Sunrise United Methodist Church
19234 N. 7th Avenue  Phoenix, AZ  85027
Ph. (623) 780-1008



Sermon

"Who?s Really Behind the Wheel"
January 6, 2008
Pastor Sharon MacVean

Let?s do an imagination for just a few moments.  Would you do this with me?  I know it?s the dead of winter but we are going to imagine that it?s Nascar racing time again.  Just remember with me about that time of year and let?s build the picture.  The radio and the TV have been full of news stories for weeks about the cars and the teams and who?s going to win this race, who?s car has been streamlined the most, or which car uses special fuel most efficiently, who will get the title and who will earn the money and the trophy and the names that will be talked about for the rest of the year.  The crowds have gathered and have come in from many places around the US.  Some of them stay at or near the race track in motor homes and some in nearby motels and wherever they can find to stay.  The audience has spent a great deal of money to be here and the drivers, mechanics, pit crews, sponsors and trainers and helpers have spent enormous amounts of money and there are all the auxiliary people who work in the concessions and the judges and the time keepers and the broadcasters.  The crowds are full of excitement and they scream and roar and the pit crews are on very high alert, ready to leap into action.
Adrenaline is running HIGH--so high that it?s right off the charts and people are so charged ?so wound up.   They believe each action and each second count-a second can make all the difference between winning and losing. 
Everyone has been working and talking and planning and discussing who?s got the fastest car and that?s not as important as the person who dons the bright colored suit and the helmet and all the gear and climbs into the car.  The one who is driving is crucial. Yes, and yet--- don?t want to forget the pit crew that keeps the driver on the road and yet the driver can make all the difference.   Who does have all the power?  Who is really behind the wheel?  Well let?s think about that.  Is it the sponsor?the car wouldn?t even exist or have a steering mechanism without their money.  Is it the welder or mechanic who put it together absolutely perfectly so that it would not develop any stress features but take those high speeds and  huge forces and hang together or the special tires created to not blow out under great pressure?  How about the pit crew who can change the tires or refuel the car almost faster than our eyes can take it in?
Let me propose something. Let?s just think about this for a few minutes.  Faith operates with the NASCAR ? if we didn?t believe it would come together, we would not buy our tickets and plan our vacations to attend.
 We would not put all that effort into getting there.  The mechanics would go to work for other shops and help design other specialty cars.  The drivers would go to Hollywood and become actors or stunt people or go do something else.  So we all believe it is going to happen?we have faith in it so to speak.  We believe it will happen and we put our trust in that information and our money is committed as we make our plans.  Where is the proof that it will happen this time?  From the past?  Well, we do have that to tell us how it has been.   Because someone says it will happen and people get excited and believe it will happen?  Well, that word is good enough for many people.  Because people start spending their money and putting up money to be sponsors.  Well, that too.   Because there are rules to follow so we can depend upon what we are being told?  Well, there is that also.  But how do we know for exact sure until it happens?   The truth is we don?t, do we?  We believe it will happen.  We see lots of signs that say it will happen.  We have been told by people who have been first-hand witnesses.  Witness stories have been told and rules have been written.  We believe it will happen and we have seen it happen but that?s as far as our proof serves us, isn?t it?

