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Rally Your Forces
September 12, 1982

First United Methodist Church of Modesto

MARK 8:27-38

A minister was calling house to house. He knocked at one door, knocked the second time and was about to leave when he heard a voice from within saying, “Come in.” He tried the door, found it unlocked, opened it and went inside. Her heard the voice again, calling him down the hall, “Come in, come in.” So he followed the voice down the hallway into the kitchen where he was face to face with a large, ferocious, growling German Shepherd. The dog lunged at him, pinned him against the wall, growling ferociously with fire and brimstone in his face. The minister in panic, looked around the kitchen and saw around the corner, a parrot in a cage saying, “Come in. Come in.” The minister shouted, “You stupid parrot. Don't you know any other words?” To which the parent responded, “Sic-em. Sic-em.” 

What stirs you up? What excites you? What gets your blood flowing? What pins you against the wall and brings you out of yourself? A  rally? A mustering of forces, mustering up the strength and courage to face the task, a rally that incites to action, to rebound? Everybody needs to rebound. From time to time everybody needs a rally. I need one. I suspect you need a rally to come out of yourself, to be lifted out of the rut, to be lifted out of mediocrity and complacency, to make you do and be your very best. 

We rally today. We rally as we begin our fall program. What does it take to rally you, to rally your forces? I have tremendous news for you today. I have a terrific method that will capture your imagination. Let this capture your imagination. Let this reach down and lift you up into new heights, new visions that you didn't think you were capable of. Are you ready? This is the message: God is transforming the world and you are called to share in the adventure. That's it. God is transforming the world and you are called to share in the event. 

John Steinbeck in his priceless little masterpiece The Pearl, a delightful story pictures the hero of the story, Keno, watching an ant colony. He sits there observing the colony and John Steinbeck uses this phrase, “Kino watches with the detachment of God.” That is not the Christian God. God is not an observer. God is not passive. God is not detached. The Christian God is actively at work. All around us, in and through us, God is constantly at work, constantly active, transforming the world, suffering, dying, even as Jesus did on the cross. God is slowly, lovingly, patiently, powerfully transforming this world, redeeming this world. From creation, through the history of Israel, through the life and teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through the centuries of church history and today, God is actively at work transforming. Do you believe that God is work? 

To what end? To what future? What is God's purpose? To answer that question—what is the future, to what is God working— Christians say it is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God's future. Jesus revealed the plan of God. Jesus revealed the purpose of God. Jesus is the preview of coming attractions. Jesus is the preview of God's kingdom. Jesus is what the future looks like in God's plan. That's what we mean by being Christians. When you say you are a Christian, you mean that you look at God, you look at life, you look at the world, you look at yourself through the eyes of Jesus Christ who is the revelation—what we mean when we name Jesus the Messiah. 

In our scripture lesson today, Jesus said to the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said, “Some say you are Elijah.  Some say you're John the Baptist. Some say you're one of the prophets.” Then Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Messiah is a Hebrew word. Christ is the Greek translation of the word Messiah. “You are the Christ, the Messiah”, the one for whom we have longed, the one for whom we have yearned, the one in whom we place our hope, the one who is going to bring us to God, the one who will usher in the kingdom of God on this earth. As Christians, we affirm that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Jesus is the picture, he is the preview of what God is all about in our world. 

Tom Sine in his book, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, writes, “Every time we've seen Jesus make a twisted body whole with his touch, and see the paralytic running and leaping down the street, we are shown the future of God. Every time Jesus opens the eyes of the blind, that is the future of God. Every time Jesus lovingly lifts children into his lap and plays with them and hug them, that’s what God is like. Every time he feeds the hungry, sets free the possessed, forgives the sinner, we are shown a glimpse of what God's future will be like. The good news is that in God's future, there will be no more kids with palsy bodies or damaged brains, no more people suffering through the overwhelming pain of terminal cancer, no more babies will slowly die of starvation, and no more people will struggle to survive while others live in conspicuous affluence. There won't be any more people victimized by oppressive economic and political systems, or individuals destroying themselves and others through malignant selfishness and sin. There will be an end to fragmented relationships, and broken homes, loneliness, and depression, no more addicted young people, no more discrimination, no more mindless slaughter of the innocent on the battlefields of the world, no more holocausts, no more rebellion against God. God will redeem people and creation, God will wipe away all tears. And that's our vision of the future. That's what God is about. When you see that happening, that's God. When you see that happening, that's the Spirit moving among us. That's the tremendous good news that gives us hope and holds us up and lifts us, sustains us and fills us with joy. God is changing the world. God is busily about the work of redemption. God wants people to laugh, to dance, to sing, to love, to be educated, to be free and to live together in peace.” That is what God is about and God calls you to share in that adventure. 

