Sermon: “...For he Cannot Deny Himself”
Guest speaker: Elizabeth Vredevelt
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from October 16, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.
Good morning. I know I was already introduced once; my name is Elizabeth Vredevelt. This might be a bit of a shock. I've never met your pastor. I took a look out in the hallway. I don't think we can pass for the same person, and also, they printed my name in the bulletin already, so I can't tell you that I'm pastor, Grant, but I am a student at Alma College and I know I met one alumni, so there's some Scott's representation here. Alma College is a small liberal arts school smack dab in the middle of Michigan. Um, and I'm from the Grand Rapids area originally, so I'm not very familiar with this side of the state. But thank you for having me here today. Um, it was a little bit ago that Alyssa Davis who is one of the chaplains at Alma College told me about this opportunity to speak with you here today.
So, I did not want to pass up this opportunity to worship with you this morning. I just want to share a bit of what God has placed on my heart and a bit of my testimony of God's faithfulness in my life. Today's scripture, um, that I'll be talking from today comes from Luke chapter 19 verses 37 through 40. We read it a little bit earlier, but I'd like to read it one more time.
When Jesus came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen, saying, blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest. Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, teacher rebuke your disciples. I tell you, Jesus replied, If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out. I'd like to read that last line one more time. I tell you, Jesus replied, If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.
Now we've just met, and this might be, uh, kind of a bold first impression, but I want to start with something that might sound a little bit odd. I think God needs us humans a little less than we think he does, and in different ways, than we've been conditioned to think about our relationship to the creator God. So, before we go any further, let me properly introduce myself. You already know that my, what my name is and where I go to school, but you might not know that I was raised in the Mennonite Church. Some of you might be really familiar with that, I know there are pockets of the Mennonite and Amish around Michigan. But if you're not familiar with the Mennonite Church, the easiest way I like to describe it is that they're kind of cousins of the Amish, a little less strict, but both denominations share several characteristics. Outside, of course, the fundamental beliefs of all Christian faith, which is Christ's life, death, and resurrection, some of the tenets of the Mennonite tradition that are a little bit different are fundamental ideals of modesty and pacifism, and a celebration of a simple lifestyle.
And so, the Mennonite tradition is a very different one to grow up in than a lot of other Protestant denominations. So, when I moved to college and away from my family for the first time a couple of years ago, it was a huge transition for me and my personal life, and especially in my faith. Suddenly my faith was purely my responsibility and my prerogative. There wasn't that compulsion of attendance from my family or from my parents, and my faith had always been something that I claimed as my own. But now it was truly my responsibility. And it was through this shift in my life and this experience, that my mind opened to the possibility of really exploring my faith and the practices that I had held and exploring what they meant for me outside of just my family's beliefs.
And so, throughout my freshman year and into my sophomore year, it was actually about exactly a year ago that I had reached a place in my life where I was finally comfortable with really questioning my faith and what I believed and so it was at this time that the floodgate sort of opened. Once you start examining one aspect of your worldview or your faith, suddenly that opens a lot of doors of examination of what all does this mean and what do I really believe?
What is what I believe for myself, and what is just what my upbringing has led me to believe or practice? And so, this was actually one of the scariest things that I had ever allowed myself to do. To really doubt or question those parts of myself or my faith, that was terrifying and that can shatter your identity.
Who was I if I wasn't a Mennonite? Who was I if I wasn't even a Christian? Those were huge questions, and this was a scary time of exploration. I think that it was worthwhile to take the time and examine what my faith meant to me and what it really meant in my life. And if your parents or grandparents, I know this kind of sounds scary. The kid goes away to college, and they question what they believe, but I promise you we end up fine. It's a pretty natural part of life. And this might seem like an odd pivot, but it was at this. In my life, about a year ago when I was questioning so much that I watched my first scary movie, I know it's almost Halloween.
I promise this is related to our passage but growing up in the Mennonite tradition this was a pretty big deal. This was a taboo thing. We didn't watch scary movies. We weren't allowed to watch movies, especially those, well, we could watch movies, but we weren't supposed to watch movies that could be seen as highlighting or focusing on evil aspects of the spiritual realm. And so, watching this for the first time in college, this was, a huge change from how I've been raised. And I just heard that you guys are having a haunted trail soon. So, if there are any Halloween buffs in here or any scary movie buffs, I will let you know that the movie in question was The Conjuring. It was a terrifying, first scary movie to watch.
