The Deep: Drops in the Ocean
Today we are starting a new series. I’m excited about this new series, and I’m not just saying that to get people here. If you haven’t been here before or you’re new, and you say “What are these series’?” “Buck, you teach in a series?” Not every church teaches in themed blocks of six to eight weeks, or longer. Although I have been told never to go thirteen weeks on a subject again. Some of you from the early years still shut your eyes every time you see Nehemiah. I know churches do it differently. There are churches that sometimes do what is called expository preachers. They open the book and they say, “Today we are talking about Mark, Chapter 3, Verse 5” and at the end of half an hour, they are at verse 7. Then they wake up the next Sunday, go to church, open the bible and start at verse 8. That is called expository preaching, and I do it sometimes with books, but I’ll encompass it in a series of four to six weeks.
Some churches use what is called the lectionary. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, some people got together in a room and said, “Let’s split the bible into three years.” We’ll have a year A, a year B and a year C. If everyone attends church every Sunday, and we read an Old Testament, a New Testament, a Gospel, a Psalm, and we read these four verses, everyone will hear the bible completely in those three years.” I used to preach that way. I think it is good way for preachers to start. What you find out is that you are in your seat, it is week number forty six, you find yourself in a book this thick, which tells you what to preach on, and all the scriptures to use in your service. That is called lectionary preaching.
I get asked sometimes, “Why do I preach in sermon series?” I’m not your three point preacher. So if I’m going to hit three points, it’s going to take me honestly three sermons. I’m going to hit a point every Sunday, because I’m not going to expect you to remember all three points. I expect you to remember the main thing. And the main thing is whatever the lesson for that day covers, and it will always be about the good news.
But really the main reason I preach sermons in a series, is so you can invite people. Not to hear me, but when I do a thematic sermon series and you read about it, and know Buck is going to preach about this topic. You might know someone to invite. I call them “on-ramps”. This Sunday should be an “on-ramp” for our church; that we can invite people to hear about things. Maybe they’ll hear things about God that they’ve never heard before. So the main reason I do sermon series, is so that you can invite people. To give you the opportunity to say, “Hey, my pastor is only going to spend about six weeks on this, and it’s the subject that might apply to what you’ve been going through, or that you’re interested in.” When we did the “Don’t Duck your Dynasty” series, and put that with the Duck Dynasty show, that series scared me. People showed up for the first time, because they’d heard about it. And they wore their Uncle Cy shirt and had duck calls around their neck. You know? That is why we do this; so you can invite people.
Also, the main reason that I preach thematic, storytelling sermons is because that is the way Jesus preached. He preached using parables. He told stories. He made them relate to whoever he was talking to. So, if he was talking to the farmer, he talked about the vine, he talked about the wheat; he talked about the shaft and the weed. If he was talking to the fishermen, he was talking about how to cast your net, and “I want you to be fishers of men”. If he was talking to mothers, he was talking about what it means to be a mother hen, an eagle who looks over her nest. And so he connected with people where they are. No matter where they are. That is why I preach these themed stories.
That’s not to say that I preach the best or we are better than the church down the street. Because, as I’ll get into today, we’ve all seen God in different lights, and we all do things in different ways. So when there are people who have heard a story they identify with, or when we hear a story that helps us identify with God, some of us may say, “That’s what God is like.” Maybe it was through the scripture, maybe it was through something we read, or maybe it was through a preacher who told a story about who God is. Then we said, “You know, I’ve never thought of God that way. Maybe that is what God is like.” So these sermons and those sermons down the street, and yes, the sermon on the Miracle Mile or the Highway to Heaven, or whatever you want to call it; all eight churches on highway 42, we all give glimpses of God. Everyone gives a glimpse of God, and we get some of these nuggets.
Let’s look at the story of Moses; I love this story because I identify with this story. You see, Moses is talking to God on a mountain, and he’s saying, if I’m going to do this and I’m going to work with all those people down there, you’re going to have to reveal yourself to me… fully. You’re going to have to let me know everything about you. You’re going to have to let me see what’s going on. So, Moses asked God to show him everything about God’s Self. And God said, “You can’t handle the truth!” No, God said, “It will blow your mind.” Maybe it literally translates to “You can’t handle the truth”? Moses is pleading with him, he wanted to see it all. You’ve seen that scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc, when they open the box? When you see the presence of God, you’ve seen what can happen. You can’t handle that. But Moses said, “I’ve got to see this. If I’m going to convince these people, you have to show me.” But God said he couldn’t. “I’m way too big; I’m way too vast. There are things you don’t understand. You can’t wrap your head around this.” So, God sends an attribute. The story goes like this. God sends an attribute to Moses. For those of us who know the story, I’ll just tell the ending. When he sees just the small glimpse, the small attribute of God, we find that his knees buckle. He finds himself on the ground. Just a small part, a small part of God brings Moses to the ground. His knees buckle. There’s much more to God than we’ll ever know.
