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  • Dr. Bruce Havens

A 3-D God

Psalm 66

1Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; 2sing the glory of God’s name; give glorious praise to the Lord. 3Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.”
5Come and see what God has done: God is awesome in the deeds God does among mortals.
6God turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in the Lord, 7who rules by might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations — let the rebellious not exalt themselves.
8Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of praise for God be heard, 9who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip. 10For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; 12you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place. 13I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows,
14those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats.
16Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what the Lord has done for me. 17I cried aloud to God, and extolled the Lord with my tongue. 18If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
19But truly God has listened; God has given heed to the words of my prayer. 20Blessed be God, because God has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.

Have you ever gone to a 3-D movie? I remember the first time I went to one. I put on those glasses and, when the movie came on I jerked my head back when things seemed to pop off the screen. I imagine if you were sitting in the back and watching that people react that way it would be kind of amusing.

I think a lot of people need to get some 3-D God glasses. They have a one-dimensional God. Their God is flat, narrow, powerless, and maybe not much of a god at all. Others have a powerful God but their God is like a horror movie character – something to fear but not something to love. Their God is distorted by looking through the wrong lens. I want to offer you a different look. I want to invite you to see God by looking at the awesome things God has done and is doing, see all of God’s glory and then make your decisions about how to live faithfully.

The Psalmist says, “Come and see what God has done; God is awesome in the deeds God does among mortals.” But a lot of people aren’t looking and a lot of others can’t see it because they are looking at other things, or they are looking for other things. So this morning I want to invite you to consider what you are looking for and what you are looking through and what a difference it makes when you can see the awesome deeds of God at work around you and within you.

So what are you looking for in life and what are you looking through? Most of us are looking through some form of faith. We have chosen to let our beliefs and assumptions about God shape our lives to one degree or another. I of us assume God provides what we want. Many people these days don’t seem to care about what anyone else wants, it seems to me, they are only concerned with what THEY want for themselves. Our expectations of God often seem to ignore what God expects of us. If that is the case we need to change our relationship with God.

When we look at what the Psalm proclaims then we see what makes for a good relationship with God. The Psalm writer mixes praise and proclamation. He calls on us to join in worshiping God and reminds his listener of the mighty things God has done. We don’t know the occasion of the writing of this Psalm but it almost sounds like it was written to remind the people that God had brought them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea into the Promised Land. At the very least it is a reminder that this was the foundation of their faith in God. The writer almost crows with victory saying God’s enemies cringe before him. God had turned the sea into dry land – clearly a reference to the crossing of the Red Sea. He reminds his listener that God keeps watch on the nations, a subtle reminder that those who do injustice must answer to God. The writer even admits that God had tried and tested them and had laid burdens on their backs. But he confirms that God “brought us out to a spacious place.” The writer was looking for a reason to praise God and was looking through the lens of trust.

If we want to be able to see what God has done we too must look for reasons to praise and we must look through the lens of trust. If you are struggling in your relationship with God I would suggest that these two attitudes can make all the difference. First, like the Psalm writer, we must look back and search for reasons to praise God. It isn’t that God needs our praise, or that praising God will somehow flatter God into being kind to us. It is about the way that praise works to change our hearts and our perspective. The writer invites us to believe in a God whose love is steadfast, not changed by circumstances or even our lack of faith.

The problem is if we do not believe in this steadfast love our hearts can become filled with resentments. If our hearts are filled with resentment, if we are focused on the problems in our lives then we won’t be able to see God at work. We will be so overwhelmed we will be unable to allow God’s power to work through us to transform us. God is able to take the situations we find ourselves in and help us find ways to transform them into ways to bless and in so doing, to be blessed.

Back in 2006, the Today show interviewed a woman who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis just one month after her wedding. Her name was Cami Walker.

When Cami Walker found out she had multiple sclerosis, she became depressed, sleepless and was in constant pain. Then an old friend offered some advice: Stop thinking about yourself, stop dwelling on your pain, and start giving. She gave her a prescription. She told her to give away 29 gifts in 29 days. In her book, “29 Gifts,” she chronicles her giving cycle and explains how it altered her perception of her situation. The giving cycle couldn’t cure her condition, but she was no longer too tired (or too bitter) to live her life” [ from ].

Her symptoms became almost non-existent and she is continued to give gifts daily as a way to live a life of meaning and purpose and to inspire others. Cami just passed away in April of this year, but her work and her story continues.

If our lives are in crisis because of some circumstance – like a pandemic - then we must find ways to transform that situation. Some wish for life to go back to the way it was, but there is too much that needs to change in our lives and our world to do that. What we need to do is look for ways to transform ourselves and our world into something more faithful to the God we worship and serve and praise.

The Psalmist admits that they went through trials and troubles. But this writer has confidence in a big God. He says,19But truly God has listened; God has given heed to the words of my prayer. 20Blessed be God, because God has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.”

The Psalmist says God is a God of steadfast love. That’s the kind of God I am looking to praise and serve and worship. I want to see the awesome deeds of God just to have another reason to celebrate. There hasn’t been enough reason to celebrate lately has there? What with the pandemic, the racial issues that still divide us, it’s almost enough to make you glad its hurricane season so maybe we can all focus on something else! [Just kidding, God. Keep everyone safe from this storm that’s wandering up our coast!] What God invites us to focus on are reasons to praise and give thanks to God.

I have come to believe in a 3-D God, not a 1-dimensional flat, little, narrow God. I have come to see God who not only has done great things, but is doing awesome deeds. I have come to see a God who is still speaking, who is still calling people to come and see and to praise and trust. I believe in a God who is changing the world through these challenges, causing people to see things in new ways and to take new actions to change the world for the better.

During the Sacrament, I want to invite you to reflect on all that God has given you, all the reasons you have to trust, and praise and give thanks to God. I want to invite you to reflect on how the sacrament is a sign that God is a giving God, giving us a creation that is filled with blessings we eat and drink; bodies that find nourishment in these gifts, spirits that are renewed and blessed by sharing with others, by giving, by praising God, and by seeking to be in communion with God always. Truly God is more than we can imagine, so let us raise our spiritual eyes and see that God is more, even more than 3 dimensional. We do not need special glasses to see this God, we just need to look for where love is at work, where blessing is at work, where liberating the downtrodden is happening. That is where we will see God. That is a God worthy of our praise and our worship. That is the God of steadfast love. AMEN.

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