mary said to the angel, I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?
The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. For there is nothing that God cannot do.
I am the Lord’s servant, said Mary; may it happen to me as you have said. And the angel left her.
 

 
I have an ability. I won’t particularly call it a talent, because it gets me in as much trouble as it helps me. This ability is the ability to tune things and people out when I concentrate on something.
I can watch a football game and my wife can be calling for me, and I won’t hear her. What’s even worse, someone could say “Harry come here.” and I would answer “In a minute” and I would get right back to concentrating and not even remember that someone talked to me or I answered them.
As I said, it sometimes can get me into trouble.
When I drive the car, I sometimes was able to zone out the children, to concentrate on my driving. When I read a book, when I do the crossword puzzle. Sometimes I can be just daydreaming and the rest of the world is gone.
And sometimes it is useful. Interruptions can be very frustrating. I am trying to concentrate on writing a sermon and the phone rings. It is for me. I have to shift my concentration to someone else. The phone call may only last 2 minutes, but sometimes it takes me another ten minutes to get back into my train of thinking, to get those creative processes working again, because thinking is hard work, at least for me it is, and interruptions sidetrack my thinking.
Of course, I just get started into the flow of the sermon and then the phone rings again, or someone walks in the office.
What about you? What are like with interruptions. Do you hate them or welcome them? Now I have met a few super-planning people in my life. They know what they are doing days and weeks and sometimes even months in advance. I know ministers who in the summer plan every sermon for the next 12 months. I know people who know what they are going to have for supper a week from Tuesday night, because they are planners.
Are you a planner?
If you are you might not like interruptions. You might not like it when the kids phone up and say at 5:15 when supper is planned for fifteen minutes ago; “Hey dad, I forgot to tell you, I am at basketball practice. See you at 7:30.”
You might not like it when the boss tells you: “I should have mentioned this a week ago, but you need to make a presentation to our biggest client, tomorrow.” And you have plans for the evening.
You might not like when your plans are interrupted.
I know I don’t always appreciate it.
I am not the greatest planner in the world, but I like things to go according to my plans. I like to be in a little bit of control. Is that the issue with plans? It is a sense of being able to control your life. Control your destiny.
What do you think? Do you like to be in control? Do interruptions to life make you feel that things are out of control and you have no say over those things? Does it drive you batty, when things are happening, things are affecting your life and you have no control over them?
Well, it’s bad enough when your schedule is interrupted. It’s bad enough if your plans are messed up. It’d bad enough when your evening out has to be postponed or canceled. It’s bad enough dealing with all those little frustrating things that get in the way of where you are going and what you want to do,
But, there are interruptions, which are momentous and staggering. Which don’t just change how many are sitting down to dinner, but throw your life in total chaos.
And you feel like your life has been put in a big shaker, shaken all up and thrown out in a heap like a bunch of pick-up sticks.
The company for which my Grandfather worked for many years, went under and my grandfather lost his job in his late fifties. What was he going to do now?
A young person has been planning a career in medicine, but doesn’t get accepted to med school, three years running. What to do?
We are merrily on our way to Hampton, New Brunswick for holidays in our two month old van, when someone pulls out in front of us, just before the Hartland bridge.
Fiona yells, “Harry” and bang, and before you can have time to even get scared, we were into the vehicle and then rolled onto the side of the van in the middle of the TransCanada.
A family that everyone thought was a wonderful marriage with beautiful children, breaks up. Irreconcilable differences. Everyone is in turmoil.
And then there’s the dreaded phone call. 3:30 in the morning. Can you come Harry, my daughter, my father, my brother, my grandmother, my sister died?
Or, the police show up at your door. Are you Mrs. Smith? Yes. Is your husband, one John Doe Smith who works at ACME manufacturing: “Yes”
I am afraid we have some very bad news…….. Your husband is had a heart attack at work. I am so sorry, he died..
There are interruptions which just crumple our plans. I remember sitting with a widow, who told me:  “Arthur, just retired six months ago, and we had all these plans. We have just bought a travelhome and we were going to go to Florida and go across Canada and we were going to do Europe and we were going to…. and now he’s gone and we never had a chance to carry out our plans.
And I suppose one reason we do not like interruptions, is the fear that the interruption will be bad. “No news is good news.” tends to be what we think.
So, I can really understand Mary and Joseph and relate to how they must have been feeling when there is a little interruption in their life. Or should I say. Big interruption.
