God’s People

By on August 26, 2018

Part 17 in Sermon Series: A Region Ripe for Revival

Scripture reading from Psalm 85

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  1. Donald McMahon
    August 27, 2018

    “God’s People” (Psalm 85)(8.26.18)
    Psalm 85 (NIV84)
    For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
    1 You showed favor to your land, O Lord;
    you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
    2 You forgave the iniquity of your people
    and covered all their sins. Selah
    3 You set aside all your wrath
    and turned from your fierce anger.
    4 Restore us again, O God our Savior,
    and put away your displeasure toward us.
    5 Will you be angry with us forever?
    Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
    6 Will you not revive us again,
    that your people may rejoice in you?
    7 Show us your unfailing love, O Lord,
    and grant us your salvation.
    8 I will listen to what God the Lord will say;
    he promises peace to his people, his saints—
    but let them not return to folly.
    9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
    that his glory may dwell in our land.
    10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
    11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
    12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest.
    13 Righteousness goes before him
    and prepares the way for his steps.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Title: God’s People
    Did you experience this Psalm, this song, as prayer? It starts with praise for the LORD, for favor, for previous restoration, for forgiveness. It recognizes God’s power as exhibited in judgement and wrath AND restoration. Then there is earnest pleading for restoration again in current circumstances; pleading for forgiveness; pleading for mercy. It is a prayer for revival; revival that results in rejoicing. The supplication laid out before God asks for reconciliation between a loving God and God’s people. Real prayer requires listening for God, for the Lord’s voice.
    The prayer transitions to a description of what that restoration looks like. It is characterized by a closeness with our Creator and by God being glorified. The prayer concludes with a poetic personification of the attributes of the Lord our God.
    Is this a prayer for you? Is this a prayer for us at Emmaus Church? Is this a prayer for our land? You know that I believe the answer is YES! to all three questions. This is our 17th week exploring and preparing for Revival in our Region. Are you with me in this quest? Have you really been praying for God the Holy Spirit to descend upon us in an irresistible way?
    During this message, I will share four stories with you. Three will be about the human need for a place; about the human need for connection; about the human need for identity. We find these things when God’s land becomes our land. We find these things when we become a people, but ultimately and completely when we become God’s people. In a fourth story, we will learn about folly.
    [Pause] It was a cold and rainy winter day when I arrived at the Cape May Coast Guard Training Center for boot camp. There were about a dozen of us that were picked up at the Cape May Airport and brought to this strange new proving ground. We were dropped in front of a barracks and directed up to “Forming Company” where a bunch of other disoriented young men were gathered.
    Shortly after arrival and with a fair amount of yelling, we were ordered outside and they attempted to get this ragtag group set up in marching formation. In the cold and rain, we sort of marched over to the galley for the evening meal. As we waited outside for our turn, the cold rain ran down our faces and necks.
    Once we were allowed to go inside, we were told to be quiet and stand in line heel to toe. We stood out from all the other recruits who had been there a varying number of weeks ahead of us. It was obvious we had just arrived and it got confusing for us because we had been told not to talk.
    Everyone kept asking us, “Where you from?” It was a constant chorus. Not, “What’s your name? but, “Where you from?” They were looking for a connection, a connection with home. A connection with their land, with their people.
    In the days to come, this pattern would be repeated. After our unifying haircuts and the issuing of uniforms, it was more common to share names before you shared where you were from. Basic Training takes all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds and molds them into a new identity. We were to become Company Quebec 92 and we carried our company flag wherever we went.
    When you and I made Jesus the Lord of our lives, we began a new journey. We became new creations in Christ Jesus. We were issued a new uniform…we are clothed in Christ. We are clothed in love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Our makeover began within us so that the peace that comes from Christ rules in our hearts.
    Father God, you drew us to you with cords of love. In doing so, you showed us favor. You restored us to yourself. You forgave us for all of our shortcomings. You forgave all of our trespasses. You forgave every time we missed the mark. Your wrath and anger had been satisfied because of our faith in your Son, the Lord Jesus.
    We must address this warning in our prayers: “let them not return to their folly.”
    “In November of 1772, a little Methodist church in Upper Weardale, England, had 36 members. On the 1st of December, revival started. In June, seven months later, there were 165 members. One year later, John Wesley visited and preached to a decimated membership.
    I (John Wesley) now inquired into the causes of the grievous decay in the vast work of God, which was here two years since; and I found several causes had occurred: 1) Not one of the Preachers that succeeded was capable of being a nursing-mother to the new-born children. 2. Jane Selkeld (the Sunday School teacher), one great instrument of the work, marrying, was debarred from meeting the young ones; and there being none left who so naturally cared for them, they fell heaps upon heaps. 3. Most of the liveliest in the society were single men and women; and several of these in a little time contracted an inordinate affection for each other; whereby they so grieved the Holy Spirit of God, that he in great measure departed from them. 4. Men arose among ourselves, who undervalued the work of God, and called the great work of sanctification a delusion. By this they grieved some, and angered others; so that both the one and the other were much weakened. 5. Hence, the love of many waxing cold, the Preachers were discouraged; and jealousies, heart-burnings, evil surmisings, were multiplied more and more.”
    O God our Savior, we remember what you have already done for us when you first saved us. Somehow we have gone astray. As a nation, as the church, as individual believers, we allowed God’s voice to grow faint. We have forgone your peace you promised to your people. Instead of singing with the chorus of your saints, we are singing the songs of the culture. We have pushed you from the throne of our lives and crowned ourselves as kings and queens.
    Romans 1:21 For although we knew God, we neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but our thinking became futile and our foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although we claimed to be wise, we became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for false images. 25 We exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
