Scripture: Isaiah 41:10 (pinkie), Isaiah 49:4 (ring), Ezra 9:5 (mid finger); 2 Timothy 1:6 (pointer); Matthew 26:64 (thumb)
Sermon: Happy Eleventh Anniversary!
by Pastor Todd Buurstra
Happy 11th anniversary! of our ministry together. Today also would have been my dad’s 85th birthday. So in combination of both things, let me sit as if we were at an anniversary dinner taking stock of where we are by looking back at dad, in order to look ahead at our life together.
Growing up, worship was eternally long and infinitely boring, (maybe you can relate) so, I would look for things to do. I’d fold my bulletin into an air plane, and see if I could get away with flying it down to the floor. Or, I’d count ceiling tiles, or page through the hymnbook. But one of my favorite things to do, as I’ve told you before, was to trace my Dad’s hand. My carpenter Dad’s hand was tough and tender. It was full of calluses, punctuated by soft spots where he didn’t grip the hammer. I would notice his inevitable blue thumbnail, where he missed, I’d trace up and down and around his bulging veins, and I’d do a version of reading his palms by tracing the soft lines. You see, 45 years ago I was already learning about my heavenly father’s hand, and about our new discipleship vision of a hand. How the soft spots are for receiving the many gifts that come from God’s hand, and how the hard spots are for where we need to reach out in faith to grab a hold of God’s promises, like Dad grabbed his black-gripped hammer.
So what is God’s hand like?
There is a crying need in our culture to touch God’s hand! Picture Secular Sarah riding the train from North Branch Station into NY Penn Station, back and forth, every day for work. Secular Sarah is a single, 35 year old, attractive woman with an MBA from Wharton School of Business. Lucky to still have a good job, she leaves promptly at 6 AM, and never returns before 8 PM. One day on the way home Secular Sarah is assessing her life, looking down at her hand:
Thumb: What is my life built on? Do I have a foundation more than my job?
Pointer: Am I making money for more than drinking Pina Coladas on the beach in my old age?
Middle: If there’s something greater than the daily grind, I don’t know how to connect.
Ring: What am I committed to–outside of work, and finding someone to put a ring on it?
Pinkie: And who will journey with me to find my destiny? Am I just alone? I feel small.
As Secular Sarah thought about the meaning of her life while stroking her hand, she frowned.
So what is God’s hand like? I went through 127 verses in the Bible that reflected some combination of the words “God” and “hand.” (An easy way to do such a study is to go to our website, and on the right hand side click on find a Bible verse. It will bring you to biblegateway.com where you can do a biblical word search.) Anyway, in pouring over those 127 verses I found 5 verses that each correspond to a finger of a hand. Starting from the
Pinkie–When we are afraid we’re usually alone, and when we’re alone we feel small. So when it says God’s hand delivers “you,” it’s a “y’all;” i.e., God brings small me into a bigger us.
Ring–We put expensive jewelry, or a wedding ring, on our ring finger. This shows our deep- est values. So God’s hand is where our reward is—where our deepest commitments lie.
Middle–The tall finger is where we look for our top priorities. The ancients would reflect that in their body position in prayer—orantes prayer position. We lift hands in prayer and praise.
Pointer–What are we living for? Are we just about ourselves? When hands are laid on us we are commissioned for service to God and others. To what does our life point?
Thumb–What is the foundation of our life? What helps us feel stable? Jesus sits in the place of authority at God’s right hand, so when we listen to Him or pray to him, God is our cornerstone
That’s what God’s hand is like: It gives us the foundation of a relationship with God; a purpose for living; it lifts us up in praise; it transforms our values; and it provides caring community. But for the relationship to be complete our hand needs to touch God’s hand, like in the Sistine Chapel. That is, we need to receive God’s gifts and grasp God’s goals.
|Thumb||Strong Foundation for Relationship||Prayer (we talk to God) and Bible Reading (God talks to us)|
|Pointer||Purpose in Life||Service Evangelism|
|Ring||Valuable Values||Stewardship of Time and Money|
|Pinkie||Caring Community||Small Groups|
To get that carpenter’s grip on a strong foundation for our relationship with God we grasp Prayer and Bible Reading. As I said last week, prayer is where we talk to God, and the Bible is where God talks to us. Prayer and Bible reading build a foundation of communication.
To get a purpose in life we grasp serving others in Christ’s name. In other words, peoples’ deepest need is Jesus, and they don’t want you knocking on doors to tell them about him, but when you feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, etc., they see Jesus in action!
To receive God’s gift of first things first, we grasp the praise of God in worship. What you praise is your priority. Every Sunday worship is a will-alignment to align our goals with God’s.
To receive the gift of God’s reward, we grasp God’s values. So we see ourselves as stewards of time, money and creation. We move from being a consumer to being a contributor. We tithe.
And lastly, to receive the gift of community, we grasp small groups. We get involved with others in learning about Jesus and praying to Jesus. And then we’ve companions for our journey.
Just down the row from Sarah on the North Branch bound train out of Penn Station is Christian. Christian is about the same age, and also lucky to have a good job in the Financial District of Manhattan. At the end of a long day, he too is assessing his life. But he thinks:
Thumb: Jesus, thank you for yesterday’s sermon scripture on serving You with gladness!
Pointer: So I think I’m going to go on the mission trip to work on the 9th Ward in New Orleans, and I may invite Sarah who is looking for some meaning in her life to go with me.
Middle: The timing of the trip is that we leave after worship, so that we can offer it to God first.
Ring: I think I’ll pay my own way because I can afford it. It’ll be part of my tithe.
Pinkie: Hey, I’ll invite my small group to join me. It’d be a great way to deepen our friendships!
And noticeable to all on that train was the contrast between Sarah’s frown, and Christian’s smile.
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