Extravagant Lavishness

2 Samuel 6: 1-5, 12b-19             Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III

Ephesians 1: 3-14         July 15, 2018

 “… according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.  With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will.”

Prayer:  Extravagant God, we can learn so much from your goodness, and our love.  May we do so.  May we live so.  Amen.

 I had a really good week at Music, Art, Drama and Dance, or MADD Camp at Hartman Center.  Good theme.  Beyond Belief of the Universe of God’s Love. Perfect weather.  Twelve very interested, engaged, talented, and creative high school youth.  A good performance at the end that highlighted the youth sharing through word and song and dance responses to social issues of the day. Thank you for your love and support as I ministered to these high school youth;  as John Duffy ministered to them, too (he led an archery workshop—I won’t say how poorly I did…)

But, my biggest highlight of the week was watching the youth come together, reunite with one another, and welcome new youth into camp.  In significant ways, the youth become a family at Hartman Center.  And, if you know anything about Hartman Center (and I may have shared this with some of you already) se share a lot of love with each other.  Endearing names such as “sweetie,” “sweetheart,” “honey,” “awesome dude,” “my love,” or “loved ones” roll off our tongues in regular conversations.  Supportive language flows.   Like when you can tell someone is nervous up front singing a solo.  “You’re doing amazing, Sweetie!” will come from some high school youth in the choir.  “Love your voice,” another would call out.  Or, when an art project comes to completion, compliments and supportive comments come unsolicited.  “That is so cool!”  or, “Wow!  How did you do that?”

Many of today’s youth, especially youth in our churchessense the goodness of practicing and living out the acceptance of everyone, even when it’s difficult, too. We had one difficult camper this week.  The youth continued to be supportive as much was possible as this 14 year old youth struggled with bi-polar mental illness and conflicting sexual identity.  But, God bless those other youth… they made great efforts to offer loving, supportive, welcoming words to the 14 year old youth. We had two going on this week.

One sixteen year old girl’s aunt died on Tuesday.  The impact of her death rallied much love and support for the girl.  We found a way for her to go attend the funeral on Friday afternoon, come back to camp, and be ready for the remaining activities of MADD Camp, Friday into Saturday.

 So, you CAN feel the love.  Takes just a little while to get all that started.  But it’s all good when it happens and rolls along throughout the week.  The hope is that everyone feels extravagantly welcomed, extravagantly supported, and extravagantly accepted.  It’s extravagant lavishness. It’s over the top!

And, it’s wonderfully reminiscent of the kind of love that God has for each of us.  It reflects the kind of spiritual blessings we have from God.

Paul writes that this love and power and the tremendous availability of the grace of God is the plan of God.  This plan was in place since the beginning of time.  This plan involves our adoption by God.  It implies our redemption—we are made holy, and found completely blameless before God. We are accepted.  Redemption is extravagantly lavished upon humanity.  Over the top! It brings forgiveness—forgiveness is extravagantly lavished upon all living souls.  It brings a fantastic inheritance—the gift of salvation.  God extravagantly and lavishly pours salvation and all of these gifts upon us, the whole human race.

Paul says that at one time, way back in early history, all this was a mystery.  All the gifts of God were unknown.  But, in Jesus Christ, the mystery of the will of God is revealed.  It is no longer the unknown.  This wisdom, this plan of God happens through Christ.

 We cannot do anything to earn this redemption.  There is nothing that we can do that makes forgiveness happen; nothing can be done, thought, said or believed on our part,  that is a prerequisite for God to love you.  According to the riches of God’s grace, we cannot do anything to stop that love; it is always coming to us.  It’s extravagant lavishness on God’s part.  It’s the way God is. Over the top.

 It does help, though, if we believe it.  At one point on Friday evening, I invited my troubled fourteen year old youth to come in from outside to worship with us.  Of course, I got the made up excuse: “I don’t believe in God.  I’m an atheist.”  I smiled.  Thankfully, what we say and think and believe about God doesn’t change God at all. One can say, “I don’t believe in gravity, but that doesn’t deny anything about gravity. Believing it makes it more real. But, to believe that it is God’s will  to extravagantly, lavishly shower us with every spiritual blessing makes God’s gifts much more real and accessible.

These blessings made King David sing and dance before the Lord with joy and with all his might.  These blessings make the high school youth of MADD Camp wonder how they can bring this joyful feeling back into their homes and lives.  These blessings come to us with extravagant lavishness, even when we are at low points of our lives.

 Believe in the will of God. Believe in God’s extravagant lavishness to love and grace you...

Let me close with one of the songs I taught the youth this past week.  I think it beautifully speaks of God’s extravagant lavishness, especially in light of our weakness and misunderstandings.  It reveals God’s wisdom and insight. It’s called “God of All Our Days,” by Casting Crowns.  (follow the slides on the screen)

I came to You, with my heart in pieces
And found the God, with healing in His hands
I turned to You, put everything behind me
And found the God, who makes all things new

I look to You, drowning in my questions
And found the God, who holds all wisdom
I trusted You, and stepped out on the ocean
You caught my hand among the waves

'cause You are the God of all my days
Each step I take, You make a way
I will give You all my praise
My seasons change, You stay the same
You are the God of all my days

I ran from You, and wandered in the shadows
And found the God, who relentlessly pursues
I hid from You, haunted by my failures
And found the God, whose grace still covers me

I fell on You, when I was at my weakest
And found the God, the lifter of my head
I've worshipped You, and felt You right beside me
You're the reason that I sing

'cause You are the God of all my days
Each step I take, You make a way
I will give You all my praise
My seasons change, You stayed the same
You are the God of all my days

In my worry, God You are my stillness
In my searching, God You are my answer
In my blindness, God You are my vision
In my bondage, God You are my freedom
In my weakness, God You are my power
You're the reason that I sing

'cause You are the God of all my days
Each step I take, You make a way
I will give You all my praise
My seasons change, You stayed the same
You are the God of all my days

In my blindness, God You are my vision
In my bondage, God You are my freedom
All my days

 

 Amen.