Sunday, April 15th, 2007 | Author:

[This is the first message I shared after I returned to the church where I was raised.]

Disclaimer: The views I am about to express are not necessarily those of this church. In fact, they’re probably pretty unique.

For instance … God is like an elephant. Ok, not exactly like an elephant, although He is very big.

You’ve probably heard a version of this story. Some people are blindfolded, and reaching out with just their hands to touch what’s in front of them, trying to identify it. Someone thinks it’s a tree. Someone else says it’s a wall, and a third thinks it’s a snake. They argue about it, but it turns out they’re all touching different parts of an elephant.

They don’t know this until the blindfolds are removed, and so it is with God.

We each have little pieces of knowledge about God. We can share that knowledge with each other, and we should, but until the blindfolds come off, we still only know our little pieces.

So this morning I’m going to share some of my little pieces of God, and then I’ll tell you about my blindfold.

1) There is something very special about the love a grandmother has for her grandchildren. Some of you may remember my father’s mother. Her real name was Ethel, but we always called her DeeDee.

We had a very special relationship. I was her only granddaughter, and she was the only grandmother I could remember. In her eyes, I could do no wrong. No matter what dumb thing I stumbled into, like sticking my tongue onto a frozen pipe or fighting with my brothers, I could always tell her about it and know that her arms would be open. She never said “I told you so.” She never said “you should have known better.” She just opened her arms and loved me.

This was my first big lesson from God: He showed me what unconditional love is.

2) Somehow, it seems that I’ve always known about the God of Creation. Maybe it was growing up on this hill, with 20 acres of woods to play in. Maybe it was watching storms come down the valley, and splitting apart at the Nose’s – or maybe it was watching clouds dance across the Adirondacks.

Somehow I’ve always known that acorns turning into mighty oak trees, and babies being born with 10 fingers and toes, cannot be explained by anything but miracles of God – the God of Creation.

3) The first time that God revealed Himself to me, I was 10 years old. My grandmother was sick in the hospital. I started praying. They brought her home and set up a hospital bed in the middle of her living room. I kept praying. Every night before I went to bed, I prayed, “God, please don’t let my DeeDee die.”

After about 3 months, it was Thanksgiving Eve. I was busy that night helping my mother prepare for Thanksgiving dinner for the family. I put the extra leaves in the dining room table, and got out the good tablecloth and china. I polished the silverware, and washed the fancy goblets. And then, exhausted, I went to bed. When I got up the next morning, DeeDee was dead. I had forgotten to say my prayers the night before.

You might think I learned about guilt, but the miracle of this story is that I never felt guilty. Somehow, I KNEW that God decides when someone dies, not a 10-year-old. Somehow, I KNEW that her time had come, but God had put it off just for a little while, so that I would know that He heard my prayers.

At 10 years old, I learned that God hears me.

4) Now flash-forward 23 years. In retrospect, I know God was walking with me for that 23 years, but I wasn’t often conscious of Him. In fact, for the most part, I was ignoring Him and forging my own path. I developed my own moral guidelines, but that’s what they were – MY guidelines, not God’s.

And then one day, I broke my own guidelines. When that happened, even as it happened, I knew in my heart that I had crossed a line. My guilt was overwhelming, and I believed that I was now beyond hope of God’s forgiveness. I lived in that place of spiritual death for 7 years. I learned what Hell is like.

5) Now flash-forward again and it’s 1994. I have just bought my first computer, a cutting edge IBM 486. There were only a couple ways onto the internet at that time, all of them involving expensive long-distance phone lines, but I did it anyhow. I joined AOL, and soon was chatting online just like I knew what I was doing.

One day, I got chatting with a man from Daytona Beach, Florida. We started sending emails, and chatting at pre-arranged times. After a few days, the conversation turned to God. He told me stories about his life with God. I told him that I was beyond God’s help. For 5 hours, he and the Holy Spirit argued with me. They finally convinced me that God could, and did, forgive me.

Using keyboards and phone lines and a man 1200 miles away, I confessed my sin and invited Jesus into my life. As we prayed together, a warmth spread over my head and shoulders, like a gossamer-thin veil. The blindfold was removed and I received new life.

Another lesson learned: we must be born again.

No, we don’t have to call it that, especially if we come from a Reformed Church background, and no, it doesn’t happen the same way for each of us. But I am convinced that it has to happen, that there has to come a place in time when we consciously decide to yield our lives to God and receive the Holy Spirit.

Jesus explained it much better than I ever could:

(John 3:1-8) Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Category: Christianity, sermon
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