“When It’s Guessing Time”
January 28th, 2024
Rev. Sid Leak
In one of the Peanuts cartoons that appeared in 1973
Peppermint Patty is seated at her desk at school.
She’s obviously taking a test because she picks her paper up and says:
“This is some test!
Who was Cyril Fox?
Discuss briefly the Bronze Age.
Who were the Beaker people?
Who was CassevellAUnus?
Who was Cunobelin?
What were the Causewayed Camps?
She looks at the test paper quietly a moment
She puts it down on her desk.
Then she cries out in the fourth frame:
“IT’S GUESSING TIME!”
When you and I look out on the church and the world today
we can make a good case for it being “guessing time.”
Church historian Martin Marty of the University of Chicago has said
we have gone from a society
where all the props supported the church
to a society where few if any props support the church.
Contemporary society lives in the present moment.
There is the general conviction that whatever exists is unsatisfactory
Only the new, the future will be better.
The electronic devices on which we depend
have not given us more time from work
They have simply increased the pace of work.
Secularism has come to dominate the media and education in general
Over 20 years ago, fifty percent of persons in the media
denied any religious affiliation.
Only twenty percent said they were Protestant.
Only eight percent admitted they worshipped regularly.
With all this going on, is there any way we can have confidence in God?
The Bible answers a definitive “yes!”
And we can look no farther than the Book of Books, the Psalms
to give us two reasons, that ,
despite everything going on today
we can have hope and confidence in God.
The first evidence we have are:
- THE WORKS OF GOD
Psalm 111 describes God’s works as great (v. 2)
They are full of honor and majesty (v. 3)
They are so wonderful that people do not forget them (v.4)
Specifically God provides these things for his people
He provides food (v. 5)
He has given his people the possessions of their
neighbors (v. 6)
He has put his people in a covenant relationship (v. 9)
God appeared to Abraham and promised him a heritage, offspring,
when he was considered to be too old.
Abraham asked for a sign of encouragement.
As a result, Abraham initiated this little ceremony
He cut some animals in half, then lay down to sleep.
He dreamed he saw a flaming torch pass between the pieces.
This was a sign that God would be faithful
God would keep the covenant
And if anything was broken, God would take the cost on himself.
So we can have confidence in God because of the works of God, first.
And, second, we can have confidence is God because of
- THE BEING OF GOD
Verse 9 says:
“He sent redemption to his people.”
You and I have confidence in God
not only on account of what God has done
but also on account of who God is in Jesus Christ.
Before his first miracle in the Capernaum synagogue
the Bible tells us Jesus:
“…taught as one with authority, not as the scribes.”
Jesus teaching was self-authenticating.
He didn’t need anything to prop it up.
He needed no external support.
But he did more than teach.
He confronted and defeated the powers of darkness
At his command, the evil spirits left without hesitation!
But Jesus dominion did not end there.
He triumphed over evil when he cast out demons.
He triumphed over sin when he successfully resisted every form of temptation
… when he risked being for other people who needed forgiveness & help
But he also triumphed over the last enemy death, when on the third day,
God raised him over the worst that sin could do
The worst that evil could do
The worst that death itself could do.
And in this resurrection is the promise of yours and mine!
The great reformed theologian Karl Barth once said
“The man who fears death is close to the truth.”
This is why Christ engaged in open combat
with all forms of sickness, evil, and even death itself.
He did not want to die.
Even on the cross he prayed:
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
But even though death has broken loose in life,
Christ will not allow it to run its course forever.
In the gospel of Mark it says in the 13th chapter
“He will send out his angels and gather his elect
from the ends of earth to the ends of heaven.”
Bo Scarbrough was a running back
who played football for the Dallas Cowboys
and for Coach Nick Saban at the University of Alabama
When he was at Alabama, Bo, Coach Saban, Jeff Allen and Cedric Burns
were coming back down I 59 to Tuscaloosa
from a golf tournament in Birmingham.
Jeff was the director of sports medicine,
Cedric was the athletic relations coordinator.
He had worked for the University in the athletic department since 1979 when he was Coach Bear Bryant’s personal assistant.
Cedric was driving.
Now back then, they were constantly working on that Interstate.
THey hit a 50 mile an hour speed limit but Cedric kept on going fast.
To hear Bo tell, he was from the hood. He liked that stuff … speeding and all
So they kept going fast.
But Jeff got nervous and said, “Ced, slow down.”
He didn’t. He kept going.
Next thing you know, they sped past the police parked in the median
Bo said they were going about 90
Now all this time, Coach Saban was on the phone.
Sure enough, the police car pulled out behind them.
Jeff was like, “Ced, aren’t you gonna’ stop?”
Cedric kept driving!
That’s when Coach Saban got off the phone, turned around to the back seat and said:
“Jeff, we’re not stopping!”
So they kept on going.
And the police backed off! As Bo remembers it, all they said was:
“Stop driving recklessly!”
WHen it comes to trusting God, we don’t need to back off.
We don’t need to slow down.
We can have confidence in God on the basis of who God is
in Jesus Christ who died and rose again for us.
And by this confidence, in God, not in ourselves,
we can witness to the church and to the world
that God’s grace is the last word in every situation.
Whether it’s an event in life that overwhelms us
or a natural event that threatens to destroy us,
this grace is not a human disposition that as John Leith says
enables us to face everything that happens
with stoic discipline.
Grace, instead, is a personal, gracious activity of God
which opens up new possibilities
and grants hope beyond every defeat.
So may we live and sing with the Psalmist:
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart
in the assembly of the upright, in the great congregation.”
*Cover Art by Stushie Art, used with subscription