Sermon for July 11th, 2021
You cannot shut God up.
I really could just end my sermon right here, because that is the main thing I want you to take away from the scriptures this morning, particularly the Old Testament and the Gospel.
We cannot shut God up. But we sure like to try.
Now before I elaborate on that, let me say that we, as Christians, fundamentally believe in a God who reveals himself to us. We believe in a God of revelation. What we believe about God or what we know about God, is based on what we believe God has revealed to us. We do NOT believe that God is just some idea that we concocted, or that our knowledge of God is something that we have come to through our own brain power. We haven’t figured God out, God has shown things to us. We believe in a God that wants to be known, that wants to live in relationship with us; we believe in a God who speaks. God speaks through Holy Scripture, through sacred tradition, through priests and prophets, through angels, through the Holy Spirit, through miracles, through nature. God speaks to us in so many ways.
But here is the problem with that: we don’t always like what this God of ours has to say.
Now it is great when God “walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am his own” like we sing in that hymn “In the Garden.” And don’t get me wrong; I believe that is true and I love that hymn. God does having loving words for us that affirm that we are his beloved children. But that is not all that God has to say to us. God regularly challenges us. God calls us out on our hypocrisy. God knows about that thing you did. And God has forgiven you for it, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have something to say to you about it. The scriptures can be challenging sometimes, and it’s not when I don’t understand them that they are the most challenging, it is when I DO understand them. Because that is when I hear God calling me out on my junk; pointing out to me those times when I have not been as faithful as I am called to be. Now this isn’t to condemn me; not at all. You don’t discipline children because you hate them. You discipline them because you love them and want them to have a good life. And that is what God wants for us. God wants us to have a good life, but in order for that to happen, sometimes God has to point out to us where and when we have gone wrong.
But very often, we don’t want to hear it. As a matter of fact, we find all sorts of ways to drown out God’s voice so we don’t have to hear anything negative God has to say. I hasten to point out that this is NOT a modern phenomenon. We’ve been trying to shut God up for years.
Consider the Prophet Amos. Now Amos was from the South in the land of Judea and he was sent by God up to preach to a bunch of Northerners in the land of Israel. And poor Amos, God gave him a tough message to deliver. God was sending Amos to call out that kingdom for all of its unfaithfulness. They were not being true to their calling. They were being unjust. They weren’t treating each other like they were all children of God. They were getting into some idol worship, and one of the idols that they were worshipping was money. They were using debt to enslave people. I could go on and on. Amos ends up telling the Northern kingdom that because of their faithlessness, their kingdom is going to crumble, their king will fall and they will in fact, become slaves.
As you can imagine, people didn’t like that. They didn’t want to hear what Amos had to say. Even their priest didn’t want to listen to this message from God. So the priest said to Amos: “Get out of town.” No, literally, get out of town. Off with you! Go back down South where you came from. So Amos heads back down South.
And you know what eventually happened? The Northern kingdom fell just like Amos predicted, and all of its people were hauled off into slavery. You can silence a prophet, but you can’t shut God up. God always has the last say. And you would think that after hundreds and thousands of years that we would learn that lesson, but we don’t.
You remember John the Baptist? He got into trouble, because he called out Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, which he wasn’t supposed to do. Now Herod was just trying to ignore that part of John’s message, but his wife Herodia was infuriated. This was publicly embarrassing. So she figured out a way to shut John up by having him killed. Had his head cut off. Did that spare Herodia further embarrassment? Well, no. Because here we are today, thousands of years later, not only still talking about her unlawful marriage, but what is far worse, the despicable way that she tried to cover it up.
You know, sometimes I wonder if God laughs or cries when we try to ignore him. Maybe it is a bit of both. We so foolishly think that we can silence God. We tell God’s prophets to shut up. If that doesn’t work, we have them killed. We cut out or skip over the scriptures we don’t like, or we just shut the Bible altogether. Now I’m not saying that every quack out there with a Bible in one hand and a megaphone in the other is a legit prophet with a message from God. There have always been false prophets, God promised us that there would be. But just because some people spread untruth, that doesn’t mean that the truth has stopped talking. God never stops talking to us. Sometimes his message is sweet. Sometimes it goes down a little rough. We may think that if we don’t listen to what God says then we won’t have to deal with the message, or the truth that it contains. But we’d be wrong. It seems to me that Ol’ Pontius Pilate also thought that he was done with this pesky man Jesus when he had him killed and washed his hands. But he was wrong. No matter how hard we try and silence him, God always has the last word. You cannot shut God up.