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Evan Earwicker: The Way of Mercy, Psalm 123:1-3

January 30, 2023

Audio Recording

Repentance is the decision to admit that you’re wrong. That you’re wrong about your ability to be your own God and make it on your own. And it is deciding that God, through Jesus Christ, is telling you the truth. How do we make this turn to create a new life path?

A Long Obedience In The Same Direction
Evan Earwicker: The Way of Mercy, Psalm 123:1-3
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. Welcome to church. I'm so glad you're here. I'm Evan, I'm one of your senior pastors, and, we're so glad that you came to worship here in the room. Brave in the snow, those online. Also, we know you're there and we want to say welcome to you. We're gonna take communion together at the end of the message today. So if you're at home and you wanna grab some, elements to take communion with us, we'd love that. So, as we get into this, well, these few weeks here in the start of the year, we are both walking through 21 days of prayer. And so on our website, there's some resources to, wrap up. I guess this is the last weekend of our 21 days of prayer.

00:42 but we've really been seeking God for this year for, our city, for the nation, just that we would experience this presence in new ways in 2023. and also we've been walking through a book by, the late great Eugene Peterson called, long Obedience in the Same Direction, a classic book on what it means to follow Jesus. Our whole lives long, and by the way, this weekend we are celebrating with a great friend of ours here at the church, someone who has been attending this church, I've heard since the 1950s, since we started. Dorothy Martin's Turning 90 this weekend. And so can we give it up for Dorothy today?

01:21 I know Dorothy is sick today, and so you wanted to be here, but if, if Dorothy, you're watching this or you see this, we sure love you. And what an example of faith lived out over a lifetime, and as I would assume the longest surviving member of this church, we just wanna say you are a model to us for a life well lived. And so thank you, for, the joy that you bring. Every time I see you, I know you're always good for a hug and an encouragement, and, we sure love you, Dorothy. well, if you have a Bible, we're gonna be in the Psalms. We're looking at these, what have been called the songs of Ascent, what scripture calls the songs of Ascent, these 15 psalms, that the people of Israel would sing as they would journey every year, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to the temple for worship, for a festival.

02:10 And so these 15 songs, were what would keep the, the pace of the pilgrimage as they would walk towards Jerusalem, towards the Temple Mount as they would bring their offerings to worship. It was a reminder not only of, you know, the nature of their relationship with God, but it was a reminder, especially for the young ones and the new ones, who, who are taking this journey for the first time, maybe of what they could expect when they got to God's house. And with every journey, we always wanna know, really, what are we going to do? Have you ever, have you ever been invited somewhere or with someone or to an event or a birthday party and you're like, who's gonna be there? ? You always wanna know what you're in for before you agree, before you commit to something. And so, the people of Israel have these songs that we're basically describing this is who's gonna be there.

03:02 This is the kind of God that you can expect when we get to Jerusalem, when we get to the temple. And so one of these songs of ascent is in Psalms 123. And by the way, all 15 Psalms, they started in one 20 and they go to one in 34, which I did the math at his 15. And, Psalms 1 23 says this in the Message translation, I look to you, heaven dwelling God, look up to you for help. Like servants alert to their master's commands like a maiden attending her lady. We're watching and waiting, holding our breath, awaiting you're word of mercy. Mercy God, mercy. What we can expect from God is mercy. I wanna pray today as we, get into this. Lord, we thank you for, the expectation that we have even in, in coming today to this place of worship, that we will be met with the God of mercy.

04:01 And so, Lord, speak today. We pray that we would hear clearly your voice, your word, the expression of your mercy to us in the next few minutes. Lord, we pray this in Jesus name. Amen. Amen. Well, I, I don't know how you feel about all the different things that have, shifted in the way society runs over the last few years. I know things like remote work, you know, became a real big thing since 2020. and you might feel good about some of these changes. You might feel not good about these changes, but one of these changes that my wife and I have really embraced is this thing called curbside pickup. . anybody with me? does anyone use curbside? Have you experienced this, this wonder of the modern world called curbside pickup? Maybe it's just us. Maybe we're the only ones. Maybe this is why we enjoy it, cuz it's, it's always so available.

