Sermons

The Holiness of God and us

Unknown Caller

The other day my husband answered his cell phone and had an interesting conversation. He doesn’t usually answer numbers that he doesn’t recognize, and I could tell he didn’t know the person on the other end, but for some reason he answered anyway. My husband’s phone number had been used by a solicitor to contact this man and now the man was returning the call. The only thing they knew about one another was that they lived in the same area code. But instead of being angry with each other at the un-needed call, they both laughed and chatted for a minute about how many spam phone calls they get how many free cruises they have won and how many times they could have changed insurance plans.

You could tell they were both surprised at the grace and joy at the other end of the phone. I kind of liked overhearing this moment because recently having to stay apart from other people, it seems like these kinds of grace filled moments of 2 people just being friendly for no reason at all, seem too far and few between these days. These holy moments set apart just to give someone a glimpse of grace. I long to have more of them right now.

Noticing Holy Moments

How can we keep our eyes open for these moments of grace and holiness right in our midst? And yes, I did just called an almost spam phone call a holy moment. Holy in the Bible refers to being set apart, different from others, but still connected to creation and in relationship with the other. God is called holy over and over again in the Psalm today. God is the holy king; God is the holy justice keeper; God is the holy forgiver and listener. All of this can seem obvious, but the psalmist lays it out for us to ponder nevertheless.

Because you see, there have been others who have ruled and reigned over the nations. There have been kings and heroes that have made people tremble and even done their own kind of saving, maybe even having a few good and holy moments of their own. And we can get distracted pretty easily by that kind of power. But never has there been someone like our God. Holy through and through. Set apart as ruler over all and for all. And we praise God for being that for us –  the one who created us with care and rules over the world with love.

Unexpected Nature of God

The Psalmist goes on to explain although other rulers will reign, none are able to provide both mercy and justice, grace and righteousness, love and power all in one. God’s holiness can be seen in the might of a God who can create the universe and the love of a God who can forgive us of our sins. That is the unexpected nature of our God. One who has a view of all eternity and tenderly wipes the tears from our cheeks today. What other response is there for us than to tremble and worship? It says let the people tremble and let the earth quake. Because they have to, we have to; when we see that kind of awesomeness expressed, not (only)because we are shaking in fear, but also because we know we are no where near worthy of that kind of king.

We don’t always talk about our God being the God of justice, it can bring up Old Testament ideas for us of a God who punishes and hurts. And even verse 8 of this Psalm describes a God who punishes misdeeds or in another translation it says God is an avenger of wrongdoings. Which makes it seem like we are about to be in trouble for what we did wrong. But justice is something God wants for the world, as opposed to people being taken advantage of or being hurt. God’s justice goes hand in hand with God’s mercy. One commentary said it well, “God takes sin seriously and God takes the forgiveness of sin seriously.”

What makes God different than any other is the fact that when we call out for help, God answers. When God promises to be with us, he isn’t lying. When it says God is forgiving and loves justice, that is the truth and it is for us. It makes me think of my husband answering that phone call. (And let me be clear, my husband is no more God-like than you or me.) But he didn’t have to answer and show grace to a stranger, but he did. He set aside a moment to show care to another. Our Just God doesn’t have to show mercy and grace, but does anyway. Our Holy God works through relationships with human beings to bring mercy and justice into the world.

Set Apart for the Sake of the World

And then in God’s grace through Jesus Christ we are made holy. We too are set apart for the sake of the world. And we have to ask ourselves what kind of followers does God hope for? Holy ones. Ones who work for both justice and mercy, grace and righteousness; ones who love and can point to the one who loves us more than we will ever fully understand. Can we look at one another and see the reflection of our Holy God in their eyes? Can we see the passersby as fellow children of God? Can we notice where our humanity falls short, where wrongdoings rule and instead seek what God declares is just and right? Even if it means forgiving when its hard; fighting for justice when its needed or answering a call when we usually wouldn’t.

Because joined together in Christ as one people of God, one church — more holy moments are possible because of our awesome God.

Mystic Julian of Norwich says it this way, “For a person by themselves can frequently be broken…, but the whole body of holy Church was never broken and never shall be, without end. Therefore it is a sure thing, a good thing, and a gracious thing to (will) meekly and powerfully (to) be fastened and joined to our mother, holy Church – that is Christ Jesus.”

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