How many of you are familiar with
Emeril Agazi? He's a well-known chef that you can catch on the
Food Channel, and I understand he owns several restaurants
around the country. If you've ever watched him he's pretty
entertaining and makes watching food cook kind of interesting.
Emeril has developed this spice blend
he calls essence. He uses it to spice up his dishes, to give
them more zip. Well it's gotten to the point that when he
tells his audience he's going to "kick it up a notch," they go
nuts, because they know what he's going to do next. He takes a
pinch of this spice puts the spice on his dish, then everyone
in unison says, "BAM."
The audience anticipates this
happening and they remain upbeat and excited about what's
going on throughout his show. I started thinking the other
night, that if you can spice up some dull, uninviting food
dish and make it interesting and more satisfying, we ought to
be able to do the same for our spiritual lives, when things
become dull or routine. And I figured that since we are good
Methodist's that an analogy using food wouldn't be a far
stretch for us.
But seriously, sometimes our spiritual
lives can be extremely dry and uninviting like food can be,
particularly if we get into some kind of funk or drought. And
if you have ever experienced a spiritual drought you know what
droughts can do. We feel worn out maybe depressed, it's as if
we have no energy or desire. And when we feel this way our
spiritual foundation begins to crumble.
Several months ago, when talking to
the structural engineer about Catoctin's (our) sanctuary
foundation, he said he thought it was the drought last summer
that created the problem with the foundation.
As the ground became dry it contracted
allowing movement in an otherwise firm foundation. So it seems
the lack of moisture created the foundation problem. The same
is true of our spiritual foundation. If we become dry in our
spiritual life, our foundation may begin to crumble, requiring
us to spice it up to make it more inviting and appealing.
So how can we move our spiritual life
beyond routine, or perhaps through a drought, to being more
vital? How can we kick it up a notch? What spice can we add
that will give us the essence we need to be better formed in
the image of God. Well within Psalm 146 we are given four key
ingredients to spice up our spiritual life.
This psalm has become a favorite of
mine because when you read it carefully, it speaks to the
issue of spiritual formation, and tells us what the 4 key
ingredients are for being formed more fully to the image of
God. So this morning as we consider how we can kick up our
spiritual life a notch or two lets looks at these four
The first ingredient is Humility. We
ought to live humble lives, realizing we can't do it all by
ourselves. This is tough because we are taught to help
ourselves. There are thousands of self-help books available
that support this notion of self-help. As a matter of fact if
you visit a large bookstore you'll find shelf space dedicated
to many types of self-help books. But Psalm 146 says don't put
your life in the hands of mortal men, but rather be humble and
know that God will provide.
Alex Haley, the late author of Roots,
had a unique picture in his office. Framed on his wall was a
shot of a turtle sitting on top of a fence post. Haley prized
the picture because it was a constant reminder of a lesson he
had learned long ago. He said, "If you see a turtle on a fence
post, you know he had some help getting there. Anytime I start
thinking, 'Wow look at what I have done!' I look at that
picture and remember how this turtle, how I, got up on the
fence post." All that we are and all that we do is not because
of us, it's because of God. If you find yourself sitting on a
fence post, be humble, and remember how you got there. It was
by God's help directly, or through someone God sent to you to
You're probably familiar with the
phrase, "woke up on the wrong side of the bed?" How many of
you have ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed? Sure, we
all have at one time or another. We wake up cranky and grumpy,
it's as if we didn't rest at all. And since we're not happy
every ones else pays the price too. It doesn't take a whole
lot to suck the joy out of life if we allow ourselves to.
So if you awake one day and are
consumed with how you feel, I suggest you get back under the
covers, because you're already off on the wrong foot. Psalm
146 says be humble, don't focus on how you feel, but rather
wake up and give praise to God for another day. Another day
full of wonderment, opportunity and joy.
Be humble and allow God to form you.
God doesn't call us to be informed by the Bible or by
preaching. God calls us to be formed by what we read and what
It's so easy to take information and
make it all about us. We sometimes think, "how can I use this
information to my advantage?" But it's not about us, it's
about God. So the question we ought to ask is how can I take
this information and use it to be more like Jesus? How can I
take this information and advance the kingdom of God?
This day is fragile and will never
come again. How will you spend it? Being grumpy, or in praise
of God, thanking him for another day. So the first key
ingredient to this special spice is humility. Praise God in
all you say and do, and don't let the world drag you down.
The second key ingredient of spiritual
formation is Help. Psalm 146 tells us to seek God, realizing
we need help, and that it's God who will send the help. Don't
place your trust in humanity. Trust God to send the right
people at the right time. Our ultimate helper is the God of
I found this point to be very true in
helping put together Caring Hands of Emmitsburg. I was working
hard trying to pull together the right people and trying to
find someone to fill the position of Parish Nurse Coordinator.
