The Sacred in the Midst of the Secular
Hebrews 11:1-3 (NIV)
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Introduction: John Killinger, in "Finding God in a Busy World," said I was in Brooklyn Heights some months ago to visit the church where one of the greatest Congregationalist ministers had once preached, the great Henry Ward Beecher. In the evening, I walked with one of my hosts along the promenade that overlooks Manhattan. I had never realized that there was such a wonderful place in Brooklyn Heights to see Manhattan. At night the whole island of Manhattan is lit up like a great tiara of jewels. You can sit there and see the ships coming in and out. You can look at that panorama of lights and be amazed at the beauty of the nighttime city.
As we walked along the promenade, my hostess talked about her life when she had arrived there several years before. Her husband had left her, and she was having difficulties with her only child, a daughter. She had come to this place at night thinking she could not go on. She hadn't wanted to take her life, but she didn't know how she could go on in the pain and the agony she was feeling.
She said she sat on one of the benches and looked across the bay at the city. She stared out at Liberty Island in the distance, and she watched the tug boats as they moved in and out of the bay. She sat, and she sat. The longer she sat, she said, the more her life seemed to be invested with a kind of quietness that came over her like a spirit.
Down deep she began to feel peaceful again. She said she felt somehow that God was very near to her, as if she could almost reach out and touch God. Better yet, she didn't need to reach out. God was touching her. She felt whole and complete and healed as she sat there that evening. It became a turning point in her life.
"Since then," she said, "whenever I feel under pressure at my job or from any personal problems, I come down here and sit on this very bench. I'm quiet; I feel it all over again, and everything is all right."
Sometimes there is no sense of inadequacy that sets us to searching for God in the midst of our daily lives. Sometimes we live from day to day with a gradual decline from religious experience that finds us one day asking “where is God?” We look around and it seems God has been swallowed up in the drudgery of life. The mystery is gone and only the mundane remains. Our lives have become like the soap opera. “Like the sands of the hourglass, so go the days of our lives.”
It is exactly in that type of existence that we must awaken our sense of God, through the exercise of faith. Only with God does our life really find meaning, but we can not find God in our observable day to day existence, unless we see reach out in faith and see the invisible hand of God that exists behind what is seen. Through faith, we can escape the secular mindset that looks around and says, “This is it, this is all there is.” We must escape the secular mindset if we are to enjoy the sacred presence of God.
I. Escaping the Secular Mindset through a Sacred Reliance
A. Trusting God in Great Anticipation
- The Heinz Ketchup Commercial is noted for its song – “Anticipation, Anticipation is making me wait. The purposes of God are worth waiting for. We savor the moment of sure satisfaction so much that it makes even our waiting worthwhile. We sit with our mouth watering like Pavlov’s dog. We know that what we are waiting for is on the way, and though it might take awhile, it is well worth the wait.
B. Trusting God without Reservation
- A reservation is a place withheld. If we are to trust God fully there can be no place withheld from him. It is a trust that is certain in even the worst of circumstances. It is the hardest times that need the most certainty in our trust.
C. Trusting God without Observation
- Trusting God out of your sight. Some say seeing is believing. Others say, I won’t believe it unless I see it (Thomas). Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.
- Our whole scientific system was founded on the discovery of God through science, and science served as an aid to faith because the observation necessary to document scientific experiment served to point to the unseen hand behind the forces at work. Later, the observation became god, and the hand behind the forces was discarded for the knowable. It was what we could see, feel hear or measure in some way that became God, instead of the unseen. Science became the discovery of man, instead of the discovery of God. We like the things that we can prove and explain. It makes us uncomfortable to leave open the door of the unknown.
II. Escape the Secular Mindset through the Sacred Record
A. A Sacred History of Faith
- We have in this chapter, the bluebloods of the faith. These people form the lineage of faith that makes up a heavenly family. If we are going to escape the secular mindset, we have to cut in line. In dancing, we say, may I cut in? In lunch lines, the popular saying is, “no ditching.” If we are to escape the secular mindset, and enjoy sacred fellowship, we must cut in line. “no ditching” does not apply here. This is a line you should cut into.