Now imagine, your 14 year old daughter coming home one day with this story:
“Mom, Dad, I have just been to the doctor and he says I am 3 months pregnant.”

I still to this day    Sit in amazement about this part of the Christmas story. Not the fact that God can create life, but what Mary must have said to her family and how her family would take it.
Mom, Dad. I am pregnant.
You’re what?
I am pregnant.
Just wait til I get my hands on that Joseph. Couldn’t wait a few months til the wedding.
Mom, Dad. It wasn’t Joseph.
I can’t believe what I am hearing. It wasn’t Joseph. Then who? I am so ashamed.
No, no, you guys don’t understand. I haven’t had relations with any man. An angel told me that God started this life in me. And this child will be special. He is the Messiah. He is the Saviour.
What,Marty, if you are lying, I’ll wash your mouth out with soap every day for a month….
Well, I think there would have to be a lot of praying and a lot of faith here.
God, interrupted Mary’s plans big time.
God has a habit of doing that.
Jonah was asked by God to go to Nineveh to preach to the wicked people of that land to see if they would change their ways. Jonah, however wasn’t really that interested in going to Nineveh, so he made other plans and got on board a ship going in the opposite direction. God sends a storm and when Jonah is thrown overboard, God sends a big fish to save him and take him the right direction- towards Nineveh.
Even then Jonah is not pleased by the eventual outcome. God forgives the people of Nineveh, when Jonah wanted to see them burn.

God’s interruptions are not always welcome.
Moses was peacefully tending his flock. He was happily married and relatively content, and God interrupts him with a burning bush, and with this whole notion of going back to Egypt to lead God’s people out of slavery. Oh, Moses had excuses. He wasn’t a good speaker. He was not suited. He didn’t want to go alone. He wasn’t important enough, but finally god said “Go” and Moses went.
Oops! God did it again.
Isaiah was just doing his daily job of being a priest. There were lots of things to do in the temple. Not only keeping it clean and doing certain rituals and of course, but there was paperwork. And one day God’s interrupts Isaiah’s routine with his presence. In fact, God’s presence so filled the room where Isaiah was it was like a cloud of smoke. God told Isaiah to just drop what he was doing and start preaching to the people.
Isaiah was so overcome with his sense of unworthiness, but God cleanses Isaiah so that Isaiah replies: “Here I am, send me!”
Oops! God did it again.
Joseph, is just nicely engaged to a good quiet, beautiful person called Mary, but to his dismay he finds out that she is pregnant. He knows that he is not the father. What to do? Joseph being that kind and good person that he is decides that he will just divorce her quietly, not wanting to shame her or himself.
But God steps in and interrupts Joseph’s good plan. Don’t be afraid to marry her Joseph. The baby is of God. The baby will be God with you.
Oops! God did it again.
It is true that God sometimes interrupts our lives, or uses the interruptions in extraordinary ways. I am not sure whether he does this because, we won’t listen to him, unless he does something very dramatic; or that when something dramatic happens, that is the time God can break through, or maybe it is the fact that we are most open to God when our world is shaken and interrupted.
I am not sure.
But what I do know is this…. the story of the birth of Jesus is one big interruption to this world. God’s coming to the world as a baby, as a human, as one of us… is an interruption that changes all of human life…
It challenges all our assumptions… all our plans… all our routines…..
Nothing will be the same…
But over time, I have found out something about interruptions in life… Interruptions can be opportunities.
They are opportunities to stop doing something which is not productive.
They are opportunities to repent from wrongdoing.
They are opportunities to change behaviour.
They are opportunities to try something new.
They are opportunities to be creative.
They are opportunities to help someone.
They are opportunities to find new meaning.
They are opportunities to do God’s will.
They are opportunities to find life.
They are opportunities to find God.
I was only into my ministry a couple of years when I had a conversation with another minister. We were talking about all the interruptions there can be when you are trying to do your sermon and get things ready for Sunday morning.
All the people that call, or want something or just want a coffee, or a quick word, or some help. We were so busy ministering to people we didn’t have time to be ministers.
And then it struck us. The interruptions are the ministry.
Some of the best things I have ever done as a minister, some of the times when I believe God used me most, to be a blessing to others, were not planned. Someone came to see me out of the blue, and we had a great talk, God was there.
Or there was a crisis, something sudden. I responded and something wonderful happened. God was there.