I called people; I did all kinds of things to find the right
people. Now notice I said, "I."
The truth is "I" was not working at
all; "I" was getting in the way. I sought a human means to
find the right people instead of turning to God to get the
help that was needed. When I finally sought God's help and
asked God to provide the appropriate leadership and the right
person to fill the Parish Nurse Coordinator position, and got
out of the way, things began to happen.
In a short time we ended up with a
board of directors that has complimentary gifts and represents
very well the town of Emmitsburg, and out of the blue I
received a call from someone interested in the volunteer
position of Parish Nurse Coordinator. So we are now moving
forward at a greater pace then when "I" was working hard.
The truth is we are not equipped to
help ourselves all the time, which is counter to the idea we
need to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Now there are
times when we can certainly pull ourselves up and keep going,
but in the long run we are not equipped well enough to help
ourselves all the time. And self-help books are not the
long-term, or eternal solution.
Don't get me wrong some of these books
are good and offer some good advice, but they are a means, not
an end. They do not provide a long-term or eternal solution.
The only self-help book that does is the Bible.
Don't be so wise that you look for
help, thinking we can choose who will help us. Be wise enough
to know you can go to God for help and know that God will
choose who will provide the needed resources at a given time.
The third key ingredient to our spice
is Hope. (Col 1:17) Without hope, where do we go and what do
we do. In a letter to the editor on August 18 in the Frederick
Post there was a man who claims God is dead. I can't imagine
living a life without hope, without hope in the living and one
true God. I feel sorry for this man who is missing out on a
Christ is in us and is our hope in
glory. And our purpose is to give others hope. Far too many
people die without hope, and it's sad.
We have the honor and privilege to
give people hope. To help them come to know the hope of the
world, Jesus Christ.
And the fourth key ingredient of our
spice is lending a Hand. We ought to reach out to those folks
looking for hope. Spiritual formation comes when we reach out
and give hope in Jesus Christ to those who feel they have no
hope. The Bible says to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
The other day I heard a woman say that
her mother used to tell her that, "the saddest day of your
life is the day you awake and there's no one to help." How
We receive great satisfaction from
serving others and in turn the person being helped is blessed.
This is the ultimate win-win situation, a divine win-win
situation. Spirituality and service cannot be separated. To be
formed spiritually and to grow spiritually we need to engage
in helping others.
How many of you here are familiar with
the cartoon "The Flintstones?" This was one of my favorites
when I was a kid.
You might remember that in the
introduction to the cartoon, Fred comes home from work; slams
open the door and yells, "Wilma I'm home!" What happens next?
Dino, the dog dinosaur, comes running through the house and
jumps on Fred, knocking him over and licking him because he's
so glad to see him.
Now consider this: if we look at time
from the Biblical perspective our day would actually begin at
sundown. This means as we sleep, God is at work preparing
things for us to awake. When we awake we join God in the day
he has already begun. Now knowing this, what if we were to
wake up in the morning, fling open the covers and say, "God
I'm awake and ready to go!" And God greets us with open arms,
like faithful Dino greets Fred, because he's so glad to see
us. If we approached each of our days like this wouldn't we
begin the day with a great attitude?
Looking at the day from this
perspective we no longer wake up thinking we have to make
things happen for ourselves. God has already been at work
while we were asleep, all we have to do is join him and follow
his lead. Looking at the day from this perspective we have
less pressure, we have more time to spend with family, we know
we don't have to make the day conform to us, we conform to the
day God has made.
As I conclude let me read a modern
translation of Psalm 146, which I think adds further clarity
to the wonderful meaning of this Psalm and the image of the 4
key ingredients I spoke of. This translation is from Eugene
Peterson's The Message.
Hallelujah! O my soul, praise God! All
my life long I'll praise God, singing songs to my God as long
as I live.
Don't put your life in the hands of
experts who know nothing of life, of salvation life. Mere
humans don't have what it takes; when they die, their projects
die with them. Instead, get help from the God of Jacob, put
your hope in God and know real blessing!
God made sky and soil, sea and all the
fish in it. He always does what he says - he defends the
wronged, he feeds the hungry. God frees prisoners - he gives
sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. God loves good
people, protects strangers, takes the side of orphans and
widows, but makes short work of the wicked.
God's in charge - always. Zion's God
is God for good! Hallelujah!
So I encourage you to refocus your
spiritual life, and include these four ingredients: a humble
heart, seeking God's help, hope in Christ, and lending a hand,
mix them together to create a wonderful spice that will
certainly kick things up a notch. Now approach each new day in
praise of God being so joyful you can't help but shout
hallelujah, amen, or in cave man language Yabba-Dabba-Doo.
Thanks be to God for sharing with us
the essence of a solid spiritual life.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade