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January 8, 2023 – Sermon Transcript

Rest: A Very Good Place To Start - Jan 8, 2023

Pastor Mike (00:01):

Does that really matter? Does, does that really have eternal consequences? If I win that argument, will, will it change anything if I, if I possess that car or have that house or have that job or whatever? Does it make a difference?

Hannah Hunter (00:16):

Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sundays with The Gathering. I’m Hannah Hunter, the director of Digital Reach here at Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. As we head into the new year, pastor Mike brings us a message on reorienting ourselves so that our days reflect our values and we can enjoy our lives working from a place of rest.

Pastor Mike (00:36):

Well, I know New Year’s already passed and, um, but this is our first time gathering back together this year as the Gathering Place. And we’re still in that season, um, of New Year where people are still talk about, you know, the new year, the new you kind of thing. And, um, and I’m seeing all these like really cool advertisements everywhere, especially like in gyms, personal trainers, um, diet centers. Um, basically any person I’ll say about this, I go any person that is involved in like the, the personal life improvement industry, I mean, they’re probably making a killing right now. There’s a lot of opportunities and people are like, yeah, I want to get my, my life in order. But it’s funny though because like, you know, nowadays people are a little bit cynical about this New year’s stuff because, you know, again, um, statistics show that most people, you know, drop their New Year’s resolutions within the first week and then by three months everything is all forgotten about.


Um, but yet we still, even though we don’t make these conscious like New Year’s resolutions, there’s still, there’s something inside of us that says, you know, um, I want to do better. Right? You know, I mean the, the personal planners, they’re all out in the stores right now and they’re getting bought up and everything. And, and I was just wondering, you know, um, after being eight days into the new year of 2023, how many of you have actually, uh, still holding on to any kind of quasi resolutions you have or come convinced, okay, we got, there’s one honest person holding on. Say, I made a resolution and, uh, and I’m gonna try to try to do good on it. You know, whether it’s start that Bible reading program or, um, you know, try not to cuss as much. Um, all those kind of things. Um, you know, we’re, we’re trying to, you know, just settle down a little bit because we all want to be the best version of ourselves.


And as we’ve been praying, um, which it’s another story, but a whole team of us at the church, you know, we came together and we’re just like, God, what are you saying to us? And what needs to be said in our Sunday worship? And out of that prayer time outta that, that discussion time, um, a message came up, um, that, that we felt to start the year with a message that would help us to reorient our lives, um, reorient the pattern of our lives according to a different outlook, according to, you know, the values that we see in scripture. Um, you know, and not just be caught up into just the regular race that, that we’re always into. And believe it or not, where God put us at, um, was to start with the creation story, seven day creation story. And so that’s what we’re gonna jump into today.


Uh, Genesis chapter one, verses one to five, and, um, and just listen to these words, and you can read ’em as they’re on the screen. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters, and God said, let there be light. And there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness he called night. And there was evening and there was warning. The first day when I, when I read this text, and I, and I’ve read it in several different stages of my, my life and, and growing up and, you know, being in church and outta church, you know, um, it’s not one of the most exciting places in the Bible for me, <laugh>.


Um, you know, as a kid, I remember I was just thinking back and, and when I first heard this text, I remember it was like in Sunday School. And, um, or for me it was like Catholic catechism. And basically it was just like, you know, the purpose they want us to know was that God created the earth. That was it. You know, God created the earth and, and we had to kind of remember, memorize the days of, of when God created the earth. And that was just about the, the extent of it. Nothing really exciting. Then, I dunno, something happened like when I was, um, like a teenager and I started getting more involved in scripture, and instead of like this being focused on, God created the earth. Now this is a trend that was happening, especially in the church that I was attending. Um, man, we saw ourselves as fighting with the culture.


And so it all became this like faith ver versus science debate, you know? And we, and we would just try to prove, you know, that there, there’s a literal six day creation, and we would get into all that kind of stuff. And then later on I get disseminating and, and we’re reading the same text. But now, you know, we’re, we’re looking at the Hebrew and of it, we’re looking at the, um, different, you know, trying to see the nuances. Are there different authors? We’re getting a lot into textual criticism. And, and what does this really mean? And, and what does the theology behind this? And again, it’s exciting, but it’s like, eh, it’s okay, you know? But today, when I, when I’m reading the text and, and I’m, and I’m praying and reflecting over it, you know, you know what I really want to get out of this.