This particular movie, it's based on a true story that happened to real people and was well documented. So, I watched it and then I had to go back to my dorm room and my roommate was gone for the weekend. So, it was just me in my dorm room and I did not sleep until seven in the morning that night I was so scared.
But of all of the things that God used in my life, that movie actually made me more aware of the spiritual realm and it actually renewed my faith. So, I'm not saying that horror movies are great tools for spiritual revival. I'm not saying that. But in times of questioning, the Bible shows us, and I think that God meets us where we are. He uses unexpected ways even to show us that it is not our human faith that determines whether or not God is worthy of praise or even whether or not God exists. So, when I watched this movie right, I was reminded that the spiritual world existed, whether or not I was acknowledging it or believing in it at that particular moment or in that time of questioning.
In today's passage in Luke, we read that Jesus is being praised and worshiped for the king that he is. And this is as he's entering Jerusalem. We know as Christians. Since we've been able to read that passage, looking back that this is shortly before his crucifixion and his resurrection. But at this time, at this moment, the disciples did not know this.
And Jesus is entering into Jerusalem in glory. He's on the back of the donkey being praised by the crowds that are crying out blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest. And in this passage further, we see that the Pharisees, they're not comfortable with this at all.
This seems to them to be blasphemous, worship of someone that they don't recognize to be the Messiah. And Jesus makes a statement that I'm sure sounded completely crazy to the Pharisees. It probably rocked them to their core. He says, If the crowds would not cry out, the rocks would. Jesus makes it clear that his glory is not confined to human praise.
Our human praise does not make him more or less worthy of worship. Just as worship of something doesn't make it more or less holy, honorable, or glorified. So, it is with existence as well. I actually could spend my whole life denying that this podium existed if I wanted to. I could never set anything on it. I could walk around it. I could walk past it. I could say that it doesn't exist, but it would not make it less real.
Even in the times when we doubt the most, our doubt doesn't change God's presence. Second Timothy 2:13, another New Testament passage says this in a particular way that's really stuck with me.
This is actually one of my favorite verses. It says, If we are faithless, God is faithful, for he cannot deny himself. God's existence is not limited or diminished by our lack of faith. And something I was reflecting on as I was thinking about this is that often in Christian circles, I think we make God's existence a bit subjective.
We ask people, do you believe in God? And that question of whether or not we believe in God kind of implies that his existence could be dependent on an individual's perspective. Whether they say, Yes, I believe in God, and that would mean that yes, God exists to that person. Or whether they say, No, I don't believe in God. Well then do we believe that you know that God simply doesn't exist just because they're not acknowledging him? Certainly not.
In Mark one, Mark chapter one, verse 34, it says that while Jesus was doing his ministry here on earth, Jesus would not permit the demons to speak that he was casting out for they knew him. And this always strikes me whenever I read that verse, because, it says that Jesus did not want the demons to speak because they would've given away who he was because they knew him.
Jesus wanted us to worship him of our free will through faith. But in so many times and in so many ways in scripture, God, emphasizes that his role as creator and as our heavenly Father does not change. If he is or isn't acknowledged as such by us, he is still God and he's still all of those things. He's still worthy. Finally, if we revisit our first scripture lesson from today, if we look at Philippians versus nine through 11, chapter two, we read that it says very clearly that regardless of what we profess. In the end times at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth. And it says, every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father.
So, at the beginning of my message when I said that I think God needs humans a lot less than we think he does. And let me make it very clear, God calls us, and he uses us for his purpose, absolutely. And God desires relationship and fellowship, no doubt, I'm not saying that at all. But it is clear in the Bible that God doesn't need our faith to make him real. He is still God still king and still Lord of all, even if we doubt or question him, the heavens, nature, and even demons are keenly aware of him and bow to him. What God is, is worthy. God is worthy of our obedience, praise, and worship. He's the I am, the everlasting. And if we do not praise him, then surely even the rocks will cry out.