4/2/2017 Sermon – Dare to Dream #5: “What’s in Your Hand?”

We’re now at the end of Dare to Dream, the book by Pastor Mike Slaughter. He’s been encouraging us to develop a mission statement as believing Christians. The “mission” of your Dare to Dream mission statement prompts you to act out what you believe. The content of your life as a follower of Christ and as a church

Honors God. Your mission says yes to God, shows your love for God, deepens your relationship with God, fills the void in your own soul, supplies what’s been missing, makes you strong, gives you confidence.  Honoring God begins with faith in his son, begins with saying “Jesus, I believe in you.”

Blesses other people.  Your mission recognizes that God put us here to help God change the world, one person at a time.  By the love and the care and the kindness we show, with our minds off of ourselves, we become the presence of God to other people.  The church practices this, and then the “other people” must always include people we don’t know, people God needs us to reach – to make a difference through the love of Christ.

Brings you joy.  There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing God worked through you, used you to change someone else’s life.  It’s even more fulfilling to know that God used them to change the world somehow.

Today, Moses is still having a conversation with God in the burning bush.  Moses is a new believer.  He’s about 30 seconds into his spiritual life.

God wants Moses to be God’s partner in saving the Hebrew people. Moses has just said, “But who am I…?  …and who do I say you are?”  Remember what God said?  “I AM WHO I AM.”

Moses isn’t done avoiding his mission…

Exodus 4:1-5. Then Moses answered, ‘But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, “The Lord did not appear to you.” ’ 2The Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.’ 3And he said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. 4Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail’—so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5‘so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’

‘But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, “The Lord did not appear to you.” (Exodus 4:1)

But suppose… And then God gives him some signs, some miraculous things to do in case the people don’t believe.  God asks – what’s that in your hand?  Moses is a shepherd and carries a long stick that God turns into a snake, then back into a stick (God also makes his hand leprous then heals it).

Palestine. CN – 2011.

All the shepherds in that part of the world have these long sticks they carry.  Moses doesn’t have much, but he’s got this stick – a staff – and God uses it over and over as he leads Moses and the people to the Promised Land.  The point is that God didn’t ask Moses to go gather supplies, get training, clean himself up, put together a resume, and get prepared.  Moses, what’s that in your hand?  A stick?  Okay, that’s what we’re going to be using to save the people today.

When we choose to honor God, God always uses what we have and sometimes supplies what we don’t have.  There’s always a little bit of scary doubt before faith kicks in.  Moses had to learn to trust God and so do we, right?

Even after God gave Moses some pretty strong, obvious, scary signs (I’d remember my stick turning into a snake!), Moses isn’t done avoiding God’s mission.

But Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ 11Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.’ 13But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send someone else.’ (Exodus 4:10-13)

Even though Moses gave this heartfelt protest, God didn’t let him off the hook; he had to step out and just do it.  Because he knew the Egyptians and the culture, he had to go.  In the mission God gives, sometimes it has to be you.  What’s interesting is that God didn’t fix the speech problem Moses had, but allowed his brother-in-law Aaron to be his partner when words needed to be said.

There is no such thing as finding joy in the Christian life, being blessed by God, without a willingness to be used.  Honor God, bless other people, find joy.

The eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, looking southwest, very close to the traditional site of the Feeding of the 5,000.

Do you remember how Jesus handled a crowd of 5,000 hungry people on a hillside by the Sea of Galilee?  That story says the crowd was coming toward Jesus.  His disciples came to him and said…

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ (John 6:9)

I know you remember what happened next.  The baskets they were using began to overflow. Like the stick of Moses, it was a sign, to help the people believe. Why did Jesus do this? It was about more than just creating a huge dinner for a big crowd.  He explained it this way:

Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  (John 6:47-48)

God does things to get our attention, calls us to believe, then uses us to bless other people. And the blessing of other people that we do brings us joy.

This is really important for us as believing Christians and as a church.  God needs us to bring change to a needy world.  This is where we find meaning in life as believers.

There is a scene in the movie City Slickers that goes like this:

Each one of us has something God can use.  So, what do you have?  What is in your hand? Mike Slaughter asks it this way:

What are the gifts of your head?  What do you know more about than most other people? As you’ve heard over the last few weeks, God can even use your worst experiences.

What are the gifts of your hands?  What do you do better than a lot of other people?

What is the passion of your heart?  What situation in the world gets your attention? Or, it might be something close to where we live.  What is it that you seem to care about more than other people?  I’ve had several passions.  Reaching youth for Christ is one of them.  Doing what I can to help people in poverty is another.

These questions aren’t just for us individually; they are for the body of Christ, for the Church, for St. Paul’s United Church of Christ.  Just as those questions get unique responses from each of us, no two churches are the same (nor should they be).  We are not called to be like other churches and God needs us to do our mission right where we are in the streets of Manheim, PA, or where ever we are planted, bringing ripples of change that give blessing to people we may never meet..

Prayer

God, we believe; help our unbelief.  Like Moses, too often we think we are small, insignificant.  But you care deeply about the people of our world and our town.  We know you need us.  We offer ourselves just as we are.  We give you what we hold in our hands.  We honor you with our gifts, use them to bless the people of Manheim and beyond.  Thank you for this opportunity to experience your joy. Amen.