Sermon: Thanksgiving and Praise leads to hearing from God

Thanksgiving and Praise leads to hearing from God

August 16, 2009        St John Episcopal Church, Tulare, CA
transcription from recording, edited into manuscript.  Sermon time: 20 minutes

Year B (RCL) :
I Kings Chap 2, vv 10-12; and Chap 3, vv :3-14 (Lorraine Zorn)
Psalm 111 (led by Lay Reader Judy Wilds)
Ephesians 5:15-20 (Organist Margaret Sutton – filling in for absent scheduled lector)
Praise the Lord together singing Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia…  (3 x )
John 6:51-58  (RGEaton+)
Jesu esto mihi jesus, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia…  (3 x )

O Lord let your word only be spoken, and your word only be heard.  Amen.

It would not have been good if Solomon had begun his royal career in a more self-centered, God-ignorant manner. In fact, it would have been a disastrous thing.
But  Solomon did apparently do some right things in worshiping the Lord, and answering God’s question rightly, and so we also learn in this scripture reading from First Kings chapter 3 of the benefit to him as King, to him personally, and to the whole Kingdom of God’s People, the Jews;
and even more so as Christians we see Solomon’s question and answer and worship as directly affecting the salvation of the whole world,  for the continuation of the line of David that would lead to the promise of God, in the birth of Jesus, the Messiah.  It’s not quite so simplistic, but for the points from the lessons today we can say, “No Solomon, No Jesus.”

And so we give thanks to God for the grace of these moments given to Solomon and his responses.   We give thanks…….. (“Yeah verily” from the congregation)

Now that is exactly the action, the thanksgiving and worship to God,  that happened right before God spoke to Solomon in his dream, as we heard “Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David” and then in vs 4 “The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar” (see note at end of sermon on why Gibeon).

In fact, as the scripture text clearly implies, these actions of worship predisposed Solomon’s heart and his mind and his spirit to allow him to hear from God, because “that night God spoke to him in a dream.”
And that would be my first point to you, that praise and thanksgiving and adoration as worship do indeed predispose the heart and the soul and the mind and the spirit to hear God’s word spoken to them.  If you will praise him …you will hear him.

No longer is it necessary in Christ, by the way, to offer a thousand burnt sacrifices and offerings on your part in order to hear from God.  Hallelujah!  (Hallelujahs from the congregation)

But start now on the daily worship that is necessary in order for us, for  you to hear from God.

Now, the Liturgy, whether Holy Communion or Morning Prayer, does have praise built into the first moments of our worship together before we ever hear from “the Word of God”, and exactly for that purpose:  Praise, and Word of God.
Sometimes, though, we enter into our worship on Sunday mornings and any other time, with less than predisposed hearts and minds and spirits, – I’m saying that as nicely as I can – and the Word of God goes – I’m saying this as nicely as I can –  right over our heads…., and before you know it, we are praying the Prayers of the People with less than grateful hearts and humble spirits!  And that demands the question of whether we are truly prepared to receive the life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Communion on that day.

So just to be sure, and to make this point, we acted that  out this morning when even before our first hymn we held hands or laid a hand on each other together and I offered on your behalf  thanks and praise to God aloud  for God himself, and for each other, and for this parish, and for God’s presence.  This is a “shaking up”sometimes that is necessary in order for us to understand what it means to give thanks and “enter into his gates with thanksgiving.” That action that we did this morning predisposed our hearts and minds and souls and spirits for our act of praise and worship this morning, and is helping you even now to hear the Word of God more clearly.  Hallelujah..

This is an essential part of the message of today’s lessons, and of the essentials of a disciple of Jesus’ life with him.

Let me say it again in different words, If you as a disciple of Jesus, and we as a body of disciples of Jesus, do not make thanksgiving and praise and adoration intentional, priority parts in our worship of God, daily,  then I am afraid we will be less than disposed – perhaps less than capable – of hearing God speak to you , to me, to us, whether in our dreams or in any other manner.