04:52 You place your order online, you have the app, you drive up to a parking spot, you push a button, and within three to four minutes they come out with your things, they put 'em in your car and you're on your way. It's efficient, it's fast, it's easy. it's wonderful. Okay, so we, we've embraced this way of living. Now, about five weeks ago, my car was in the shop and so I knew I would have about three hours with no car on foot. And so I walked over, it was snowing and I walked over to Target, which is normally where we would go for curbside pickup. And I went in like a peasant on foot .

05:28 So there I am, hoofing it up the driveway like, you know, people do. And I, I go in and I sit there, you know, they have the Starbucks, right when you come in, it's the finest Starbucks in all the land, right next to the carts. Yeah, right there. So I'm sitting there and I, I have some work with me. I brought a bag. So I, I'm sitting there, I, I put my headphones on, I'm doing some work, and there's another gentleman next to me and another man that walks in and the man that walks in, has all his stuff with him and just, visibly looking at him. He had clearly been sleeping outside. And so he sits down and he begins to talk loudly to this other guy that's sitting to my left. And it's just the three of us in that little Starbucks inside of Target.

06:14 And as, he's starts to talk, he starts to talk about kind of his experience in the, this winter he had come from elsewhere and now he was here and he was talking about the people that had helped him and the people that hadn't helped him. And I, I'm hearing this cuz he is talking loudly even over what I'm listening to on my, headphones. And I start to hear him talk about churches, about churches that had helped him and churches that had not helped him. So I have like turned up my music adjust my headphones write more furiously. And, and he keeps talking about churches and, and I'm like, ah, should I say something? No, he's having a conversation with that guy. We're good, we're fine. And then this is not exaggeration, I hear him say loudly over and over on repeat. I just need to find a pastor. I just need to find a pastor . And he's, he's all exasperate. He's I j if I could just find a pastor .

07:16 So I'm sitting there and it was like the last straw. I'm like, okay, , take my headphones off. I'm like, I'm sorry sir, I couldn't help but overhear you yelling about your need for a pastor. I introduced myself. I ended up, we talked for a while, walked him over, we got him in a sleeping bag and, and then he went on his way. Here's the thing. I remember two weeks ago, pastor Josh talked about just seeing a man on the side of the road on the McKenzie Pass and driving him two hours in the middle of the night and putting him up for the night. It took me to even say hello, a man yelling my profession .

07:53 So just saying, our youth are in good hands with Pastor Josh. Gosh, I think about our, our the way that we have created our lives to run at maximum convenience and efficiency and how that actually runs counter to the way of Jesus. We are so, and, and by the way, in so many ways, it is amazing all the conveniences that are at our fingertips. And yet when we look at the way of Jesus walking after him, modeling our lives after this man Jesus, we find that there is an issue with the speed at which we do everything else. It is so difficult for us to shift gears from our, immediate result-oriented life into the way of Jesus that is not about immediately arriving at the destination or receiving the thing as soon as you sign up. But instead taking a lifelong journey, a lifelong path of following after Jesus.

08:59 And I, I had this thought, in the gospels, what is the fastest Jesus ever moved anybody donkey, right? That that's all we know. I was either on foot or by donkey. And so this morning as I was reviewing, what I prepared, I was like, so Jesus, all we see him is on foot or on donkey. How fast do donkeys run? And so I went down this rap, donkey hole really, of, I didn't prepare to say that, just if you think like , he planned that I didn't donkey. so I went on YouTube and I looked up donkey races. You guys, if you don't have anything going on this afternoon, , look up donkey derby. It is hilarious. they're many things, they're hilarious, they are funny. and donkeys are very useful, but what they are not is fast. Okay? They're not an efficient way if you're in a hurry to get from one place to another.

09:54 And so we, we see this model of Jesus and I, I say that jokingly, but really, he is moving slowly through these three years of ministry. Now, if, if I only have three years to save the world, then I'm gonna be in a hurry all the time. And what we see with Jesus is he models this life of, of never being in a rush, but simply walking along the path towards what? Towards his destination. And then he invites everyone around him to join. And the invitation to join the path that he was walking, was this simple phrase. And we find it in Matthew chapter four, at the very beginning of his ministry. He gets baptized by John and then he stands up. And then Matthew, four it says, and then from this point on, he went from town to town saying this, repent for the kingdom of heaven is a hand repent.

