A case of Déjà vu

Exodus 17:1-7, Matthew 21:23-32,

Philippians v2:1-13

Déjà vu is a term to describe the phenomenon of having a strong sensation that an event or experience that you are in now is the same as one you’re had in the past. Sought of like a “groundhog day” but focusing on a particular incident and the other day I suffered from a serious case of it.

I knew I had been there before because I could feel it during and most definitely after. A case of Déjà vu that I did not need to see a Physiatrist about but rather just turn to the Book of Romans Chapter 7, verse 15 and hear the apostle Paul tell me that he too suffered the same when he writes that: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I don’t want to do, I do.”

For us it’s actually more groundhog day than Déjà vu because it’s not a sensation, it’s a reality that all who walk this earth carrying sin on their back will know all too well. Yet maybe for God the Father who chooses to forgive and remember the sins no longer of those in Jesus Christ it is a little “Déjà vu-ish” as described by a theologian who once mused of God’s reaction to our continued waywardness with his  “royal shrug of shoulders and thoughts of here we go again”. 

His royal shrug of the shoulders as He sees His children that he has released from captivity in Egypt mumbling and grumbling as we heard in our reading from Exodus about the lack of water. (And) it’s not lost on me that prior when faced with the chasing Egyptians in hot pursuit the problem was not of not enough water, but too much water. Yet amongst all this God provides by firstly separating the Red sea to bring dry ground, and now here, to let water flow on the now unwanted dry ground from a rock.

God’s royal shrug of the shoulders when future patriarch by birthright Jacob seemingly only had to cross the road to become Israel but went off distracted in all manner of ways.

The royal shrug of the shoulders that maybe the Son of King David speaks of in Ecclesiastes chapter one. King David’s son Solomon who when asked by God the Father in a dream of “what shall I give thee” responded with “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” Solomon here was asking for wisdom which ironically is very wise for a boy King recorded in Jewish tradition to be of the age of 12 years old or so who went on to write that:

A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.

The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.

All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.

All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.

“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

People here “under the sun” are always looking and listening, attempting to be satisfied, but always want more and we never seem to find what other generations missed. This is no isolated case of Déjà vu, it’s a Déjà vu epidemic that’s being going since the first sunset over the Garden of Eden with an apple tree carrying less fruit than meant to be. A Déjà vu epidemic that will continue until The Son of the Father comes again in the clouds to usher in the dawn of the new heaven and the new earth.

So what to do as we await that great day never mind what to do with all these “I do not do what I want to do, but do what I don’t want to do’s”.  Maybe we could just be like Kenny from the same titled movie where as a divorced man and being asked by a worried soon to be newlywed responded with (just go with it) and remember it’s just an “I do day.” Sought of like this sinner up the front today giving this message to the good people listening struggling with sin.

Justified in faith in Christ alone and in trust in forgiveness in Christ alone have we not received the saving cloak of His righteousness both today and all our days that follow. You better believe it. No, you have to believe it because there is no other way.

So what to do now with all these do’s? I could say just go with it but that makes about as much sense to me as when I hear the pop/rock “supergroup The Police sing their famous lyrics of “…all I want to say to you (is) De do do do, de da da da.

Ironically that is a serious song about being confused in life. Problem is, I’m not confused because I know the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ our Saviour who  did not confuse things and kept it very simple for simpletons like me by telling us in John 5: 24 that: “ Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

It’s not that I’m confused, it’s just that I’ve had a guts full of being like the son in today’s  parable who responds  “Yes Sir, I will go” as you’re asked,  only to then not turn up because I had received a better offer.

Déjà vu yet again as I see myself in the garden eating the forbidden fruit. Déjà vu as I see myself released by God from my captivity and yet still wondering in the wilderness as God persists to prune away at my long held paths to anything but Him and Déjà vu as I see myself as Jacob only needing to “cross the road” to his destiny and yet travel the highways and byways to all manner of trouble and strife.

In my second sermon to you two years and seven months ago I mentioned that near my ordination a Pastors wife who knew me as a teenager remarked that “you will be a good pastor because you know what sin is”. So good a pastor it would seem that at the end of the service two years and seven months ago that was so riddled with my clumsy mistakes that one of our dear sisters in Christ graciously thanked me for personally uplifting her by way of seeing that “that even the Pastor” can make such a muck of things.

Even though I would have preferred those listening to be uplifted by means other than my unintentional self-ridicule I was comforted that at least someone got something from of it. Knowing that the Lord can work in mysterious ways maybe it was a sign to continue to conduct our services in such a manner. Although some may say it was a sign that has eventuated it has not been my intention and that’s my point.

A fumbling blithering mess or not, you are stuck with me just as God the Father is stuck with me because of my belief in His Son as my Savior. For me that is a good place to be stuck because in you I see myself and in myself I see you. Not my particular sins in you for I’m sure you have enough of your own. But in you and you in me though other paths beckon, we have left the wilderness and crossed the road and found our destiny that is into the waiting arms of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

You and I, though daily we alternate like that of the two son’s in the vineyard who promise to go but don’t, and who won’t go but does, because of Christ are still welcomed home and clothed in his  best robe by God the Father. The robe of Christ’s righteousness that he adorns to his prodigal sons and daughters, his robe that both cloaks our dark sins of the past yet still allowing the intense light of Christ to enter.

Paul the man who said “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I don’t want to do I do” also states that: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Truth is amongst all our thorns of our own cause or not, the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us in both matters of salvation and in our worldly matters here and now, and in knowing of his unending and undeserved grace up and against our flaws and guilt we fall in weakness at his feet, not to lie on our bed of nails, but to be lifted up in the strength of His pierced hands and hear Him ask us, implore us to: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” To ask that we cast all our anxiety of world and sin on Him and not be burdened with these yokes of slavery no more and make a new start.

In 1968 Civil rights activist Martin Luther King speaking on societies injustices and before those seeking equality gave his great “mountain top” where he said “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.”

Though I haven’t been to the mountain top and I haven’t seen the Promised Land, I do know it’s God’s will that we be there and most certainly in Jesus Christ so will it be.

But I have been to the depths and gullies of following my own will and quite frankly I’ve had a guts full of its empty promises and unfulfilling and accusing ways. A place had it not been from the actions of The Father, The son and the Holy Spirit would I have remained.

Here today, should you believe in Christ as your Saviour and yet carry the pain of having fallen short, I urge you leave knowing that those issues have been taken care off and are no more. You have been set free from the past to the dawn of your new life. A life that may not be easier, but a life where the load is carried by Christ.

The saying life sucks is wrong, it’s just that my way sucked and if you can relate to this in parts of your life, I urge you to leave in repentance. To join me not in just the repentance and asking for forgiveness of past sins and actions, but the repentance of turning from self to God and letting His will be your will and gain freedom with yourself as you come to  know the freedom that is in Christ.  Amen.

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