Muddy Treasures

While preaching this past Sunday, some folks in the pews and our Associate Pastor seated on the other side of the pulpit gave me the look — that slightly bemused, quizzical look of “Did he just say that?” Preachers expect that look from time to time.

What triggered the look, and probably woke a few folks up, was when I compared the Spirit of God to the “American Pickers.” Ever watch Mike and Frank on the TV show “American Pickers,” scouring the byways, broken down barns, and cluttered garages for what they lovingly call “rusty treasures”?

These guys pick through forgotten, discarded, or stowed-away items, what many would label trash or debris, for anything with overlooked or unseen value. The American Pickers have to push through weeds, brush, cobwebs, and untrusting property owners, but they are driven to uncover and reclaim rusty treasures.

The “rusty gold” that gets these guys REALLY excited is usually obscure and rusty auto parts or a vintage bike or motorcycle frame. “I really can’t wait to get this back on the road!” they exclaim passionately. Their expertise and enthusiasm changes junkyards into treasure troves. They envision that junky jalopy reclaimed and riding again.

So, I preached on Sunday, the Spirit of God is like that moment. The Spirit of God sees something in us that others or we ourselves may not see or value.

And the Spirit of God can get us moving, too, even if we feel we have reached a dead end, like a rusty relic hidden in roadside weeds. Christians testify that when we are broken down, when the wheels come off, when the world would discard or devalue us, the Spirit of God is that passionate power that can get us out of our ruts, back on the path, moving again with purpose and enthusiasm (from en theos or “in God”).

As the apostle declares:

earthen

II Corinthians 4:7

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Olives, anyone?

Olive-Trees-at-the-Garden-of-Gethsemane“…But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” -Ps. 52:8

What does that mean?! I am like a green olive tree? Why would anyone want to be an olive tree?

Quick soapbox moment, I apologize in advance… Sometimes I think that we come to scripture with such a disadvantage. We don’t live in a region or culture at all similar to the Holy Land, and so many thing that others might have known from their context are lost to us, unless we make an effort… and we often don’t. I, too, can be guilty of it- biblical laziness. I read a passage, understand the general ‘gist’ of it, and move onto the next one without bothering to understand it fully.

Without knowing about olive trees, we don’t really know what this writer is saying.

Psalm 52 is a warning, mostly, to someone who lies and cheats. You can read it all here. At the end, the writer points out that there’s an alternative, one that he has chosen: the life lived serving God. Those who live the Godly life are like olive trees.

In the days when scripture was written, olive trees were signs of life. It was said that if you took care of one, it could provide olives and oil for your family forever; that trees who received care would never die. And, in some ways, it is true. There are olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane that may have been there as long ago as when Jesus was there. They are worn by seasons, they’ve been beaten down by storms, they are gnarled and ugly, but they still produce olives.

Last weekend, on the First Pres adult mission trip to Charleston, working with Sea Island Habitat for Humanity, we made a quick stop by the Angel Oak. It’s pretty incredible. Estimated to be as many as 1500 years old, its branches (and presumably its root system) are incredibly wide. It is only 65 feet tall, but the longest branch is 187 feet long! The Angel Oak has weathered countless hurricanes, flooding, and lightning storms. It has been damaged before- there are scars where breaks have occurred, and it is staked in a few places to help it support its weight, but it still thrives.

Check it out- FPC Angel Oak Video.

If you can understand the Angel Oak, you can understand what the psalmist was saying about the olive tree. We have a living example, just a few hours down the road, of what the olive tree is like. It thrives in spite of drought, storm, and difficulty.

Do you know people who are Angel Oaks? Olive trees? People who have lived well, weathered storms, and still live to worship the God who created them? Who are they? What makes them unique? What does it take to grow into an Angel Oak or olive tree?

God the Spirit

Who is the Holy Spirit? Well… What does the Spirit do? I guess, anything it wants. When do you see of feel it? All different times. How do you know if the Spirit’s been busy somewhere? You just know, right? But what if you don’t? It is so frustrating!

There’s a reason that we church people talk so little about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, at least in more traditional churches like ours, is preached on much less frequently than the other two parts of the Trinity. Why? It is harder. Even the best among us find ourselves tongue-tied. The most simple definition of the Spirit that I’ve ever seen is this one: “According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit is the presence and work of the living God here and now in our individual lives, in the church, and in the world” (Guthrie, Christian Doctrine). And while that helps, a little bit, it doesn’t describe the Spirit that we know. The Holy One that sent visions to the young and dreams to the old, that serves as our Advocate, that dwells within us, that inspires, that fills our hearts, that gives us words, that reminds us of the love of our Eternal God. It doesn’t even come close.

This Sunday, we begin a preaching series here at First Pres, “When the Spirit Moves.” We’ll be spending time talking about, studying, and better getting to know the Holy Spirit of God. Worship is at 8:30 and 10:55am. If you aren’t able to attend in person, the service streams live at 10:55, and is recorded so that you can view it whenever you are able at www.fpcandersonsc.com.

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” -Genesis 1:1-3

There’s a beautiful children’s book called, God Created by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones and illustrated (magnificently) by Jui Ishida. The first page, though simplest, is the best of all. “In the beginning… Silence.  Spirit.”

in the beginning