SERMON
Youth Sunday
St Stephens
November 6th, 2005
Patricia Brennan
God’s Shelter

   This morning we read the verse in Revelation which talks about God on His throne sheltering His people. This verse immediately stood out to me, and meant a lot to me because of an experience I had this summer. Last July I attended a mission trip with my youth group, Bethany Community Youth Group. Members of this youth group are between the ages of eleven and fifteen and come from four different churches. Six members from Bethany youth group, including me, went to the mission trip known as Harvest of Hope. This mission is run by the Society of St. Andrew’s and targets world hunger. We went to the Eastern Shore where the camp we were staying at is located. We stayed for the weekend and one of the days we went out to a farmer’s field and gleaned potatoes. Once we arrived at the fields we learned that this farmer, Joe Black, was not giving his gleanings away, but his whole crop! He planted a whole field just for Harvest of Hope. To be honest, this didn’t impact me much just then. I just thought he was a really nice guy. My thoughts changed dramatically after he said he wanted to tell us a story. Joe Black told us about a hard time in his life. During this time he suffered from terrible depression. This depression kept getting worse and worse in a downward spiral. Many people began to pray for him and he prayed to God to help him. Mr. Black began to realize the seriousness of his state and the effect it was having on his family and friends. He prayed to God to give him strength to get through this rough time. Sure enough, he got through his depression with God’s help and his family’s. Now Mr. Black is helping thousands of other people by giving his whole crop to Harvest of Hope.

    I thought of Joe Black when I read the verse in the Revelation lesson that says, “He who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence.” One of my favorite expressions is “Live life to the fullest”. I feel the only way that you can live life to the fullest is to accept God’s shelter. This verse from Revelation brings many questions to mind.

•  What do we need shelter from?

•  How is God our shelter?

•  What happens in my life and in the lives of people I touch when God is my shelter?

   To be sheltered by God is the best feeling in the world, the feeling of genuine comfort and support. In every step you take, He’s there to guide and protect you from evil. Every decision is not only yours, but His, speaking through you. God’s shelter is so important because of the many things that exist to be sheltered from. If you accept God’s shelter, he will keep you safe from all evils. