Theme: Dive In
Series: IN – Lent Easter 2020
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Date: 1st March, 2020 (preached at the 9am worship service)
Bible Reading: Selected Verses from the Psalms
As we have already mentioned earlier in the service, we are in the season of Lent – a 40-day journey (or 46 if you count Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Lent is supposed to be a time of preparation through practices such as prayer, reflection, repentance of sins, giving to those who are needy and self-sacrifice.
This year at TUC, our Lenten journey has a focus of making Easter personal. If you look at the way that Jesus did his ministry, the way that he interacted with people – he always saw the person first and he made things personal. Jesus had this habit of being able to bring a conversation around to what was really important to a person.
Think about it. The woman at the well, Nicodemus, Mary & Martha, Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, the woman who touched his cloak, the disciples … I could go on, but in all these, Jesus was able to connect and minister to people on a personal level.
I think that this Easter, Jesus is offering the same to us. Jesus is inviting us not just to journey towards Easter but journey towards Easter WITH HIM. Jesus wants us to experience Easter personally.
One of the verses in the bible that really impacts me is John 14:9 – probably because it has my name in it. The disciple Philip asks Jesus a question and in response Jesus says these words, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Ouch … I never want Jesus to say that about me. I don’t only want to know about Jesus … I want to know Jesus.
And so that is our challenge this Lent … to focus on our personal relationship with Jesus. To not only get more about the journey to the cross, but to have a closer personal relationship with the one who went to the cross for us.
I know that for some people this idea of a personal relationship with Jesus doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and for others they don’t like talking about it because it makes them feel guilty or uncomfortable … but over the next six weeks we will be unpacking some of this.
But for now, let’s start this journey with one of my favourite Psalms – Psalm 42 – a psalm where the writer is desperate for more … more connection with God, a greater sense of God in their life, some sense and meaning in the midst of this world. But most of all, what the Psalmist is looking for is a “deeper” personal relationship with God/Jesus … and it is my prayer that this can be our experience this Lent.
So, to begin this I am going to ask Bill to come and to read to us this amazing Psalm – Psalm 42
On our Facebook page I asked you to read through Psalm 42 and reflect on what verse or phrase spoke out to you. I find Psalm 42 a very moving psalm … probably because the writer is speaking from the heart. It is full of passion, hurt, longing, faith. What jumped out to you?
- The spiritual longing that he (and I would suggest) all of us have in our souls. Our souls long for some sort of spiritual connection or experience. “As the deer”
- The honesty of the writing. He was writing in a really dark place. He speaks of having a downcast and disturbed soul. That his tears have been his food day and night. His emotions ache right down to his bones it feels like waves and breakers just sweep over him. That is real (and relatable???)
- I remember when… if there has been times when he was felt close to God then maybe he can feel it again
- Yet I will put my hope and trust in God. Somehow he makes the decision that even though God feels far away – it is in God where he can find hope
As I said, I love this psalm … but today I really want to pick up on one line, one phrase from verse 7 – “Deep calls to Deep in the roar of your waterfalls.” Deep calls to Deep. This phrase is only in the NIV translation – other translations focuses more on the chaos of the waterfall – but the NIV says that in that chaos, deep calls to deep. This phrase speaks to me today as much as it did 17 years ago when I first preached on it. Deep calls to deep. If we want to experience the depths of God, then we need to start to relate to the deep parts of God. Because deep calls to deep.
If our spiritual experience is more skimming the surface we might get some the feelings or blessings or spiritual experiences … maybe there is more if we go in a bit deeper. Deep calls to deep.
I think that God is calling you this morning – and this Lent – to consider going a little deeper … spiritually speaking. And it doesn’t really matter where you are. If you are sitting up on the shore with no interest in the water at all … maybe God is inviting you to consider dipping your toe in. Or if your toe is dipped in, maybe take another step and get your feet wet. Or if you are swimming in the spiritual shallows … maybe it is time to see what it like to spiritually dive down deep. Because there is something about the deep. Deep calls to deep.
And it doesn’t really matter what is going on in your life. You might be in a great place where everything is wonderful or you might be like the Psalmist with the waves of life crashing over you … Jesus is still inviting you to consider going in a little deeper. Deep calls to deep.
This idea is not just in Psalm 42. This idea of going deep is all throughout the bible. In Luke 5, Jesus is walking along the Lake and meets Peter and John for the first time. They are feeling down because they have fished all night and have not found what they are looking for. What does Jesus tell them in verse 4, “Put out into deep water, and let your nets down for a catch.”
Jesus was speaking to literally go out into deep water, and when they did they caught more fish than they could handle, but could he also have been speaking spiritually. If you cannot find what you are looking for spiritually, then put out into deep water. Explore the spiritual depths of God. Deep calls to deep.