I remember the first time in my ministry that the hospital called for me because someone was about to die. I was interrupted from the ministerial meeting I was in, and off I went to the hospital. When I arrived, the doctor told me that this man had only a few minutes before his heart would give out completely. I stood there with one arm around his wife and another arm around hid daughter and the man died. I was scared to death before I went there, but when I was there, there was such a peace from God, that it wasn’t scary at all. In its own way it was beautiful.
And I really didn’t do anything, except, be there. But somehow, me just being there, helped that family know that God was there.
The interruptions are the ministry.
C. S. Lewis wrote. The great thing is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s real life. The truth is… what one’s calls the interruptions, are precisely one’s real life- the life that God is sending to us one day at a time.
Sixteen year James Hogan had no idea of the interruption that was going to change his life. He had dropped out of school only a few weeks ago and now had a job as a pizza delivery boy. Described by his teachers and co-workers as a courteous, hard working, yet quiet boy, James however, was having troubles coping with the pressures of adolescence. He couldn’t seem to find himself. His mother offered up silent prayers every night for James because she felt he was going nowhere, and James himself had voiced a similar concern.
But he was a good worker and faithful at his job, always priding himself on delivering the pizzas hot. One day as he was delivering pizzas, he saw an accident and saw the back of a Cadillac sinking into a small pond.
The car was going down fast and there was an elderly man inside. Without hesitation James jumped
out of his delivery truck and leapt into the water. Trapped inside was the Reverend Max Kelly. He was unconscious. James, standing on the back of the car, noticed that a rear window was open, somehow managed to climb inside and as the vehicle was filling up with water, pull the elderly man out. He dragged him to shore, safe.
After the rescue, when the police offered James a ride home, he declined saying that people were waiting for their pizzas to be delivered. He asked that the police radio the restaurant so they could notify customers that their pizzas would be late and a little cold.
In December of 1995, James Hogan was awarded the Carnegie Medal for heroism, which included $2500 a medal and a scholarship. James told everyone how the incident had changed his life. Just two weeks before the incident he had held a gun to his head wanting to die. He pulled the trigger and the gun jammed.
James went back to school with new meaning and purpose. He had a second chance in life. His mother’s prayers were answered.
Oops! God did it again
Now I don’t believe that God caused an accident that sent the Reverend into the pond. I believe that was accident. And I believe that James on his own initiative went to rescue him. But I believe that God used this interruption to touch James and change his life.
Now, most of us would not have so dramatic a story. In fact. many of us would think of the interruptions as detrimental to life, but I am intrigued with what one minister wrote:
Plans are what we develop on our own.
Plans are what we develop on our own.
I don’t know what plans you have in life. You may have long term plans for your future. You may work with a financial planner. You may have a health plan and a retirement plan, a dental plan, a career plan and a life plan.
But the question is… Where is God in the plan?
What do you think God wants for you? What do you think God’s plans are for you?
And if you want to see God’s plan… look carefully at the interruptions….
He may be trying to get through to you.
You know normally this is a really big time of year for making some Christmas plans. I know normally in our house there would have been all kinds of plans for Christmas. You know, when are we going to open the presents. When are we going to have Christmas dinner with all the family since, our kids have partners and there is all the juggling of when they are going to in-laws and when they are coming to us.
Fiona is usually making plans to buy mountains of good.   Whose picking Ben and Nick up from the airport. Who is sleeping in what bed?
Normally all kinds of planning is being done.
But this year is the biggest interruption to Christmas that we have ever had. This year we are not buying mountains of food or picking up people from the airport or juggling sleeping accommodations or making plans on when we will have a big Christmas dinner.
But maybe this Christmas, this big interruption will make us think more about the gifts we already have…each other.
Maybe this Christmas will be like the very first Christmas and we can identify with the anxiety of Mary and Joseph.
I believe whatever you have going on this Christmas that God may well interrupt some of those plans this Christmas. That God may just reach out to you and to me somehow. Maybe God will speak to us through somebody. Maybe someone is going to be in need.
Something will happen and the Christ child will touch your life, my life interrupt our plans…..
and call us to change our plans to fit his.
And we will have the opportunity to change, to learn, to mature, to grow, to trust, to give, to believe, to follow Jesus, and be in the presence of God.
I believe at some point over Christmas you and I might just say: Oops! God did it again!
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