6 29 2014

Rocky Grove Avenue Presbyterian Church                                     Pastor Sue Nageotte

June 29, 2014

“In Exodus and Exile, God Never Fails”

                                     Psalm 98; Jeremiah 29: 4-7, 10-14

Friends, I said it to the children, and I say it again to you:   It is so very good to be back among you!   I always feel that way when I have been gone for vacation or study leave, but this time, after this particular absence, I feel it much more deeply than ever.

You know that I have been in Detroit, as an elected voting commissioner to our denomination’s General Assembly.  I expect that many of you have heard about some of the actions and decisions of that Assembly.  I don’t want to focus on that right now, because right after worship I will give about a ten-minute report on my experiences there, and I’ll answer as many questions as I can.     But I will say two things at this point, that bear directly on our sermon.

First:     I am convinced that the actions taken by this Assembly are truly historic.      They will have both an immediate and a lasting effect upon the church.   In one case in particular, it is not so much the decision of the Assembly as the way they (we) went about it, that will be seen as a pivotal point in Presbyterianism.    The Assembly chose to disregard the testimony of Scripture in both Old and New Testaments, and the clear teaching of our Confessions, and the foundational principles of our Presbyterian governance — ignoring and disregarding all the foundations and safeguards of our faith and denomination – to make an immediate change regarding marriage.   Many will celebrate this action, but to others including myself, it will create a crisis of conscience.

I want to emphasize that this crisis of conscience is NOT about gay people. It is NOT about same-gender marriage.   It is about one brief gathering of people deciding to set aside all the wisdom of through the centuries and to break our own covenant promises.

It was a very serious, very troubling, very sad moment with grave implications for the future of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The second thing, however, is that despite the very troubling aspects, much that took place at General Assembly — and much that was decided — was truly wonderful, faithful to Scripture and our Reformed heritage, and promises to be of great help and benefit to the people of God and those we are called to serve.

Therefore I am convinced that God has not abandoned the PC(USA).   God was not absent from that Assembly. God was with us, just as God is with us every moment of every day, when we are at our best and when we are not. God is sovereign and good, and I am fully convinced that God will work in and through the events of this General Assembly to bring good to his people and to his mission in the world.

But, as Scripture plainly tells us, the way that God works through those events will probably feel to us strange and confusing and even painful.

As we look back at the Old Testament – the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus grew up with and learned and loved and honored —  as we look back at the Old Testament, we see two great events that affected and shaped and forged God’s people as a nation.  These two events were the Exodus, and the Babylonian exile.

Please don’t yawn and fall asleep!   Because I have become persuaded that these two great events, these two great experiences, continue to have an enormous effect on how we as Christians perceive and respond to events in our lives today.

Consider briefly the Exodus narrative.   You know the story:   how God’s people first went to Egypt to survive a great famine . . . after a few generations they became slaves, suffering great hardship and cruelty . . . then with mighty acts of deliverance, God rescued them from their long oppression and bondage and led them into the rich and fruitful land that he had promised to their many-times-great-grandparents, Abraham and Sarah.

Now — k

The second thing The assembly knowingly and willingly chose to disregard the will —   has – created what to many will be a crisis of conscience.