Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church
1 Chronicles 17:16-27
November 1, 2015
Today, I’m going to be talking about prayer and I would like to point out one thing done in Washington this week that I found encouraging. Don’t take this as a political endorsement, but as an example of how things should be. In addressing the House of Representatives after being elected Speaker, Paul Ryan asked this of the body: “Let’s pray for each other: Republicans for Democrats, and Democrats for Republicans. And I don’t mean pray for a conversion. Pray for a deeper understanding.” Although today I’m talking about prayer in relationship to stewardship, I don’t think you can get much better advice on prayer than that. We pray for understanding. We don’t pray to get our way. We pray for God’s will to be fulfilled.
Today, for the first time in since early May, we won’t be reading from the Book of Acts. Next Sunday, I’ll conclude my series on the first part of Acts as I preach on Paul’s commission. Today, I want us to go back into the Old Testament. King David had just come up with a bright idea. He was living in a fancy palace and the Ark of the Covenant, the visual reminder of God’s presence, was camped out in a tent. David thought it was time to change this arrangement and speaks to Nathan, a prophet and advisor, about his plans for a temple. Nathan agrees that this is a good idea, but that night he hears God telling him otherwise. The temple will not be built by David. So Nathan now has the unpleasant tasks to go back to the king and encourage him to change plans. David was a powerful man and could have done away with his advisor and gone on with the building of a temple, but he doesn’t. Instead, he listens, and then goes to God in prayer. I’ll base my sermon on this prayer. Read 1 Chronicles 17:16-27
You probably all know that I love trains… I enjoy riding them and watching them but also enjoy learning about them. There is a company, RailEx, that’s taking an invocative approach to ship produce from the West Coast to the Eastern Markets. With hubs in California and Washington, they package up railcars for eastern markets and then make a unit train, much like you see with coal trains, which is delivered to their eastern warehouses in New York and Jacksonville, Florida. The trains run across Union Pacific and CSX tracks. These “Fresh Express” trains, because the trains are going to one destination, avoid the “hump yards” which delay shipments and where fragile produce can be harmed as cars bump into one another. Also, each car is able to be monitored for temperature compatible with the produce in such a car. Several times a week, trains of 55 reefers cars leave each western transit warehouse for an eastern distribution warehouse.
I have always like the metaphor of a railroad for the church and am certainly not the first to use it. It is a common metaphor as heard in gospel music for over a century with tunes like “The Gospel Train,” “Life is Like a Mountain Railroad,” and “This Train is bound for Glory.” Long haul shipments is a good way to look at our role as disciples. The church is the train that is heading to glory, and we are the crew. But just like the engineers and conductors on one of the Fresh Express trains, our ride is limited. Railroad employees can only work so long, then they’re required to turn over the throttle as they take a break. Another engineer and conductor will take the train a little further down the line. We, too, have our stretch of track in which we’re to run and then turn over the throttle to a new generation. My question to us is this: “Are we doing the best we can to make sure that the next generation has what they need to successfully complete their run?”
David provides us with a model of how to be a disciple. The focus is not on us and on our needs, it is on God, our Creator, and what God wants from us. Too often we think we have to be overachievers: to have the biggest church, nicest facilities, largest youth group, but what is really important is that we do what we are called to do in a way that will reflect God’s love and grace. In a world overcome by numbers and accomplishments, we have to remember we’re following the shepherd who abandon the flock of 99 for the one, the teacher who proclaims that the first is going to be last.
Although God did not allow David to build a temple (that honor would go to his son, Solomon), God promised great things for his descendants. David is humbled. As one commentator suggests, this is not a prayer of thanksgiving, but one of reconciliation. David accepts his insignificant position in relationship to the creator, but he’s thankful for the promises that God has made to him. And then, David says essentially, “You’ve promised all this, make it so!” David has acquiesced to God’s will, accepting that he won’t be building the temple, but takes hope in promises God has made to him. We don’t always get our way, but we need to realize that God wants the best for us.
In verse 23, David returns to talking about the building of a house, which he has envisioned earlier in the chapter, but there is a significant change. Instead of David building God a house, God promises to build David a house. Of course, this is not a house of stone and wood and adorned with gold and jewels. What’s being spoken of is a metaphorical house. This house, unlike those built with human hands, will last forever. David thought he could do something great for God, now he finds that God is going to do something greater for him. He learns through his encounter the old saying, “We can’t out-give God.”
God has already given us more than we can imagine. We are blessed to have been born at a time in which there is much that we don’t have to fear because of medical successes. I recently saw an advertisement encouraging parents to vaccinate their children. It listed the various deaths and illnesses from all kinds of aliments from polo to small pox to mumps and chicken pox. Instead of having hundreds and even thousands of deaths and tens and hundreds of thousands children ill with each with these diseases, at the most, only a handful today contract or die from them.
We have been blessed to have been born in a part of the world in which we have both freedom and economic opportunity. If we’d been born in Africa, few of us would be here. Most of us would probably be living within sight of our parents’ home and if we did move on, there is a good chance it would be because we are a refugee, fleeing with our families to a new location of relative safety. And none of us look like we’ve had to worry much about from where our next meal is coming.
We have been blessed to have the luxury to take time to enjoy a sunrise or sunset, to see a movie, to enjoy a good meal and many of the finer things in life that we take for granted but that many in the world would see as luxuries.
And finally, we have been blessed to be able to hear of the love of Jesus Christ, to have safe places to worship and to learn, study and to be in fellowship with one another.
As David learned, we can never out-give God. We should humbly accept that, along with accepting that God through Jesus Christ calls us to live in a manner that will further the kingdom and help those in need. We must always remember that Jesus tells us that to those much is given, much is required.
We have been very blessed; we should be a blessing to others! Our congregation is on a new tack. We now have a young new director of Youth and Family Ministries, over the past year we have had some incredible worship experiences, and this is a very generous congregation that supports a large number of missions. A new spirit seems to be rising. Let’s keep focused on God and his work, and we’ll be blessed and continue to be a blessing!
Last week I asked you to add this petition to your prayers from now through Consecration Sunday:
Loving God, we thank you for what you’ve done in Jesus Christ. We bow before you in humility and ask you to show us how we can further your work at Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church, in the community and throughout the world. Amen.
When we come before God in such a manner, like Speaker Ryan’s request for a prayer in the House of Representatives, we open ourselves up to be led by a God who can out-give us any day of the week. As you think about what kind of commitment you might make to God for use in our church’s ministry and mission, remember what God has given you and be humbled. Amen.
 Luke 15:1-7; Matthew 19:30, 20:8, and 20:16; Mark 9:39 and 10:31; Luke 13:30
 Sara Japhet, I & II Chronicles: A Commentary (Louisville: Westminster, 1993), 336.
 Ibid, 336-337.
 Luke 12:48