So Close

Gratitude  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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1. Intro – think about those moments of disappointment in our lives
- finishing up our series on gratitude and those things that so often work against it
o worry and anxiety, entitlement, nostalgia, greed
- looked at how powerful they can be in our lives
o how easy it can be to let our circumstances, things happening to us or in our lives that are out of our control have power over us
- remember, with worry and anxiety, Paul calls us to look instead to God
- find joy in God’s presence in all the corners of our lives
o then we can go into the world shaped by gratitude, not fear
- this week, we’ll look at another enemy
o another reaction to things going on around us that can take away from a sense of gratitude towards God
- disappointment
o this is a big one – as strong an enemy to gratitude as worry and anxiety
- comes up in so many parts of our lives
- maybe you put a lot of work into something and turn around and not get much response
- see this dream job – fits you and your gifts perfectly
o it’s right there – you can feel it in your grasp
o and don’t get it
- you may have expectations or hopes for a loved one or someone close to you
o they’re not met
- right or wrong, we feel disappointed in those times
- bigger picture – disappointed in ourselves
o maybe struggling with a powerful sin
o a behavior, an unhealthy pattern in life
o something we do that continually pulls us away from God
§ and we can’t seem to break free, no matter how much we pray that God will take it away
2. Moses – disappointed?
- our scripture today – takes us to one of those moments in Scripture when someone had every right to be disappointed, bitter, angry
o someone who had sacrificed his whole life for God
o he had been an obedient (for the most part) and selfless servant
- and almost at the last moment, God has a different idea
- read Deut. 34:1-12
- I don’t think this is what Moses was expecting after the life he led
- he had answered the call from the burning bush
o he had confronted Pharaoh on behalf of the people of God
- led them out of Egypt
o through the desert, 40+ years
o always having to mediate between a grumpy, rebellious group of pilgrims
- and they come to the very edge of the Promised Land
- the precipice of the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
o the land that God has guided the people of Israel towards, even in their disobedience
- he can see it, almost reach out and touch it
o he can smell the dust rising from the plains below
- and God tells him, No
- back in ch. 32, God tells Moses what’s going to happen
o tells him where he will die – able to see the land of Canaan but not to reach it
o in Numbers, God first tells Moses about his fate
o but he’s a bit vague
- it’s here in Deut., at the end of the book
- at the end of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible
o lays out the relationship people will have with God
- we see Moses perched at the edge of the Promised Land
- just doesn’t seem to make much sense
3. Doesn’t Make Sense
- but our lives don’t always make sense
- our lives of faith don’t make sense either at times
o especially when our faith is pushed and stretched like it has been in recent months
o folks who would make wonderful parents are unable to conceive
o some prayers for healing seem to help while others don’t
- our expectations are often broken
o even a promise that we feel like we can trust completely
o the greater the promise, the greater the devastation when it’s broken or not met
- so we can identify with Moses in a way
- it can be really hard to be grateful when the things we hope for, we pray for are taken away
o when we find ourselves standing there, on the edge of what we may see as the promised land
o but we can’t quite get there
4. Part of a Bigger Story
- what God offers us during these times on the edge, when things don’t make sense and disappointment reigns
o is the chance to see the world and our place in God’s creation and work differently
- what if we can begin to see those moments we feel as disappointment as part of a larger story?
o maybe our expectations are too connected to things we think will make us happy but, in the end, really won’t
- whose promises are we listening to?
o it is the empty promises of the world around us?
o or is it the larger promises of God?
- think again about Moses
o he knows that this life he’s lived won’t end in the promised land
- in all those years in the desert, I find it hard to believe that he didn’t think about the moment he would set foot in the land promised to Israel
o what does he do?
- he doesn’t curse God or grumble about where and how his life will end
o his last words (all of ch. 33) are songs of absolute praise
o touch on ch. 33 – esp. v. 29
- rejoicing in God’s work among the tribes of Israel
o he recounts all the ways God will bless the people
o the ways God will dwell among his people as they step into the land promised to them
- Moses, at that moment of potential disappointment as great as any of us will ever experience
o he sings praises to God
- we get the feeling that he saw this difficult reality as something other than disappointment
o he saw God working even at this really hard moment in his life
o ultimately, he saw himself as part of a story much bigger than himself
- the reading tells us that God was there with him as he stood at the top of Mt. Pisgah
o Moses hears the Lord’s words as the last sound in this life
- maybe seeing the promised land was fulfillment enough in God’s eyes
5. Standing with others on Pisgah
- what does this passage tell us today – maybe for someone at the edge of a cliff on their Pisgah
o what does it say to people who are trying as best as we can to live our faith out in a difficult time?
- it’s not our job to assign meaning to someone else’s suffering
o it’s not up to us to assign meaning to someone’s dashed hopes or sadness because of broken promises
- what can we do?
o when people we know and love are living with disappointment?
- think about a friend who is struggling with a lot of things in his life
- it’s not my job to offer “solutions”
- what I can do, and what we can all do, is climb to the top of Pisgah with them
o and not be afraid to stand side by side, looking into the land they may never reach
o offer ourselves as a presence as they feel the wind at their back, struggling to see God’s presence in all the mess of the world
o again, not trying to solve anything or offer answers to questions that we can’t really answer
- think again about the faith of Moses
o that faith that may have been strongest not in his confrontations with Pharaoh
o maybe his strongest moment of faith was on display as he sat with God, looking out on the setting sun over the promised land
§ looking out over the horizon of his own life
o and seeing, deeply understanding that his story was part of a much larger story
- maybe it’s our job to not offering solutions, but a Pisgah perspective
o that points to a much larger story than what we often see in our lives
§ and to do our best to find the joy in that story
o share those times in our lives that we’ve seen that joy
§ when we’ve had these experiences of overwhelming gratitude in those moments that could easily drag us towards being ungrateful
- this is one of the central claim of our faith as Christians
o that our story, our experiences aren’t isolated from others and from God
§ their part of a much bigger story of creation, fallenness, redemption, and ultimately of Christ coming back in final victory over the powers of darkness
- our stories of suffering and redemption, of sin and grace, of mountaintops and valleys
o are all part of God’s ongoing story of creation, pointing towards Jesus
§ if we believe God, it’s hard to be disappointed in that story
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