Um, I wanna hear what God’s trying to say to me and to the world, that that’s what I really want. I mean, I, I, I don’t need to get, I’m not a scientist. I don’t need to, to get into that stuff. I, I know that God created well, but, but, but I want to go beyond just God, create the earth and, and then, and then really see, like to take the text for what it is. I mean, this is a creation story. This has been passed down for many, many years before it was even written form. And, and just to understand life and understand God through this, so that, that’s what, what I’ve been looking at. And so, and I believe that there’s something in this text that speaks to us and is relevant to what you and I are experiencing today. So get ready.


So let’s just dive in again to verse one and two. The first two verses of the Bible. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty. So just try to imagine the world as being formless and empty. And this is, that darkness was over the surface of the deep. You know, some scholars see that, that in the beginning, maybe the world just created, began with just water and this, and there was this water, and there was like this, in the Greek imagery, there’s, uh, Hebrew imagery, there’s this imagery of chaos going on the deep. And this darkness represents, there’s something that doesn’t make sense. Um, I mean, the world is not in place. The, there, there’s something off going on, and there’s darkness over this deep beginning of life, you know, throughout the world. Darkness has a very negative connotation most of the time.


Um, you know, it’s a lot of association with evil. I mean, I’m a Star Wars guy, you know, and, and you know, and we always talk about, you know, staying away from the dark side. Um, I’m a pastor. I’ve been ar been around a lot of people that had near death experiences, and I never had one person say, you know, I had a near death experience. I heard a voice say, go to the darkness. Um, you know, I ne I never heard ’em say that, you know, nobody wants to see darkness at the end of the picture, okay? I mean, we, we know we wanna see that light, whether it’s a train light or whatever, but we wanna see a light at the end of the tunnel, not darkness. And it’s easy for us, especially in the world that we live in today, to, to almost have like a negative or cynical view of, of our world.


Um, you know, sometimes we say, you know what? I just gotta get by, just got to exist. Um, you know, why change the structure of things? I mean, just, things are just messed up. The the world is bad. Things are going in the wrong place, you know, I just need to survive. What’s the point of all this? And, and so when I hear those, those words, those, those images of like, okay, that the world that we live in is formless without any kind of real structure or real boundaries, any kind of real defining qualities. I see my world that I live in, the world that we live in right now. I mean, there’s just like people sometimes we don’t know what up is, where’s up and where’s down? And, and then also there’s a lot of emptiness. Things that we say mean something, that they really value something.


But yet, and at the end of the day, it’s kind of like, does that really matter? Does does that really have eternal consequences? If I win that argument, will, will it change anything if I, if I possess that car or have that house or have that job or whatever, does it make a difference? And then we have darkness, which again, is associated with evil, and we ask ourselves, what is the point? But verse two, does it end with just the darkness over the, of over the surface of the deep it says, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters, over all that chaos that’s going on over all that, the, the darkness is present, the emptiness is present, the confusion is present. And in the midst of all that emptiness, confusion, formlessness and everything, the spirit of God is there. And I want you to take heart because maybe right now as I’m describing this picture, you’re having a mental picture of your life.


You’re, you’re seeing like, you know what, I, I’m, I am that formless person. You know, I’m not, I’m not sure who God has called me to be. You know, my, my family. I have this, these dreams and aspirations for, or even like, maybe my personal goals, but I haven’t quite figured it out. And then I invest all this energy and time to be the better me. But deep inside there’s still emptiness. I look in my community, I volunteer, I try to do good. I try to make a difference, but yet still, I mean, things just stink a, a bit, you know, again, I’m cleaning up my language this year. And, and anyways, um, so things just stink a little bit. You know, we’re we’re trying to, to, you know, we want ’em too good, but yet the problems just seem to like just flood over us.


And I want you to know that, you know, it’s easy for us to feel hopeless. It’s easy for us to feel tired, almost to the point of just, um, being just exhausted. Does anyone out here just have that feeling of just being exhausted? That you’re tired of always just trying? And the good news is that in the midst of all of that, that’s where God’s work begins. The spirit of God is, is over hovering over that waters of chaos, out of the formlessness, out of the emptiness where darkness seems to have all the victory. If you’re in those places, if you’re seeing those dark places in our community, and maybe it’s in your soul, you’re just like, you know, I got a lot of stuff going on and I need a lot of help, and it’s really confusing and, and it just feels overwhelming, if that’s even your soul crying out. The good news is this, the spirit of God is at work already. God’s grace is at work. And so just those places that you see, those situations of your life, those relatives that you’re praying for and all that take heart, God is at work. Let us continue. And God said, let there be light. And there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.