If we really know everything about God, would we question? If we have God all figured out? I know I’ve written papers, I had to defend a Master’s thesis, with a fifty page paper before a panel, so you know I must know everything about God. I earned 4.0 out of 4.0. But, if I really knew everything about God, would I fear? Would I worry? Would I wonder why things in the world don’t make sense? We only see these glimpses of God, and since we’ve only seen glimpses of God we have these questions; because we’ve only seen God through these goggles, or through the windows, or we’ve seen just these nuggets. So the problem with God is that he is so big. I honestly have no idea who God is. I have an idea, but I do not KNOW who God is.
So this sets up the series right here. This is why we do sermon series’; “The Deep.” We are talking about the sermon, The Deep, and yes, Drops in the Ocean is the sermon title today, because the bible compares God to water, more than any other thing on earth. We hear time and time again, how God is like the ocean, that God is like the sea, that God is like a raging river. God is like the stream that is settling so the trees can dip their roots in to get nourishment, to get coolness in the summer; Nourishment throughout the year. We get these images about the water, about the deep, and that God is compared to the ocean and the sea.
Some of you know I plan a little bit in advance. I plan the sermon series’ for the year. I don’t write the sermons until the week of, but I do outline everything for the year. So, when I was in Pascagoula, on the mission trip, I picked this up. (Holds up glass jar of dark colored water.) I would not recommend drinking this water; it is water from the Gulf of Mexico, don’t drink it, not after Katrina, and after BP. It is from the ocean. I could have given this to someone and I could have told them, “I brought you the ocean”, and you’d hesitantly say, “Thanks”.
I’ve been to the ocean, I’ve swam in the ocean, I’ve snorkeled in the ocean; I’ve seen the coral reef outside of Belize, in Central America. I’ve seen the beauty of God’s vast and deep ocean, and yes, this is the ocean folks. (Holds up the container of water) Do you deny me?
To be honest, I just grabbed some dirt from outside and this is tap water, but I wanted to give you a great illustration. But it’s the ocean, right? We bottle the ocean, and we put a little sand in it and we bring it to someone as a souvenir, or we buy it in a shop. We have the ocean, but is it truly, is it truly the ocean? It’s not the wholeness of the ocean; it’s like God. This is what I believe about God. But is this truly everything that God has to offer, and that God is about? We look at this, (Holds up water) is this the ocean? As an example, is this the ocean? Is this the entire ocean? You get it.
God is like the ocean. We really don’t know everything about God, like we don’t know everything about the ocean. In fact, if you’re going to write a sermon series on drops in the ocean, you better do some studying on the ocean, right? The ocean covers 71 percent, 71% of all God’s creation. And I know you are all thinking, we learned two thirds, but 71% is right. Water covers 116 million square miles on our earth. The average depth of the ocean is 2.5 miles. You’re thinking, well 2.5 miles is like going to Denver from sea level two and a half times. However, when you look at it, at the deepest point in the ocean, you can drop Mount Everest into the deepest point; 29 thousand feet, and the peak which everyone wants to reach when they climb that mountain, is still a mile below the top of the ocean. That’s pretty deep.
I grew up loving those Jacques Cousteau specials. Now I had a couple of ulterior motives for that. There were a couple of episodes where he went with my cousin, and I wanted to see my cousin. But I was also interested in Jacques Cousteau. Jacques Cousteau spent a lifetime studying everything. However, I image he still did not discover everything about the ocean.
So here’s my point. We are like Moses. Like Moses, some of us have seen an attribute of God; an attribute of God that has brought us to our knees. There has been some time in our life that God has opened just a glimpse or a sliver of who God is in our lives, and for most of us, it has buckled our knees; it has brought us to realize how small we are or how big God is. It was just a sliver of who God is. We say, “Wow”. We say incredible things, we write a song. When I got my call to ministry, I came home and wrote a song. Verse one, verse two, chorus; it is an awesome song, just ask me. None of you have heard it, because it has never left the notebook I wrote it in, but it was one of those knee buckling sights of God. But, that means that if we are to know God as just a drop in the ocean, God is much more than we ever thought God was. We see people ask God, at times, to explain himself.
Now there are some of you here today who may say you’ve never had the knee bucking thing, and I haven’t really experienced God, and I haven’t even seen glimpses of God. In fact, there may be someone like that here today, and we encourage you. Even if just inquiring, if someone promised you brunch after church and you don’t even believe in God, you are welcome to come to Faithbridge. You may say you don’t believe in God. You can disagree with me, but I say you’ve felt something somewhere and you’ve probably rationalized it yourself. In fact, you probably made it into yourself. You’ve said, oh yeah, it’s because I feel this. I feel this. But like Moses, I think we’ve all had that time when we just saw something. Even if it is just the sunrise on the lake, I know you, you went and got the camera. To put it on Facebook, right? It didn’t buckle your knees, it didn’t make you say, “Oh my God, that is awesome”, but it made you get off the couch or out of the lounge chair, and get your camera to take the picture. I firmly believe God moves us. When we talk about God and how big God is, sometimes we forget.
