Monday, May 15, 2017

Sermon: Growing Into Salvation

"Growing into Salvation"
Psalm 34: 1-8; 1 Peter 2: 1-10
Rev. Mrs. Carson Overstreet
Van Wyck Presbyterian Church
May 14, 2017

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
- Psalm 34: 1-8

Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner’,
‘A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
- 1 Peter 2: 1-10

Peter’s letter was addressed to Christians new to the faith and veterans alike. They were all taking steps each day to leave the old life behind. Every new day God presents opportunities to grow a little more into this new life of faith. The hope of Peter’s letter was to draw the whole community more closely together in Christ.

As he crafted his words, Peter knew an indelible truth that marks our lives today: if you want to draw people together then you need a woman’s touch to do it. So Peter used beautiful feminine imagery that in the life of faith we all have a starting point like newborn infants.

I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases Peter’s words in The Message, “You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness” (1 Peter 2:2).

God is like a mother cradling us in the intimacy of compassion, grace, and mercy. We are precious children held in God’s belovedness for we are fearfully and wonderfully made (1 Peter 2:3; Psalm 139:14). Even when we cry out to God in fear or hunger, God hears our cries and delivers us. Our relationship with God is like no other parent- child relationship.

Our mothering God rejoices over us with gladness and renews us in her love (Zephaniah 3:17). God sings with hope for the future of our faith to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love for us (Ephesians 3:18). Like infants we are fed by God’s spiritual milk so that our faith and trust in God will grow.

That spiritual milk is the word of Christ. Each time God’s Spirit nudges our hearts and minds to be filled with God’s Word, we taste God’s goodness and see God’s faithfulness. That spiritual milk begins to satisfy the needs of our soul. The Word feeds us with God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, humility, and truth (Psalm 25: 5, 10).

Even more so, that spiritual milk empowers us to grow into our salvation. Our lives blossom with a deeper understanding of God’s work in our lives. Our faith matures as we learn who God is and who God is creating us to be. And then our faith takes steps to be the body of Christ.

The Lord created us to grow in our understanding through the gift of nurturing relationships with God and one another. We have all heard it said, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ It also takes the village of community to grow and mature in this gift of faith.

Kristin Schell wanted to grow in her relationships with God and others. Kristin is a wife and mother of four children. She cultivates her gift of hospitality in her kitchen. She puts her faith into action at church. She writes to inspire others. And most recently she has been longing to see God at work in her life in a new way.

Kristin felt God calling her tap into that nurturing power of community. She has lived within her neighborhood in Austin, Texas for ten years now. But unfortunately she knew very few of her neighbors. Kristin remembers asking, “Lord, what do you want me to do [in this season of my life]?”

Kristin was preparing to host a backyard party with a friend when Kristin realized she did not have any tables. So she ordered a picnic table from Lowe’s. As soon as the party was over Kristin knew what God was calling her to do.

Kristin moved the picnic table to her front yard. She placed it under a tree next to the sidewalk so that the table faced the street. She painted the table turquoise, her favorite color. And God transformed the turquoise table into a place to gather people in community.

The first day that Kristin sat at the street side turquoise table she felt a bit awkward. She took a cup of coffee and some things to work on. She wanted to sit at the turquoise table with a sense of purpose. Kristin said to God, “Here I am Lord. Go before me, beside me, and behind me into this neighborhood.” Within three hours a neighbor sat down with her and they began to talk.

As time has passed, a handful of women who previously did not know each other have become close friends. Neighbors, families, and children are coming to the turquoise table to share ordinary life. They taste the goodness of hospitality with cups of coffee, sweet treats, and even lemonade stands.

Kristin’s ministry is gathering the community more closely together in Christ. At the turquoise table, spiritual milk and nurturing love flow to allow all to grow into salvation. Conversations reveal what God is doing in daily life. Relationships are being cultivated and nurtured. In turn God is teaching Kristin how to be present with God and others. Kristin is learning how to love God better through the gift of intimate and nurturing relationships. Her turquoise table has now become a movement in over forty states. She is inspiring women and men to draw communities together.

Today we celebrate the women in our lives who reflect God’s nurturing love to us.

The mother who lifted her tambourine like Miriam and gave us a love for music and a song of joy to sing. She is the reason we dance with a free spirit to God’s melody of praise (Exodus 15: 20-21).

The grandmother who spreads her table with huge servings of homemade hospitality like Martha. When you are at her house grace has never tasted so good. And at Grandma’s table there is always an extra seat to belong as part of her family.

The Sunday School teacher who has been like a spiritual mother. She teaches God’s Word in stories that our children can relate to. She encourages them to share every detail of the day with God. She even celebrates precious milestones in each child’s life.

The neighbor who is like Kristin and is devoted to serve the community to encourage the greater good by loving our neighbors through relationships.

The sister who is like Ruth and will never leave our side. She is faithfully devoted to walk beside us through the bitter hardships of life. Her love keeps us moving forward through our grief (Ruth 1:16-17).

The mentor who is like Esther and gives us courage to stand up and lift our voice for our sisters and brothers in harm’s way.

The young lady who is breaking down gender stereotypes like Deborah, a commander of God’s army. She inspires us with her God-given gifts of valor and might. Her perseverance renews our hope that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Judges 4-5; Philippians 4:13).

This morning we sang a hymn for women like these:

For all the faithful women who served in days of old,
To you shall thanks be given to all their story told.
They served with strength and gladness in tasks your wisdom gave.
To you their lives bore witness, proclaimed your power to save.[1]

God places women like these in our midst to walk before us, beside us, and behind us on the journey of faith. They nurture us in God’s wisdom and steadfast love so that you and I might grow into salvation to see God at work in our lives. For we are chosen as God’s beloved children to proclaim God’s power to save.

Praise God for the women in our lives, past, present, and coming of age who help us to see how great God is.

All praise to God and God alone. Amen.

Sources Referenced:

[1] Glory to God Presbyterian Hymnal, Hymn No. 324 “For All the Faithful Women” (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013).

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