And God help us all if that is the case.

Now, the question in the dream that God brought to Solomon was, “What is it that you want?”
More specifically, in the text, “”Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
What a wonderful statement.  From God, it’s kind of the genie in the bottle in the question, isn’t it.  Do you have something in mind in your own being?

And Solomon answered, “Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.  But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.”
(Mind you, Solomon is a full grown adult male.  He is not physically a child.  So you understand the humility and vulnerability that he is bringing before God in this prayer).

“8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
“10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.”

The Lord was pleased in what Solomon had asked: he asked for a discerning heart to govern God’s people and to distinguish between right and wrong.  And so began the legendary career of justice and discernment for justice that led to the phrase we use to apply to similar judgments even today, “the wisdom of Solomon”   Even though it would be more like “the wisdom of God given to Solomon”.

Now before we get to the final part, here is my question to Solomon.   Why, O King, did you wait until you heard from God in a dream before you prayed your prayer?  What otherwise would have kept you from uttering this otherwise humble prayer for God’s mercy and wisdom?  Why did you wait?!

Solomon might have begun his royal career by presuming that since he was a prince, and since he was his father’s chosen successor, and since the God of his father David wanted Solomon to be the successor to the throne of Israel and rule the People of God, and since his succession to the throne included not a dominion from scratch but a dominion of already great means both financial and political,, and since the enemies of his father were now completely disposed of …
that since all these things were a very visible part of his new identity as king he might have presumed that he didn’t need anything beyond himself to be a successful king.

And all these presumptions might also have been the heavy layering he allowed over a very basic fear he had of actually being the king of Israel.  Despite my speculating on the presumptions,  we can see in the first few words of Solomon’s prayer, that God speaking to him in his dream could easily have had the effect of cutting through those presumptions to his own fears, “I don’t know what to do, and I need your help to do it.”
And, brothers and sisters, I am strongly suggesting to you as implied in this scripture text that it was Solomon’s first instinct, that acted-upon desire to give thanks and praise and worship the Lord which caused him to have the predispostion for this grace-filled  moment  to cut right down to humble pie, rather than ask the Lord instead for the trappings of the office of King.

He heard God speak to him in a dream and it cut right through all of his fears, right down to where he needed to be in the first place.  “God, help me.”
And it all began with praise and worship and adoration and thanksgiving.

How often do we allow the things of our lives to so cover us that we need someone to come in and to wake us up or to shake us up or to bring that hard word that helps us to get through to the right question, when if we were listening to God in the first place he could have very gently said, “Ask me for what you want.”  And our ability to be humble
(from our praise and adoration) knows exactly the kinds of questions we need to ask.

It was the presumption of the day that kept him from asking the question until he snapped out of it by God speaking to him in the dream.  And his praise and worship led to it.

This is a very big lesson to learn for all of us.  Again, do not let the presumptions and fears of our own lives stop you from making, or hiding away, the very prayer that Solomon made to the Lord.   In fact, because you are Christians, followers of Jesus, brought to new life through the Holy Spirit,  you may presume that God is asking you that very question this very moment.  You don’t have to wait for the dream.

Jesus said, “If you abide in me, ask of the Father and he will give it to you.”

Just to remind you, And God said to Solomon, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

And you get to answer.

Now learn from Solomon, and especially from Jesus, how to ask of the Lord.   First remember that The Lord dwells in the praises of his people.   God is jealous for the worship of his people. And he will reward it.   Spending time in God’s word helps us to know God’s will which ultimately informs the priorities of our prayers. And we are able to ask the right questions, offer the right prayers.

11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”

Jesus said the same thing, “Ask and it shall be given….seek and you shall find…..knock and the door shall be opened…..do not run after the things the gentiles run after, but seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be given to you as well.”  That’s good news.

God knows our needs, and what pleases US.  Our first step, though, is to please God, and this can be done through  our praise and thanksgiving and adoration which will make us more open to hearing from God, and allow us to make our requests in honesty, vulnerabile humble adoration and submission.

