SERMON from 10-7-12: ‘God Bless the Whole World–No Exceptions’ (from the series ‘Bumper Sticker Theology’)

 

John 3.16-17

 

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

Bumper Sticker Theology: God Bless The Whole World–No Exceptions

 

I love my wife–with all my being.  She is the most caring and loyal spouse a guy could ever ask for.  She is the most loving and devoted mother a kid could ever ask for.  Additionally, she makes a mean dish called “Cream of Chicken.”  It’s a casserole type dish where you smother chicken breasts in condensed cream of chicken soup–plus lots of butter, cream cheese and bread crumbs.  When it comes out of the oven, that moist chicken is so tender it melts in your mouth.  It’s best served next to a steamy helping of mashed potatoes–with plenty of the gravy created by the condensed soup, butter and cream cheese–crisp green beans and those flaky-layered rolls from Pillsbury.

 

Fun fact: I mostly included the description of the Cream of Chicken, so my wife might take the hint and make it sometime soon.

 

If I had one criticism of my wife, it would be this: she doesn’t like to watch the news.  It’s not really a problem, but I gotta find something to complain about–lest she get too large an ego.  She doesn’t like to watch the news because it depresses her.  I’m not sure why?  In a business where “if it bleeds, it leads” is standard operation procedure, maybe I can begin to see her point.

 

When was the last time you saw a positive news story within the first 15 minutes?  It doesn’t happen.  Typically, you have to wait until after sports.  Sometimes, you might get lucky and see one between weather and sports.  However, most times, you might watch an entire local news broadcast without seeing any good news.

 

That’s just good news about things that happen in your local area.  Of the times you see good news in any format where you get news–TV, print, internet–it is mostly from around your area.  It’s rarely good news about things that happen on a national level.  You never hear news stories about how many meals were served by Meals-On-Wheels last week, or work being done to save some endangered species of animal.  You don’t ever really hear about things like that.

 

What about good news from around the world?  When was the last time you heard about good news from a place that you might not be able to place on a map?  Good news from foreign places is like the Bigfoot of the news world.

 

Most of the time–when we hear about news from places other than where we live–it’s bad news.  Bad news about war.  Bad news about war in places that are covered mostly in sand.  Bad news about war in places that are covered mostly in sand and populated with people who we don’t understand.  People we don’t understand and whom we are most likely a little frightened by.  We may show bluster about them, but much of that comes from some type of fear.  So, are we surprised or shocked by the fact we don’t hear good news from around the world?  No.

 

It does exist, you know.  This Atlantis of the news world happens every day; we just don’t hear about it–because it typically doesn’t “bleed.”  What do I mean?  I searched all the typical news sites, and there wasn’t one good story I could bring you.  I had to do a special Google search for a specific website that aggregated good news from around the world.  In all my searching, I found a few things:

 

There’s an Italian graduate student that has created a solar-based water desalinator–so people with access to only dangerous water supplies can drink water that won’t kill them.

 

I got an email this week that included a photo of Asian doctors and nurses bowing to a mother and father who were kissing their child goodbye.  Why the bowing?  The child’s organs were going to two children who would have otherwise died without them.

 

Somewhere in the war-ravaged country of Sudan, there is a woman who is housing orphaned boys who would have otherwise been recruited to fight in guerrilla armies.  There is always the chance of her efforts being halted and her life being destroyed.  Her efforts, however, not only saves these boys from killing many more innocent people, it helps to quell the cycle of violence that is so prevalent in these areas of the world.

 

(pause)

 

In the news right now, we are being treated to hearing the highlights of hundreds of speeches given by hundreds of politicians from across the country.  Thankfully, at some point, those speeches end.  These speeches are about all sorts of things, but they all have one things in common.  Typically, it’s a three word phrase they exclaim over the cheers of people who are presumably just happy they are done speaking.  That phrase is “God Bless America.”  It’s been said so often that we don’t really notice it anymore.  If we don’t hear it, we automatically call into question whether or not that politician is patriotic or not a Christian.  It’s crazy, but it’s true.

 

We make such a big deal about that phrase because it’s a nice phrase to hear.  Why shouldn’t wish for God to bless us as a nation?  He certainly has.  Even in the midst of troubling times–much like we are in right now–it is easy (or it should be) to see that God’s blessings still abound in our midst.

 

So, what am I getting at?

 

Our bumper sticker for today is “God bless the whole world–no exceptions.”  There is something inherently combative in this bumper sticker, right.  Essentially, the insinuation is that phrases like “God Bless America” are far too inclusive to be of any worth.  Someone who might slap this sticker on their bumper, is someone who might think that we equate the idea of “American exceptionalism” with the fact that God has seen fit to bless us–to the exclusion of most of the rest of the world.  What do we need to understand about this?

 

First, we must say that there is absolutely no problem with anyone–American politician or otherwise–who might finish a speech with the words, “May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.”  Most Sunday’s, we spend time in prayer expressing that very sentiment.  What we should be careful of–however–is allowing that sentiment to talk us into believing our ways are somehow superior to other peoples and governments.  It was a popular sentiment in the early church that it didn’t matter who you were.  Romans 2 and Acts 10 both tells us that God is no great respector of persons–which would include things such as borders, governments or political parties.  He doesn’t care.

 

I should rephrase that.  He does care, but not the way we would prefer him to sometimes.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  Keywords from these verses include world (mentioned three times in two verses) and everyone (referring to all, not based upon race, gender, address, citizenship or which NFL team you root for)That, too me, appears pretty unambiguous.

 

That doesn’t change the fact that we sometimes think that if it was good–and it was done by someone–it was probably done by an American.  Sometimes, it’s very easy to believe that we are literally “God’s gift” to the world.  At times, there is no doubt that is true.  As Christians, however, we must think differently.

 

When we think about people doing good, we often think of the story of The Good Samaritan.  Why was that parable important?  Was it because two prominent religious people passed the injured man by?  Was it because the Samaritan ensured that money was no object in the care and recovery of the beaten man?  Was it to demonstrate the dangers of walking down the road alone?  More importantly than all of that, this parable is significant because the Samaritan was a despised foreigner helping someone in need.

 

Maybe more importantly than John 3.16, this parable shows us that it is the whole world which comes under God’s reign–and, therefore, his favor.

 

The Italian graduate student–with her solar water–was most likely a socialist, and an atheist.

 

The mother and father sacrificing the wholeness of their child’s body–and the medical staff ready to save the lives of two other children–are probably Buddhists.

 

The woman taking in orphaned boys in the Sudan could possibly be a Christian.  However, it is more likely that her religious creed is something like, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet.”

 

Does that make their stories any less good news?  I believe a more significant question is, “Is God present even in these situations?”  The answer, of course, is “yes.”  What would it say about us if we were willing to say God’s not present in these situations, just because they don’t claim the same creed as we do?  Are we underestimating the power of God if we think he can’t use a Muslim to act as a safe harbor for needy children?  Are we as faithful as we say if we believe something like that?

 

God so loved the world and God still loves the world.  Not just our world, but the whole world.  In his world, he can work through anyone to accomplish his purposes.  It’s easy for us to think so highly of Americans for acting as God’s hands and feet.  We just have to remember that God is no respector of persons, and that our attitudes aren’t to be that America is in some way superior than everyone else.  There is no problem with saying, “God Bless America,” as long as we remember that God blesses the whole world–no exceptions.

 

AMEN

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