12-1-13 The Problem of the Supernatural- It is Unusual
?The Problem of the Supernatural- It is Unusual?? Luke 1:3,11-25; Isaiah 7:14
Preached at Lake Murray Presbyterian by Dr. J. Ben Sloan
Faith takes faith.? Faith is not always comfortable.? In one of the classic illustrations of faith, someone is trying to come down the mountain in the dark.? He gets stuck and is hanging on a ledge and cannot see what is underneath him.? He calls out, ?Help!? Help!? Is there anyone out there??? He hears a voice beneath him.? ?It?s okay.? The voice says.? ?If you will let go of the ledge and drop I will catch you.??? The man hanging on with a white knuckled grip says, ?How do I know you?ll catch me?? Why don?t you throw me a rope now?? Why don?t you reach out and hold onto me?? Tell me who you are!?? The voice says, ?That is not necessary.? Trust me and let go.?? The man hanging on says, ?Help!? Is there anybody ELSE out there??? Faith by definition is not sight.? Faith is not easy.? Faith is not comfortable.?? In many ways, perhaps in a good desire to make faith appealing we try to make faith as comfortable as possible.?? Many feel if we can just take the unusual and mystery out- the supernatural, the miracles, the answered prayer part- then perhaps more people would believe.?? While such intentions may be good, they water down and de-tooth the power of faith.?? We really need to allow for? a little mystery in our lives- and in our faith.?? We need to recognize that we are saved not by being good- but by the power and mystery of God.? God is not simply a usual part of our everyday lives.? He is to be a part of who we are, but God is above the ordinary, above the humdrum, and has the mysterious ability to be unusual, above nature- or super natural.
Zechariah believed in God and served God in the church.? He had an important position.? God had created order and laws and truth and even love Zechariah clearly believed.? But Zechariah had a very hard time believing that God did anything unusual- even if a mighty angel appeared to him- maybe because a mighty angel appeared to him. ??We don?t really know why.? Maybe Zechariah was tired of hoping that he?d have a son.? Maybe he had his hopes crushed and crushed again.? Maybe, we really don?t know, Elizabeth had some miscarriages.? Maybe Zechariah was a believer in the theorem, ?You can?t teach an old dog new tricks.?? But the scripture says that God came to him and pierced his expectations.?? See, the problem with God is He does not always do what we expect Him to do.?? We do not own or totally grasp God.? God is the Maker and true owner of all and He totally grasps us.? ?Some define belief in the supernatural as superstitious- but it does not have to be that way.? In fact, a steady hopeful trust in God is the opposite of superstitious. ?One sociologist pointed out that when we get away from the Biblical beliefs we tend to become more superstitious.? A case in point is the superstition and belief in luck in the old atheistic USSR or atheistic China. ?The belief in UFOs, and vampires have gone up as biblical beliefs decline. ?Among American college students belief in ghosts and bigfoot have shot through the roof as belief in the divinity of Christ has declined. ?I believe that deep inside of us we have something that is designed to believe in more than we can see and more than we can expect.? Zechariah said, ?How can I be sure?? I am old??? Things like this just don?t happen.? He wasn?t just surprised, he was doubting.?? When we think that life is only what we see, we become entrapped by materialism.? Materialism is by definition- life is only what we see.? When we become materialistic we turn thanksgiving into overspending.? ?This year, by the way, was the 150th anniversary of Lincoln?s famous Thanksgiving proclamation.? Lincoln spoke of the wealth, population, and food of the United States growing despite the war.? He made his Thanksgiving proclamation: No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States?to set apart the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving.?? Lincoln saw such gifts in the midst of hardship unusual to the point of being miraculous and supernatural.? Even in the horror of civil war- Americans found a way to give thanks.? By the way, the south also had a day of Thanksgiving to God proclaimed in 1862.? But the point is it is too easy to restrict God- saying He can?t act that way because I don?t think He can. The miracle of advent- is He came.? The miracle of Easter is he rose.? If you cannot account for those two events in your thinking, then you have put God into too small a box.? Do not be like Zechariah.? Trust in God.?
Time after time in the Bible God does the unexpected.? I think part of believing- part of having faith is to be able to trust God in the dark.? To trust His voice to let go.? It is too easy to say we live in a materialistic world and there is nothing outside of that.? Faith is believing there is more than that.? Faith frankly challenges us to believe there is more than we can see, and even more than we can fully understand.? It is human pride and short-sightedness that calls us to believe we truly understand it all and there will be no surprises in life.? When the Pilgrims came to America they faced starvation.? They were rationed only five kernels of corn a day and a little bread.? The captain of the ship was going back to England- and he begged them to go with him.? But the Pilgrims believed that they should trust in God there.? The Pilgrim?s believed that God did the unusual by providing Samoset and Squanto who spoke English to help them farm and make a generation-long peace with the Native Americans.? John Bradford began a tradition to remember that first starving time each year by giving each pilgrim five grains of corn and asking them to say five things for which they are thankful.
Jesus said, in a great advent verse, ?When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth??? We trust in our own abilities, our boss, our money, doctor, car, pilot- but where does God fit in?? Sometimes in life you have to abandon other trustworthy people and objects- you have to let go of the ledge and fall into the unusual unseen God.? ?The end of the story is the person finally let go and only dropped three feet into a huge ledge.? The worry, the weight of the world was taken off his shoulders.? It is the same when we trust in God.