It doesn’t sound too good up front, but the benefits are out of this world.

Yes, as Paul says in Ephesians 5,(which lets us know nothing has changed in the ways of human beings)
….the days are evil.  And you know that.

It is hard enough to contend against the World the Flesh and the Devil, as we see the world around us seem to deteriorate day by day; and as we contend with our own ease of sinning, of working against the life in the Spirit; and as we contend with the spirit world in our prayers and in our witness to Christ.

It’s hard enough to deal with that outside of ourselves as Christians and the Body of Christ. It does not help us IN the Church of the One True and only Lord Jesus Christ to have those with voices of leadership undermine and even desecrate God’s very Word.

So what do we do?   Is that not something we can take to the Lord in prayer as well?

The first and most important action on our part will be to accept the good news of God’s undeserved grace and mercy in Jesus Christ – so, start with, believe in Jesus; be a disciple; choose to learn from him and His Holy Spirit;  receive your nourishment from Him.

And then we must be reminded of how to act in the face of such persecution and heresy, including this priority which we have been pointed to today, start with praise and worship of God:

When in trouble start thanking the Lord;
When you are worried, start Praising the Lord;
When things are not going well, go to worship the Lord God.
That is always the first and foremost thing, and that will predispose your hearts and minds to hear from God about the things that you are struggling with and dealing with in your life.

These lessons today assist us in inspiring us to be such lovers of God, and to expect God to want to hear from us.

Let me turn it around just a minute before I close.

What Solomon did NOT do, what Solomon did NOT ask for, What Solomon had the grace to AVOID asking God was something like this:

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me King of Israel! , DUH!  And since I am the King and must protect myself, I ask for long life for myself, and I will need all the money and wealth that you can possibly give to me, because I deserve it, and I need you to take care my enemies – all of them – and slaughter them, cut them into a thousand little pieces, and then may the fleas of a thousand camels infest the armpits of their relatives. . Amen….O God, bring it about!”

Is that what Solomon prayed?  (No!)  Do you pray that kind of prayer?  (No!) No? Actually, probably.   Somewhere in your life you have probably said to God, “God, take all my problems and destroy them, and give me everything I deserve.”  (Pause)
Nope, first come before the Lord and say,
“I am not able to handle the things that come my way.  I need your strength to do it.”
And that prayer will come about because you have already been praising and thanking and worshiping and adoring the Lord for you to have the grace to make that prayer.

You see, it is more like “Seek the Lord”, my friends, “while he wills to be found.”

So now we are reminded of all this as Paul sums it up very nicely,

“ ……. the days are evil.”  He said.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  (Hear from God!) :
>  be filled with the Spirit.
>Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
And
> Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Whatever new thing you are embarking upon right now.
Whatever major decision you are entertaining right now.
Whatever struggles are happening in your hearts and minds and spirits right now.
Go to the Lord in prayer and praise, and know that
God loves you and desires your love of him,  now through his Son Jesus Christ.

So first and always, give thanks to the Lord and praise and worship him, not just to get an audience with God in prayer, but as a life discipline and choice of heart..
And now bring your hearts to the Lord in humble adoration and admission of vulnerability and answer his question, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you”

Amen.

Note re: Gibeon: The Tabernacle was located at Gibeon for some time, and it was there when David began making preparations for the building the Temple in Jerusalem, a project that was later completed by his son Solomon, as allowed by God.

“And Zadok the priest, and his brethren the priests, before the Tabernacle of The Lord in the high place that was at Gibeon” (1 Chronicles 16:39 KJV)

“At that time when David saw that The Lord had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite [see Jebusites], then he sacrificed there. For the Tabernacle of The Lord, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon. (1 Chronicles 21:28 KJV)

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One thought on “Sermon: Thanksgiving and Praise leads to hearing from God

  1. Pingback: Praise opens our ears! « Lent & Beyond

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