B. A Sacred commitment of Faith
- The people of faith that we read about in this Chapter of Hebrews lived by faith. Abraham was a great man of faith. He committed himself to God, as did all of the other heroes of the faith.
- We have to be willing to be put on record. You hear about news reporters doing interviews, and people make statements that they want to keep “off the record.” We have to be willing to stake our claim, choose our side, draw a line in the sand, and say, this is where I stand, for the record, we will be drawn into an off the record faith.
- When two people get married, there commitment is public, and it is entered into the courthouse, “for the record.” I want to go on record today and say I love Jesus, and I am committed to God my savior. In the midst of a profane, and secular world, we must draw a line of faith and commitment that will stand the test of time. Not just the test of time as it looks back on our life, but the test of time while our lives are in the making. It will do for even now, while I change the oil in my car, and run the hoops of my daily routine. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Just like a married couple, if they are to last and their love is to be proven true, it must stand up to the pressures of each day.
C. A Sacred Decoration of Faith
- Medals of valor are given to heroes. People are commended and recognized for their achievements. There is a reason that the people that this chapter goes on to mention are called heroes. Heroes do what is right. Often you will read of, or hear of some great act of courage on the news. The hero being interviewed seems to think it strange that people would call him a hero. They will often say, “I only did what was the right thing to do.” Isn’t that what makes up a hero though? The difference between a hero and one that is not is doing the right thing. The one who can not leave a child to burn in a fire, but rushes in to save them from the flames is a hero because they see the right thing to do, and in spite of the danger involved, does the right thing. Just like the fellows that downed the plane in Somerset and challenged armed terrorists in order to thwart the attempt on our nation’s capitol, we too must do the right thing.
- The right thing for each of us to do is to trust God. It is right to do, because God is trustworthy. He is faithful. It is wrong not to trust a God who is trustworthy. He is worthy of our trust, yet to deny him our trust and by refusing to put our faith in Him, we become the villain in the story, because we do not do the right thing.
III. Escape the Secular Mindset through a Sacred Recognition
A. Open your Eyes to the sights of Creation
- Allow your eyes to see the wonder of creation. Stop and look around you and recognize the world you are in.
- Stop and smell the roses Is more than a prescription for relaxation. It is an invitation to wonder and discovery.
- At railroad crossings, there is often a sign that tells passersby to “Stop, Look, and Listen.” Many just rush on through at their own peril. The danger lies in refusing to take notice.
B. Open your Mind to the Secret Revelation
- Just as the painting gives witness to the painter, so does Creation give witness to the hand of God. The argument of design is truly convincing if we are willing to let it speak to us through the eyes of faith. Our understanding can be enlightened, and God is revealed if we do not draw our line of discovery at those things we see. The things we see are only the surface. The observable things we take notice of, are only indicators of the unseen. Each brushstroke of nature is a revelation of God, who has masterfully designed the whole. It is a painting signed in blood. It is His and He has poured himself into its making and its redemption. He is the Master and creator, and his creatures are still experiencing the touch of the Master’s hand as the unseen hand wields His brush painting on the canvas of our lives.
C. Open your Ears to the Silent Communication
- God often speaks in silent ways. He speaks to us today through the Bible. This is one way that He offers us to listen to Him. He communicates to us through prayer, and in the hidden recesses of our hearts if we take time to listen. God often speaks to us through unseen things. He exists in the midst of the mundane. He is there through the monotony of life, waiting to open our eyes to the mystery. There is a communication that goes deeper than words. For those who do not insist on conventional and accepted means of communication, God whispers His messages through the recorded pages of our lives and we can hear his message if we take the time to listen.
- Like two old friends sitting on the porch, who don’t say anything, but have the deepest understanding of one another through friendship and familiarity, we can sit in the presence of God and hear His heart, and know He hears us and understands.
Conclusion: God is not just in the far off reaches of the galaxy, but He is here in the everyday monotony of life. He is here in our comings and our goings. He is here whether we acknowledge Him or not. He is communicating through the unseen, and reveals himself to us, if we will only listen. By faith, we can find meaning in the mundane through the touch of the mysterious hand of God. Through His presence, God can make peeling potatoes a sacred event.