In Luke 6, Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish builders. Where did the wise person built the foundation of their house? Not just on the rock. Read v 48. “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundations on the rock.” We are called not just to build our lives on God, but to lay our foundations in the depths of God. Deep calls to deep.
Or in Ezekiel 32:3,4. Here Ezekiel is comparing Assyria to the cedars in Lebanon. The huge trees are described having “beautiful branches overshadowing the forest; towering on high, its top above the thick foliage.” But how did these trees grow so tall. Read verse 4. “The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall.” In the same way as a tree put its roots down deep into the underground springs, it is the deep springs of God that will make us grow tall. Deep calls to deep.
Don’t settle for shallow religion … seek out what it means to experience the spiritual depths by connecting with God. Maybe it is worth thinking about … Go in a little deeper because deep calls to deep.
A few years ago, my family and I had one of those “once in a life-time” experiences when I was on holidays in Hawaii. One morning we jumped on a catamaran and went about a kilometre offshore where we donned some snorkel gear and jumped in the water. We were swimming about 10 meters above what they called a “turtle shelf” – a sea formation where about these huge sea turtles were swimming around. They were magnificent. Most of the time the turtles were swimming below us but every now and again they would surface for air and they would come right up next to you.
We were not supposed to touch them but one time I didn’t have a choice as it was literally pushing into me. It was so awesome to be that close to these gentle, magnificent creatures. But it wasn’t just turtles. There were thousands of fish that were swimming around, many of them feeding off the shells of the turtles, and even a small shark.
As I said, most of the time we were floating above the action and having those special moments when the action would surface around us. But while we were there another tour group turned up and they were scuba diving. They were not just skimming the surface like we were … they were down right in the midst of the action.
I am wondering whether or not when it comes to our spirituality, when it comes to connecting with God … I am wondering whether we are settling for a snorkelling experience or a scuba diving experience. Sure … when we are snorkelling, we have those moments when like the turtle surfacing, we have an experience of God or our spirit is touched and it is amazing. But what if there is more … if we go deeper.
This is what I want to focus over the next 6 weeks during Lent … how we can go deeper – because it does not matter where you are, God is calling you to go a little bit deeper.
To help us go deeper in our relationship with Jesus this Lent, I would like to suggest three practical things that could help us do that.
- To openly explore the questions
I acknowledged before that this sort of talk is confusing to some people. The idea that we can … I don’t know … chat with Jesus as we walk along. That God can speak to us. That just raises lots of questions. So let’s explore them. No question is too simple or too weird. Let’s together go deeper into Jesus by exploring the questions.
- To proactively seek experiences of God’s grace
I believe that God wants to connect with us, that the risen Jesus does want us to experience him in a real way … and I know that these experiences can be different for different people. So this Lent, let us proactively go looking for those experiences. Things like worship, communion, prayer, meditation, stillness, being in creation, listening to music … these things can help us not only think of God but experience the presence of God.
For me, this is not just a theory. This is real. I long for those experiences with God. As a deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you. I am a person who is always on the go. My brain runs at 100 miles an hour and seems to be always thinking of different things. And yet I know that if I stop for 10 minutes, just sit quietly and pray or just be open to the Spirit … every time I get a deep sense of God’s presence. I feel connected. I experience God. I also experience God when I sing worship songs like we sang this morning. I don’t know what it is but something about the music and the words just draws me in … and it is like my spirit connects with God’s spirit and we soar together. Sounds silly, doesn’t it – but for me it is a real experience.
So, if slowing down or worship songs are things that help me experience God’s grace … what works for you? It is my hearts desire that this Lent each one of us will have a number of real, intimate and meaningful personal experiences of God/Jesus. Now that is a goal that I get excited about.
- To express God’s love to others
Lastly for some people, the thing that really helps them go deeper with Jesus is by doing practical things that express God’s love to others or to a world that so desperately needs it. For some people their faith comes alive and real and fulfilling by following the example of Jesus … and we are also going to be exploring this in a few weeks’ time.
What do you think of this Framework for Lent and working on our personal relationship with Jesus. If you would like to go a little spiritually deeper then:
- Actively Explore the Questions
- Be open to experiencing God’s Grace
- Find ways Boldly Express God’s love
I just want to remind you of my earlier point – It doesn’t matter where you are spiritually – from dipping the toe in to being fully submerged … Jesus this Lent is calling you to consider going a little deeper.
When I was snorkelling in Hawaii – it was truly awesome looking down on these turtles and fish, but now I wonder what it was like for those scuba divers.
Deep calls to deep.
Be brave and go deeper into God.