10:47 And when I think repent, maybe like you, I think feel sorry for my mistakes, but that's not the word. The root of the word repent in what Jesus meaning was it was a directional invitation that you're going this way, you're going, everyone's scattered, seeking their own path, seeking their own way, trying to figure it out on their own, assuming they know I wanna invite you to a different direction. I want to invite you to change the coordinates of your destination and walk with me as we get to the place where God dwells. Amen. Amen. Amen. And so we're invited into this, this path just like the disciples all those years ago were, were invited by Jesus to come walk with him. It's not efficient. you know, Jesus is, is all sufficient, but he's not a very efficient, okay, it'll drive you crazy if you're, if you're wanting to get to your destination, the second you sign up, you're gonna be disappointed because this path is a lifelong journey that we take.

11:53 I was reminded of a song that we used to sing, and the first line of it was, Jesus is the answer for the world today. You remember that song, Dorothy? You probably remember that song, . It's wrong though. Jesus never claimed to be the answer. You know, what he did claim to be? When Philip the disciple at the last Supper, he asked him, Jesus, would you show us the Father? And in John 14, six, this is his response. I am the way, not the answer, not the, not the, the helicopter that that picks you up and drops you at your destination. No, I am the way, I am the companion. I am the path that you will take on your journey to this great mystery, which is the presence of God. That's good. most of us maybe have not taken a, a, a formal pilgrimage, although I did speak to Sharon after the first service and she had walked the, the Camino, to Santiago.

12:46 And, just the stories that she told maybe really want to go. Maybe we should do that sometime. but pilgrimage is, you know, there's not a lot of pilgrim paths here, in our neck of the woods, but we do have a lot of hiking trails. Anybody gone hiking in Central Oregon? Come on. Where are you at? Yeah. Okay. All right. we hike a lot. You know, this is kind of one of the things that, that you do when you live here. And so when I hear pilgrimage, I think of a long hike, and there's these moments in the hike, and one of my favorite hikes is, is to start at Todd Lake and you hike up broken top, and after you leave the area around the lake, you disappear into the forest. And then it takes a while, before you come out of the forest, break through the tree line and get your perspective again.

13:33 And I was thinking about the nature of our journey of faith that we set out. And the destination is clear, just like looking up at that mountain. You say, that's where we're headed. I love, I love God. I want to pursue him. I I wanna follow after him, and we commit our lives to, to following after God and walking with Jesus. And then no sooner do we do that, sometimes it feels like we disappear into the, the woods, into the forest, and sometimes we lose our bearings. And sometimes we we're not quite sure where the path went. But there are moments then when we break out of that tree line and we are in this middle space and we're not at our destination yet. We haven't figured everything out yet. We're not perfect yet. We're still make mistakes, but we also have perspective of where we came and the journey that it took to get us to where we are.

14:24 And, and here's the honest truth, when I look back at my journey of faith over the last 30 years of following Jesus, it is not a straight line for my beginning point to where I'm at today. You know, I don't look at that and say, well, I made every, every right decision there was, you know, young Evan as a teenager, he knew everything there was to know. You know, when I look back, I say, man, I was wrong about a lot of things. And you know, what that tells me is that 10, 20 years from now, I'm gonna look back on these days and say, I didn't know everything back then. I was making some mistakes in, in the way I thought. And the, the, the the things I, I, I thought God was, was trying to say here, I, you know, what, things have changed.

15:03 Not because God has changed, but because how I've interpreted that I've grown. Because what? Because I'm on a journey and so are you. And I think it is the, the unfortunate reality of Western religion is that we try to remove all uncertainty of out of our faith. And in the process we lose all mystery. We take it all the mystery. Oh, you don't need mystery. You need to know exactly how it all works. And there's formulas for everything. And there's, there's, there's absolute answers for every little thing. In fact, we have a whole selection of books that you can read and they will tell you exactly what to do. And, and then people walk through that kind of, self-help Christianity, and they get a few decades into it. And like, I didn't actually pan out how this said it would. And then we wonder why are they leaving their faith?