The thing that we have to identify today is that God gives us an alternative way of living, gives us a, an alternative outlook on life and an alternative identity than what has been handed to us. When this text was, became a really important issue. And I want you to, to, to just kind of think back historically from this, um, this, this text was given to the Hebrew people right after the Exodus of Egypt, okay? You know, remember Moses is on the mountain. You know, he’s, he’s given God’s commandments and the law was given, you know, like, like we, we know that Moses, according to the tradition, you know, he, he penned out the, the, the what we know of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. And, and it, and all this was codified after this. And this was very important stuff because the life of the Israelites, now listen to this very closely, okay? The life of the Israelites was defined by 400 years of slavery.


They just existed. And the only way that they could ensure their existence was to work. If not the Egyptians would kill ’em. You worked. And then, you know, then, you know, your benevolent master would give you just enough to survive, not get ahead, just enough to survive. There was no freedom, there was no creativity there wa there was no day off or having a good time. I mean, it was just, you existed to work. And the Hebrews had this in their mindset for over 400 years, generation to generation of just work exist. And so what we see from the very beginning is that God’s saying, you know what? That’s a clear definition of what darkness looks like. And I want to say that a lot of us that, that live in the United States today, we’re still living in that kind of darkness. A lot of us are still bound with just being wor just working, being busy.


And we don’t see that there is an alternative for us. And we say that we, we want to be free, but even we know in the scripture when the, when the, when the Hebrews were, were freed from Egypt and they were living in the promised land, Egypt was still inside their soul, right? And they, and they needed to, to learn and decide how to be a different people. And that’s why this, this became very important at the very beginning when they’re, when they’re defining the creation story, they’re also defining an order or pattern of life. And they said, this stuff is so important because it will define the person that you are called to be. Now here’s how it relates to us, like right day. And now, you know what? Very few people have this one radical experience, and then they’re fixed for life. Very few people do that.


But what, but what happens to us is of Jesus, is that God claims us and we start having an awakening, right? And we become aware of God’s things in our lives. And, and we say, you know, I gotta make some decisions. And I realize I have a slave mentality in almost every area of my life. I am a slave to work. I’m just a slave to things. I am a slave to emptiness. I am a slave to formlessness. And so the only thing that we can start doing is making incremental changes in our lives. And I like this quote from James Clear. He says this, he says, every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. I want you to think about that for a moment.


We’re in this new year time. We’re in this new season, and we wonder why we, our re our resolutions always like fall by the wayside, or why we don’t have that deep change in our lives. It’s because we’re not making those right choices on a regular basis. Even though God has set us free, even though God has given us so many opportunities and is showing us an alternative way of living, we still take the steps of a slave. We still embrace that life. And, and, and what I want to encourage you to help you understand is that there is another way, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it takes those gradual steps of changes. Say, okay, God, I trust you. I’m gonna turn to you and I keep going. And that’s what we’re gonna do right now is keep going in scripture. Verse five, God called the light day. And the darkness night, he called night. And there was evening and there was morning the first day, I’m gonna read it one more time. God called the light day and the darkness night. And there was evening and there was morning the first day.


Something’s off here. Something’s wrong with this description according to how you and I live. Let’s just sit with it for a second. How do you start your day? When does your day begin? I heard someone say morning, right? We start our day with the morning, you know, um, people of faith, Christians, and even people that are not of faith, you know, say, you know, I gotta, I gotta start my day with this like, peaceful thing, right? You know, I got to, um, you know, maybe have my devotions or my quiet time meditation and then, you know, try to get myself, you know, drink, drink enough cups of coffee, you know, read some scriptures, you know, those of us who have kids. The pattern gets a little bit different because then it’s like, okay, I gotta corral everybody and gonna get everybody in their place and maybe find some me time, maybe not, but, but everything has to kind of get to going.