    Restore us again, O God our Savior, for we are God’s people.
    In the mid 1990’s, Carol and I were transferred to Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans. It was actually south of New Orleans in Plaquemines Parish. We had a house built in Jesuit Bend, literally next to the Mississippi River.
    Carol got a job as a teacher’s aide for the fourth grade class at the Phoenix School. The Phoenix School housed the pre-K all the way through the 12th grade and as you might guess, it was the only school in the town of Phoenix. Although it was still in Plaquemines Parish, it was a world apart.
    Each morning, Carol would drive north to Belle Chasse and ride the ferry across the river. Once on the other side, she would drive further south to the school.
    Carol was new to the children and she looked different from those in this close-knit community. There was only one white family in the school. It seemed that most all of the children were related, in one way or another.
    In trying to figure her out, in trying to connect with her, they would gather around Carol on the playground and did two things. They asked permission to touch and pull her “soft water” curly hair to watch it spring back. And, they asked her, “Mz. McMahon, where your people be at?” As a Pied Piper of all children, Carol had no problem connecting with this community of children on the poor side of the Mississippi River.
    Don’t our children deserve revival amongst us? Do you care about your children? Do you care about your grandchildren? Oh Lord, will you not revive us again? In every generation the seeds of regeneration must be sowed into their hearts. Let us join the psalmist in the prayer: Lord God,
    Will you be angry with us forever?
    Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
    6 Will you not revive us again,
    that your people may rejoice in you?
    Let us not hinder the little ones from coming to the Lord Jesus. Let us be their people. Let us be God’s people.
    This past week, I started my Doctor of Ministry Cohort up at Drew Theological School. I wasn’t sure what a cohort was so I looked it up. It is a group of students working together through the same academic curriculum. This program is brand new and is intended to establish a new learning model. The two professors will be mentors and peer learning is emphasized. We are going to develop a small community that shares our lives, personal and professional, over the next three years.
    My roommate for the week was Rev. Harold Jolley from 2nd Macedonia Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He also sat on my left in class. To my right was Pastor Nathan Addo-Nartey. I told him I would have no problem remembering his name because Nathan is my middle name. He’s a Methodist pastor in Montclair, NJ.
    At the beginning of the first class, we took turns introducing ourselves. It is a very diverse group, men and women, many different colors, many different Christian faith backgrounds, and many different church settings.
    When Pastor Nathan was introducing himself, Professor Simpson asked him, “Where are your people?”
    Nathan responded, that his people were from Ghana. That is where he grew up. This highly educated pastor serves a Methodist congregation of primarily people from Ghana. In studying the scriptures together, he provided unique insights.
    In addition to studying the Bible together, we shared daily devotions. We sang together and prayed together. We ate meals together and took pictures together. This cohort is definitely on its way to becoming a community. And, there is no doubt in my mind that I was among God’s people. We will continue to grow closer as we stay connected via social media and through weekly video conferencing. Even though “our land” covers the whole country, we are establishing a new identity together. We are united in our desire to follow Jesus and to shepherd our flocks to do likewise.
    Part of what we are learning is how to see and how to communicate the scriptures in a richer and more impactful way. We are learning how to read signs, how to use images and metaphors to effectively communicate the truth of the Bible. We have beautiful imagery in these verses:
    10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
    11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
    Some other translations translate love as lovingkindness, as steadfast love, or as mercy. And faithfulness can be translated as truth.
    In the Message this is paraphrased:
    Love and Truth meet in the street,
    Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss!
    Truth sprouts green from the ground,
    Right Living pours down from the skies!
    Oh yes! God gives Goodness and Beauty;
    our land responds with Bounty and Blessing.
    The picture being painted is God’s desire to bring all his goodness to bear, all his glory to rain down from heaven, to create a land suitable for the Eternal God to dwell with God’s people. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, Yahweh said, “I will cause my goodness to pass before you.” Yes Lord, restore us again, O God our Savior. Revive us that your people may rejoice in you.
    The 13th verse is the final crescendo and as it should, it points to the Lord Jesus.
    Righteousness goes before him (The Lord)
    and prepares the way for his steps.
    To capture the fullness of the final phrase, we must fill it out my adding in variations of the translation: And shall set us in the ways of his steps; and make his footsteps a way.
    The prophet Isaiah (53:11) tells us:
    After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
    In Acts 22:14 Paul said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.
    Yes, as God’s people, we have been chosen. We have heard the words of the Lord Jesus. It is in Jesus’ way that we walk for He is the Way. He is our truth and He is our life. That is what full restoration looks like.
    Martin Luther has often been quoted, saying, God’s holiness and God’s love kiss in the Cross.
    Beneath the cross of Jesus
    I fain would take my stand,
    the shadow of a mighty rock
    within a weary land;
    a home within the wilderness,
    a rest upon the way,
    from the burning of the noontide heat,
    and the burden of the day.
    Six months ago, Pastor Clarence Sexton preached, “We have created a music and speaking religious industry that is ALMOST Christianity. This will never produce revival. There must be a movement from heaven by God.”
    As God’s people, what will our story be? Are we all we need to be in Christ Jesus? We know that our community falls far short of the land that the Lord desires. We know that our congregation and our leadership is aging. There must be an influx of youth, energy, and vitality to create the next generation of God’s people. And truth be told, as individuals, too often our hearts wax cold for the things of God.
    Won’t you pray with me? Won’t you cry out to the Lord? Won’t you make this urgent supplication? Restore us again, O God our Savior. Will you not revive us again? God the Holy Spirit rain down and refresh our faith.
    God’s people proclaim, The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. May a great harvest of souls spring up from the land, to the glory of God!
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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