15:50 Could it be that we need to reintroduce the mystery of God into how we interact with one another and how we pursue this thing called the journey of discipleship? I don't wanna, I don't wanna live a faith that that is void of all mystery, because why? Because that is actually a very new invention. All certainty in our faith is something that, that would've been just unbelievable even two, 300 years ago. As people understood, like they would, they would recite the apostles creed, they say, this is what I believe about these things. And then for the rest of it, let's embrace the mystery of God as we walk this journey of discipleship, this pilgrimage of discipleship together. And so I wanna reintroduce this kind of, mysterious exploration. Not, not that we're just, we don't believe anything in an, I'm not saying that. I'm saying I want to embrace a God that is bigger than my understanding of him currently.

16:42 What a small God that Evan can stand on the stage and know everything there is to know what a small God no. We, we worship a God that is inviting us every day to understand more and more and more of the mystery of His presence. And that's the only kind of God I actually wanna worship. And so this metaphor of this pilgrimage, this journey, is a good one because we realize that we're still in the middle of our, of our hike. We're still in the middle of our pilgrimage. There's more to know, there's more to understand, there's more mystery to unfold before us. I, I w I think about this when I consider, the idea of our life in Jesus as a pilgrimage and this expectation that we have, as what we read in, in Psalms 1 23 this morning, that there's an expectation of mercy.

17:38 I dunno about you, but for those who probably heard Jesus first, invite them into repentance. And even for us today, who hear preachers and churches and, and Christianity invite us to follow after Jesus. There is a feeling many times that if I do that, I'm bound to screw it up. I'm bound to be a mess. I'm not perfect. And if I step into that kind of commitment, it will become obvious that I'm kind of a mess. And buried in that sentiment is this idea that God, when he sees how you really are, he will be disappointed, ashamed, disgusted, angry. And so we have this feeling that, that either we hide from ourselves and from God who we really are, or we just have to settle up with the fact that God's gonna be kind of mad at us all the time. And I want to push back against that with this idea of the songs of ascent that as these people, these imperfect people who, who probably had messes in their own life, who, who sinned, who made mistakes, who needed forgiveness as they would make their way to the temple, the place where God would dwell, they would remind themselves with this song in Psalm 1 23, that our eyes look to the Lord our God until he shows us mercy, that the expectation that God will be ashamed and angry and frustrated at you needs to be replaced and upgraded with this expectation that of all the mystery of God, we do know this.

19:13 We know that he is a God of mercy. A God who knows that we are dust. The Psalmist rights. Eugene Peterson, in his book, he talks about this, this view of God as some kind of law enforcement agent in the sky, you know, looking for us to screw up, looking for us to make the mistake so that he can enforce the law that he set out to enforce at the beginning. And Eugene reminds us that actually in the biblical narrative, even going back to the book of Jeremiah, God is not, depicted that way. What God is depicted at is a potter with clay who takes this formless lump and says, I am gonna make something beautiful out of this. And all along the process of our lives, he's molding and he's shaping. And sometimes, my wife did, a pottery class. And how, how many weeks did that go on?

20:06 That sounds like I was annoyed by it. it was a long time. I mean, it, it was a long time to the point where when the class was over, I was expecting her to like, you know, bring a U-haul filled with all of her pottery and creations and and lovely things, but not that many because what it takes a long time to make pottery. There's a process. And so to put ourselves in this place where we fall after Jesus and, and we put on ourselves the expectation that 20 minutes in the kiln baby and, and we're good to go, and God says, no, this is a process. And I understand that you're dust and I understand that you're clay. And and there's moments when, you know, it seems like, ah, I just wish I was formed already. And, and it's like everyone's like, nah, you're lumpy, bro. , let's go another time on the wheel. You know why? Because this is a proc, this is a journey that we are on. And the potter does not look at the clay in disgust because it's not done yet. And he looks at you and not disgusted because he is not finished with you yet.

21:09 And so, in the meantime, in the middle spaces, in the, in the midpoint of the journey where we break up over the, over the tree line and we realize how far we've come, but we realize there's still a distance to go. We experience what we experience the mercy of God along the way. The mercy of God expressed through Jesus the mercy of God that he showed so vividly in John chapter eight. Jesus and his disciples are, are doing what they would do. Jesus was teaching. The crowds were around. And in the middle of this scene in John chapter eight, A mob comes up to Jesus in the disciples, a mob of, of religious people. And they've brought this woman who they say they've caught in the act of adultery and who, because of the law against such things deserves to die. And so this, this religious mob that's formed, begins to take up stones in their hands to carry out justice on this woman in her sin.