And then there’s work, and that’s when the day really begins, right? You know, when, when it’s time to go to work and we, and we, and we, and we jump into our cars and we go to work and we jump on online, and then it’s just like, bam, bam, bam, bam. I mean, it, it is like, fine, you get in my face, you know? Yeah, I’m, I’m a Jesus Christian follower and all that, but don’t get in my way. Don’t sabotage my work. I have things to do. And you’re pushing all this stuff and you’re dealing with something. Maybe you have a lunch and maybe you have like a, a meeting with a pastor and you’re like, okay, you know, let’s just be zen-like and all that stuff. <laugh>, you know, and then, and then we go back to work and, you know, and someone ticks us off and, you know, and again, it’s just, hurry, hurry, hurry.


And we’re working because we got bills to pay. Some of us have debt to pay off. I mean, we’re, we’re just trying to make it, you know, then we have dreams that we want. Like, I, I gotta work to get that one vacation because, you know, I’m so exhausted, so I’m gonna exhaust myself to get to that vacation. And we go, go, go. And then what happens? We get home and we’re just like, man, I need, I need to chill out. And so what do we do? Like when we, we chill out, you know, like sometimes some of us, sometimes our families eat together. Sometimes we just shove a bunch of food in our mouth, you know, like, you know, we’re like animals coming to the trough or we go through a fast food line. But you know what, it feels like, it feels a lot like that formless empty life or darkness is raining.


And let’s be honest, maybe apart from like a time where you’re worshiping with us on Sunday or listening to this podcast, and maybe a few of the times during the week, most of us are living like slaves. Let’s be honest. Most of us are just living like slaves, just pushing through. We’re pushing through work, meaningless activities, emails at all hours, then we have to like, catch our breath. So what do we do? We, you know, maybe we scroll some social media just to zone out a little bit. Cause that, oh, we gotta rest. I just gotta stop thinking. And then all of a sudden we start coveting everybody’s stuff and everything, right? Binge watch a, a series or a couple series, whatever, you know, but just, and then some people I know, I know a lot of people, they go back to work again, even at night, you know, they’re checking their emails, they’re doing all this stuff, they’re preparing. I mean, it’s just, they’re, they’re, they’re living differently.


But I believe that there is some truth in this text, a truth that you and I need to hear you see in Judaism every single day. And this is what Jesus was taught, and this is what his disciples understood the world was like, their daily routines, they saw themselves as being part of the creation story, God’s order of life. And then here’s the thing that is so counterintuitive. They start their day in the evening, think of all the Jewish holidays and everything, right? It all starts at sundown. That’s when they start counting the next day at sundown. In evening, when things go, we like, as Christians, we, we start first thing in the morning and we have evidence of scripture, like, of the psalm about seeking God in the morning, all that. But, but again, the people that came right out of exile, when, when the, when the, when the, when the, the wise people of the day that were with Boal that were, they’re putting all this text down.


They’re trying to hear God’s inspired word. It was not a typo to say that there was evening, then morning the first day. We need to pay attention to that. So what, what is happening there? How, how did their evening start? They, they, they did the work and all the stuff that you and I are used to, but they said that work is not the essence of life. But really when the day begins, it’s out of that chaos, light comes on for them. Light comes on. They start by lighting a candle, family dinner, coming together. They say their prayers. And, and even though darkness is a, is a very negative thing, especially in ancient Judaism. And even in current Judaism, modern Judaism, they realize that even though the sun’s going down the evening, the light still exists and God is still at work. In other words, darkness does not have victory.


Darkness does not rain. And so this is a call to them, to reorient their lives, reorient their culture, to begin life from the place of rest, to begin life, from the place of victory. Uh, or like we as Christians begin life in the place of victory. Our calling from a place of peace. So I, I, one of my friends in the, in the area, his name is Ra, rabbi Strauss of Temple Judea, I pushed him on this. I said, you know, when does the day begin for Jewish? He said, well, we live in two system world. And, and, and he, and he is like, but really, day starts at the evening. And I was like, why? And we went back and forth on this, and he, and all of a sudden he, he, he, he writes this to me. He says this, he says, Mike, by adopting the night before day system, our sages convey a message about priorities.


True. We must work to support ourselves and our families, but employment is merely a means not the goal. Our day really begins when we arrive home from work, when we sit and enjoy a festive atmosphere with loved ones. Thus, the day starts of the evening in the home together with family. Do you see the difference? We talk a about this, um, here at the Gathering place because I mean, we, we want to get, you know, God’s rhythms of life. And we say that, you know, um, we don’t work, we don’t rest from our work, but we work from a place of rest. And I believe that this is the invitation that God is calling us to do, to not just run this rat race and just keep on going, then be like, oh, I gotta chill out. But what if the invitation today is to accept God’s claim on your life, choosing light over darkness, freedom over slavery, order over chaos, instead of that empty living and just kind of this, ah, I just gotta just finish and rest and all that and just get back to work.


