Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

IS THE LORD WITH US?

Exodus 32:1-14


I'd like first of all this morning to welcome all our visitors who have come to celebrate this happy occasion with us. Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church is 40 years old this year and today we have taken the opportunity to invite all former members and friends of the congregation to be here with us. When the service is over we invite you to take a few minutes to visit with one another while we put out some light refreshments and then to join us in the education are for a time of fellowship and food.

Let's just take a moment to recognize our guests. We have with us this morning a few of our charter members. Will those who are able and other members of their families please stand and remain standing .…these are a few of the saints we have to thank for the existence of this church. With great vision and following God's leading they built a church on an undeveloped street in Arabi. And now… forty years later that building is located on the busiest artery in St. Bernard Parish.

We have several floral arrangements in copper containers up here in front and we would like each of you to have one. Some may be moved to other parts of the building following the service but when you are ready to leave today please take the arrangement of your choice with you as a remembrance.

We also have with us today some folks who were part of this family of believers at one time or another in its history. Will those persons and their families please stand … and now will all present members please stand … and now all of you who are visitors who have come to help us celebrate please stand as well. Now that you are all standing… you may be seated.

The passage we read together this morning may seem like a very strange story to select for such a special occasion… but it's the lectionary passage for the day and with the Spirit's help we hope to make it relevant to the occasion.

You know… the story of God's people… told to us in the Hebrew Bible… better known to some of you as the Old Testament… is the story of human events as they have occurred throughout the history of God's relationship with us. Actually this story about the Hebrew people reveals a great deal to us about human nature… about God's character… and about the relationship between God and the humans God created.

Even as we here at Carolyn Park recognize and honor a past that goes back 40 years… even as we… the Christian church… the body of Christ honor a past that goes back to the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ… even as we… along with our Jewish brothers and sisters… recognize and honor a past that goes all the way back to Abraham… that collective past speaks to us about God's relationship with us. The children frequently sing a song about being sons and daughters of Father Abraham. I'd like to invite them to come forward and sing that song for us as part of our celebration of the past.

I've selected this morning a short meditation from The New Union Prayer Book published by The Central Conference of American Rabbis… that I think reflects a bit of reverence for the past.

The Word of the One God penetrated this people from its beginning. When the commandment of God awakes in us, freedom also opens its eyes; and where freedom commences, history begins. A difficult task was assigned this people in its history. It is so easy to listen to the voices of idols, and it is so hard to receive the word of the One God into oneself. It is so easy to remain a slave, and it is so difficult to become free. But this people can only exist in the full seriousness of its task. It can only exist in this freedom which reaches beyond all other freedoms. Its history began when it heard the word, rising out of the mystery, and emerging into clarity: "I am 'He-Who-Is' your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." (Exodus 20.2)

Our past to is extremely important as we remember the way in which God has called us… the way in which God has lead us… the way in which God has blessed us. We will continue to remember… and to celebrate the past as we go forward into the future.

In this… the last year of the twentieth century… we are especially mindful of the future… and we wonder what is in store for us… for God's people… for the Christian church, as we know it… for Carolyn Park in the twenty-first century. There is essentially nothing that we know for sure except that things will change.

With so much uncertainty in our world today, we… like the Hebrew people in our story today… must rely on God's promise to be with us always… to bless us when we are doing his will and fulfilling his purpose… and to bring in the Kingdom of God at the end of the age.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago to this congregation that the life of most organizations in our present culture is about 40 years. At that point they will either die or they will begin a new… and different life. It is my hope and prayer that Carolyn Park Church will have a new vision of what God is doing in and through us… and that we will go forward as a family of God into that new life… reenergized by God's Spirit… welcoming all who seek God's will for their lives… and serving in God's name in the world.

We… along with all humans everywhere may honor the past… and have a vision for the future… but we all live only in the present. And that's where we are today… and every day… in every moment of our existence. The present… this very moment… is the most important moment of our lives. It is the only time in which each of us can make a decision… carry out an action… relate to one another… relate to God… acknowledge God's presence… serve God… be the person each of us was meant to be.

Our story this morning of the golden calf reminds us vividly just how difficult it is to be a free people…and to refrain from worshiping idols of our own making. So often we are caught up in the moment serving one of the many idols in our lives. Like the Israelites… when Moses was gone from their midst… they desired a visible image of God… and we too desire some form of security while we wait for Christ's return. Even though we have seen the invisible God in action in the Christ event… we still want something material to reassure us that everything will be OK.

The gods we create blind us to the love God wants to shower on us. We fail to recognize just how badly we are fooling ourselves… and often the consequences are very painful. God cannot work in us when we elevate anyone or anything above him.

This morning I hope that you will be reminded that God is present with you… and with this church… every moment of every day. As this culture faces an uncertain future… know that moment by moment… we can and we must… with the guidance of the Holy Spirit… love, honor and obey our God in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


A Sermon Preached on October 10, 1999.
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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