22:15 And it's in this moment in John chapter eight that this, this crowd is formed and they're about to do what they see is right because of what they know about the law and what God demands. And here's Jesus. And famously he stands up in the midst and he moves himself in between the woman and the punishment for her crimes. And he says the very famous words now, he says, let the one who has no sin cast the first stone. And reading that I I, I took note this week of where they were standing when this happened. They weren't in some, you know, back alley of the city. They weren't in some place where, you know, a rough around the edges. But this is where justice happens. This mob had formed to murder this woman on the temple grounds. They were in the courts of the temple, on the temple, mountain mount in Jerusalem, that place where for generations their ancestors would walk. Thank God we expect your mercy, God, we're sinners, but we need your mercy. We watch and we wait for the mercy of God as we walk towards Jerusalem. And here they are all these years into this pilgrimage, generation after generation, somehow they've forgotten that God is the God of mercy, gotten so comfortable around the temple and this is their place. And they've, they've hung around God so much that now they know the answers and they forgot what it was like to be on the approach. You know what I'm saying?

23:49 And, and I think, man, sometimes we, we've been so long in the, the, the presence of God that we forget what it is to need the mercy of God. And we deceive ourselves that somehow we've arrived in the place where, where now you know, we don't need mercy because we have the answers and we're the enforcers. And Jesus would stand in our midst and he would get between us and those that we would condemn. And he would say, you remember Psalms 1 23. Do you remember when the multitudes would walk up this very hill to come to this very place on this mountain? And they would say, what God, we're expecting your mercy, Jesus saves this woman's life. And it's not a fluke, it's not an exception. This is how God works. If you wanna know what God is, we just look to Jesus, everything that that God is, was wrapped up in Jesus. So when we wanna know what God feels and what God thinks, we look at the gospels and we see what Jesus feels and what Jesus thinks. And by my reading, Jesus is full of mercy for sinners. He wraps his arms around the accused. He stands in the way

25:12 Of the right answers that demand justice and punishment and judgment. And James chapter two says this, it says, the mercy has triumphed over judgment. And I think today about those, maybe you, you came in to church today and like this is like a shot in the dark man, you're here cuz you, you, you want to know maybe is there, is there some way that God sees me and loves me and accepts me? The answer is, yeah, he's the God of mercy. And we will spend our lives on this journey, on this pilgrimage walking towards our destination, not having arrived, not having become perfect, but embraced by the mercy of God. We're gonna take communion today. if you need one of these, I dunno what we call 'em, communion packs, kits, you need raise your hand. One of our ushers will come by and and give you one of these. If you're at home, you wanna grab juice or wine and bread, if you need to pause and and come back, we can do that. Like any good hike, you need snacks, right? , Speaker 3

26:27 You need

26:28 Food, you need sustenance on this journey. The spiritual journey that we take our whole lives towards God's presence, towards being shaped and formed into his image. We need food. Jesus said he was the bread of life. That, that we can't live by bread alone. But every word that comes from the mouth of God, that he is our daily bread, he is the thing that sustains us. He is the thing that when we've messed up and, and, and failed and sinned, that we can keep coming back and saying, I'm, I'm still headed towards my destination. I'm still walking in repentance. Why? Because my destination is still the same. And so today as we take the bread, we remember that Jesus body was broken for us, so that in every day we might have his sustaining grace, the work of his mercy poured out over our lives. When you take the bread with me, the last sufferer after Jesus broke bread and gave it to his friends, he then took the cup. He said, this is my blood poured out for you. Do this and remembrance of me. Today, we remember the blood of Christ poured out for us forgiveness of sins.

27:54 The way that mercy is poured out to us is through the sacrifice and the great compassion of God expressed through Jesus, so that now nothing can separate us. So today we take this cup together, and now Jesus, even as we have received in our physical bodies, the bread and the cup, we receive the work of grace, the work of mercy on our lives. Jesus, I would, I would pray for all shame to be pushed to the side. All assumptions that you're angry, that you are frustrated, Speaker 3

28:42 That

28:42 You're disappointed would be replaced with this overwhelming voice in all of our ears today that says, God, you're a God of mercy. Expect that Jesus, we receive your mercy. We receive this work, we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.