So like Job, worst life ever, just read about it, he loses everything and all his friends are saying, just curse God and get on with it. Better you than me, Job. He’s looking at it, and he has this terrible life and he’s fed up so he asks God, “Why are you doing this to me? You need to reveal to me, just like Moses, reveal to me why you are doing this to me. You need to reveal to me who you are; what’s your plan? Because I hear that you don’t change, I hear that you’re in control, I hear that you have eternity planned out, I hear that you”, and I don’t like this verse at all, “have every hair numbered on my head.” So Job is making this case. “Look at me, I have sores, I am scarred, I’ve lost everything.” God actually says this. He says, “I’ll answer that all for you, in time.”
When we look at Job 38, here are God’s answers. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? “ It sounds like that quote we’ve heard, doesn’t it? “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out”, right? Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me if you understand who marked off its dimensions. Surely you know who stretched a measuring line across it. Verse 8: Who shut up the sea behind the doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and farther; here is where your proud waves halt’? Verse 16: Have you journeyed to the spring of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Remember the deep? It’s a mile taller than Mount Everest. Verse 18: Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me if you know all this. Do you think Job was put in his place? There are times like that when we need to be put in our place. There are times when we are reminded that although we’ve got God all figured out, and we’ve already figured that our neighbors are going to hell, it might even be a relative, God forbid. We have it figured out that this is the way God works. We do that. After the fact, sometimes although we didn’t recognize God’s hand as we went through it, looking back we see God’s hand. That’s how God shows us glimpses. When we are trying to explain God, we all fall short. Even Preachers fall short. David was trying to explain and show the vastness of God and so he wrote in Psalms 93:3-4, the seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice, the seas have lifted up their pounding waves, mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty. The Lord is high and mighty.
Years later, Jesus is out on a boat with his disciples, and you have to realize that several of his disciples were fishers. But here comes a storm that even the fishers recognized was the type that some don’t survive. There’s a very good chance that we are going to die. So, even the fishermen are panicking. They go wake up Jesus. Here is a storm that is about to capsize the boat and kill everyone, and Jesus is sleeping. So, they wake him and say, “Jesus, Jesus, do something. We are all going to die!” Verse 25: The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Still understanding that the world is what it is, the world can come down on us at any time. But if we truly understand the whole God, the true God, the big God, the indescribable God, we will always be amazed when these glimpses show up.
Soloman, in Ecclesiastes 3:11 writes, He has made everything beautiful in its time. Everything is beautiful. Some people don’t like Arizona, but others love the beauty of the desert. Some people don’t like the Rocky Mountains. Have you ever noticed that some of the ugliest people are the most beautiful creatures in life? And so, he made everything beautiful in it’s time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. God is big. We cannot fathom. God has placed something in us, like Moses, we want to know everything about God; something that is going to buckle our knees.
It’s not too often that I can quote a mathematician. Some of you may have heard of Blaze Pascal, and the way he explains this; “He has set an eternity in our hearts”. The way Blaze explains it is that “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
We cannot wrap our heads around who God is, but we have this yearning; a God-sized hole. Sometimes we just settle for less than God is. Does that make sense? We have this yearning, this God sized hole. I think that since we sometimes think God is so big, we settle. I think there is a lot of settling. God is just this or that. By making excuses for who we think God is, we are able to do what we want. It’s basically like telling you that this tap water, with the dirt in it, is the ocean. C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “We are way too easily pleased. Like an ignorant child. Not a stupid child, but an ignorant child. Remember the difference between ignorant and stupid. Stupid means you choose not to do the right thing, while ignorant means you don’t know the right thing. There is a big difference between the two. He says, “We are too easily pleased. Like an ignorant child who goes on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday”. So we go through life, our mundane life. We don’t know how to take a break, we don’t know how to revel in God’s majesty, we don’t know what it means to just rest. How many of you have those minds that just work, even when you sit down, which is rare, you are thinking, I better take those sheets back to Kohls, because…. You lose conversation. We get into this got to do, got to do, got to do… Sometimes we just settle for what God is, and I’m going to do my own thing. We don’t know what it’s like to take a holiday.
Let’s examine that Blaze Pascal quote again. “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” When we get into this world debate, and when I’m in a discussion with other religions, Islam, Judaism, Buddhists, and we are around the table and we are discussing, hopefully civilly, they always ask why Jesus Christ? For me, folks don’t take this wrong, I always tell them for me, Jesus Christ is the best window to see who God is, for me, even though it is just a glimpse, even though it is just an understanding. Because when Jesus talking to the disciples said, “I Am the Son of God, I Am the Son of God”; that is bold. Jesus shows me the best glimpses of God and I believe He is the Son of God. So that is what I’m going to stick to, because I don’t want my mind blown. I’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Arc. I’m going to hold on to that window that Christ has showed me, because in John chapter 14 is says this, “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If you really know me, I am the window. “If you really know me, you will know my father as well. From now on you do know him and you have seen him.” Phillip said, “Lord, show us the Father”. There is another one asking to see God. We want to see the whole God. Phillip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough. And Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me? Phillip, even after I have been among you for such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has see the Father. How can you say” just like Moses, just like Job, how dare you ask for me to reveal my entire self? “But anyone who has seen me”, Jesus said,”has seen the Father.” How can you say, Show us the Father?