An Air Force captain at Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli came striding into the Men?s banquet very late.  The rest of the people were all but finished with the meal.  The captain was still in his flying gear.  His face bore the marks of weariness and strain.  He was president of the Men?s organization that was meeting.  Rapping on a table for attention, he thanked the people for coming and apologized for being late.  Then in a voice filled with a great deal of emotion, he said, ?Fellow military friends, this has been a hard day.  Flying out of Turkey, I had difficulty with the radio and then I lost it altogether and never got it back.  Then, when I approached our landing field, the landing gear absolutely would not come down.  I circled and I circled and I circled, but the gear would not come down.  As I wondered and thought about what I should do, something told me to circle one more time.  I did, and the landing gear came clear??My friends, God was in the cockpit with me.  I tell you that often as your captain?to believe that God is up there with you, -- but today I know it for certain.?
Here this morning as we talk, God is as surely in the cockpit of a race car as God is in the cockpit of an air force jet.  God is everywhere and always concerned for us and about us.  So we talk about God and yes, we pray to God
and yes we sing songs about God.  Did you ever think about who God really is?  How would you describe God or explain God to someone else?  Or what would you write if I asked you to write a paragraph or a page describing God or God?s nature.  Well, I believe and that?s that and don?t try to talk me out of it, OKAY!  Not very helpful, is it?  To a stranger just arrived in this country, what is NASCAR?  Well I believe in NASCAR and I?m going and that?s that.  Not much help, is it?  In the United Methodist Church, we explain the theology from four points --  #1 is scripture,  #2  tradition  #3 Reason  and #4 Experience.  We use these same approaches if we are explaining God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit or any other Doctrine.  We understand looking into the Bible and then there is tradition which means the cumulative thought and practices and liturgies of the Church.  Reason has to do with study and thinking and reading what other great professors and people of faith have believed.  Experience means just that ? what have been your experiences of God or what has someone else told you about their experiences like the Air Force captain.  So let?s start with scripture, what does scripture say about God?  It has a lot to say about God in almost every book of the Bible, doesn?t it?  Some of the Bible is easier to understand than other parts so I have chosen a few for us today.

Let?s start with the Ten Commandments ? that?s a good place to start, don?t you think?  God has just commanded Moses to go free his people from Egypt and after many fits and starts and arguments, Moses does go back to Egypt and accomplish this ministry.  It was a really tough job- he thought he?d be killed for sure.  He had to call down all the plagues on the Pharaoh to let him take the people and they finally escaped through the Red Sea and then while wandering in the wilderness the people began to grumble and whine and moan.  Moses became frustrated and God called him up Mt Sinai and sent him back down with the Ten Commandments.  This is how we got the Ten Commandments.  Exodus, chapter 20 tells us this first commandment,  ?I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other gods before me.    You shall not make for yourself any form of idol nor bow down to them nor worship them.  I will show love to my people .? So God is saying that God is only one God and there are no other gods who are as big or powerful or as important and that we are to love this one God and worship this God.  So who is behind the wheel of a Nascar race car?  Is it a single person all alone only using their own power and physical abilities and brain power?  Do you think God is with us every where we go?  Or just at church and rescue missions and places that feed homeless and hospitals and so forth? 
Think about it, what do you believe on a daily basis?  Turning to Mark chapter 10, it tells us ?For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.?  So God has power and is able to do things.  In Romans, chapter 3, it again tells us that there is one God for all people?Jews and Gentiles and that faith is the most important thing.  Works do not justify us without faith.  We can uphold the law without being legalistic?that is what the argument is about having to be circumcised to be a Christian.  Then in letter of 1st John chapter 4, verse 7.  ?Let is love one another for love is from God.  God is love.?  So now we know there is one God and the nature of that God is love and unity and wisdom and righteousness and omnipresence ?everywhere all the time and God is interested in unity.  In the book,  United Methodist Doctrine by Bishop Scott Jones, he says much of the same kind of thing with a lot of words in a scholarly fashion but it means the same thing  The question is?like with the Nascar?do we believe?will it happen for us.  What does our tradition tell us?  For 2,000 years Christians have believed much of this same thing and they have written statements and creeds of faith and hymns and songs which express these core beliefs but tradition supports what we have said.  As to experiences with God, we have shared the experience of the Air Force Captain and many of us have had an
experience of God?s love or God?s power or God?s healing and we need to share those stories with each other.  Reason or logical thinking tells us that either it?s true or a lot of people have been fooled for 2,000 years.  Major people have died for these beliefs.  There must be something to it.  One writer expressed it this way, ?the true purpose of our existence in this world, which is simply to look for God, and in looking, to find God, and having found God, to accept God?s love and to love back, thereby establishing a harmony with God?s purposes for creation.?  If we can put so much energy and life into the NASCAR race, I suggest that we can believe that God is the most important basis of our lives and we can believe with certainty and then act on that faith.  Who is Really Behind the Wheel of our Lives?



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