Tom Sine in the same book uses the phrase, “The conspiracy of the insignificant.” God is changing the world through a conspiracy of the insignificant. God rarely uses the rich, the powerful and the mighty. God usually uses the lowly, the imperceptible, the unassuming. God chose a random bunch of slaves to become the insurgents of the new order. God chose an undersized shepherd boy with a slingshot to lead the chosen people. And most mind boggling of all, God chose to work through a baby in a cow stall to turn this world upside down. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “God saves the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” That's God's way. 

And most outrageously of all, God chooses you and me! Of all the peoples on this earth, God has called you and claims you to be the means by which he will change the world. God calls you to join in the adventure, changing this world through your life. You are a gifted person, attractive, you dress well, you're well fed, you’re educated, you have gifts and talents unique like no other person. You’re you! And God calls you, When you take God’s creation, when you take God's making of you, saving of you and loving of you and turn it off and say, “Oh, I can't do much. After all, I'm old, or I'm retired, or I don't feel well or others can do it so much better than I,” what a bunch of nonsense! God chose you to be the means by which he changes the world. 

God has sent you to this church so you might hear the Word, believe it and respond with your life. God sent you here. And the way we do it is in the lesson from Mark where Jesus said, “Forget yourself. Carry your cross and follow me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Forget yourself. Forget that you're shy, timid, embarrassed and inhibited. Forget all that. Let yourself go and do. Be what God made you to be and do what God calls you to do in this world today. 

We rally today. For God has a path of redemption on this earth. We rally. We are the people of God. “What do I do?” you ask. Well, we challenge each other with sermons, lessons, programs and discussions in this church to enable us to know what to do, but here's the best summary I know. What is God's will for your life? Discern with the eyes of faith, discern what God is doing and then go help. Discern where God is at work and then go help. And look to Jesus for help, for instructions. Look to Jesus—the way he did it. Jesus loved the children. Jesus picked them up in his lap and hugged them. Don't just holler at the kids around here. Hug them, learn their names, even the Laotian names. Do you think you can learn those names? Have you tried? Hug the children. It’s your responsibility to know every child in this church and in your neighborhood. Love them, hug them. They have enough people telling them what to do, they just need to be hugged. 

Jesus fed the hungry. Jesus loved the outcast. Jesus stood up for the poor and the downtrodden. That's where God is at work in the world today. Jesus made peace and he called us all to be peacemakers. Jesus shared his abundance. Everything he had, he shared. And you can do that. The world needs you. This church needs you. God is moving in our midst to build a great church here, and he needs you. You'll see exhibits today of opportunities for you to serve and be a part. 

I think of Ken and Mary. They moved here last summer. They knew they were only going to be here one year, but actually, they were only here nine months. They’ve already gone. But in that nine month period, those two people made an impact on us all, didn’t they? Ken and Mary entered wholeheartedly. They joined the church. They attended a Sunday school class, Mary went to United Methodist Women. She joined the quilting group. One Monday during the quilting, she discovered that a teacher was needed for the Laotian English classes that we have on Mondays and Wednesdays. She volunteered and taught English. She'd go to the quoting group afterwards. Sometimes she was discouraged, she just didn't think she accomplished anything. Other times she came all elated, floating on air because something worked and she saw some progress. They had a great adventure in this church. They love this church. They hated to go and they'd love to come back. And that's what it's all about. 

Join with God. Become partners with God to do what God calls you to do. Get into the adventure of it all. Rally your forces together! The great good news is that God is transforming this world and you are called to share in the adventure. Amen. 

© 1982 Douglas I. Norris