Why don’t we choose to live according to our purpose and calling, you know, to have some definition for us. So instead of that hurried life, um, jumping on the emails after dinner or, or getting our devices or burning that midnight oil, or the mindless scrolling, or the binge watching on tv, or even having the isolated meals. I mean, you know, what’s about in the house sometimes? I mean, it’s, it happens in my house where we just, everybody eats at their own different times and different things. I mean, that, that’s just dumb, okay? I mean, we’re not called to exist like that. And I believe that there’s something more, and I know it’s hard, especially us who have kids. It’s, it’s really hard. I get it. But we have to model a different pattern of life instead of resting from our work and, and then having those sleepless nights of worry.


Why don’t we begin our day like this, have a mental check in our day and say, you know what? I’m gonna begin with the evening and I’m gonna start my day with rest knowing that God is in control. That just as God brought order to the chaos, that that’s how the day begins. The day begins with order of chaos. It begins with God, even before I do my devotions. And, and then when I’m starting from rest, I’m also at a place of delight, counting my blessings, you know, focused on what I value, being mindful of, of the people that God’s provided in my life, being mindful of the provision. Um, take a moment to enjoy your food. Um, maybe turn on your light or light your candle, or do some kind of a ritual in, in your home to realize that you know what, Jesus is the light of the world.


He came into our world, and that light cannot be extinguished. And and I wanna invite you to, to consider that, to consider it even tonight, to say, you know what? Tonight when I wind things down and prepare for Monday morning, you know what? I’m gonna see that, um, I’m gonna have this awareness that actually the day starts when that sun goes down. And, and I’m gonna start my day with peace. And then, and let it roll in and see it roll and, and see how it affects, uh, your sleep. See how it affects your morning routines. What would happen if you did all of your work and activity beginning with a place of rest? And that’s a hard concept because we, we have slave mentality all over us, but God is inviting us to freedom. Last couple things. I’m gonna say in the Western church, this is a big Sunday, okay? Because January 6th is epiphany. And so, um, going back to our Christmas season, okay, that’s when the wise men, the magi came, you know, your, your people from from Persia came and they, and they worshiped Jesus. And epiphany means basically the lights came on. There’s an awareness, the lights came on. And also this Sunday is the Sunday that the church recognizes the baptism of Jesus.


So let’s bring us all home. God has given you an invitation to say, you know what? Resist the, the way of this world and, and kind of pattern your life according to my ways. And there’s some wisdom here, even in the creation story. The wisdom for today is to begin with a life of rest. Rest in the evening that all is well, and I can go to sleep because that’s when the day starts. And then, and that God’s working in the background of the night, and I can have peace in that light is over the darkness, everything is okay. And then I keep on going. Let’s have our epiphany, God awaken us to this. And then also remember our baptism. Because our baptism is not something that we chose to do. It was God’s claim upon us. So how are we gonna connect this Sunday’s faith with Monday’s work?


Let’s ask God to turn on the lights in our soul and, and show us those areas in our lives where we’ve been living as slaves, even though our identity is that we are free. We are free people in Jesus Christ. God has a claim for us, and we can remember that freedom by remembering our baptism. Remember the spirit of God over that darkness. That’s God’s claim upon your life. And so what I wanna invite you to do is that on this day, especially every time you touch water, there’s, there’s a, there’s some water actually, um, all over the place. But whether you wash your hands or when you take your shower or whatever, but every time you touch water today, remember your baptism. Remember God’s healing that, that came over you and claimed you and says, you are my daughter. You are my son. You belong to me. And it’s not what you do to earn this because this is what I did, and I’m not done with you. And then choose to reject the reign of darkness in our life and choose to live in the Hawaii.

Hannah Hunter (29:18):

Hey, beautiful people. This is Hannah Hunter. I’m the director of Digital Reach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. Thank you for joining us this week. We’d love getting to share our journey in Christ and community with you. And if you’re in the Palm Beach area, we’d love to get to connect with you in person at our Sunday Worship service at 1115. For more information about our community in faith, check out our website at the gathering place Thanks for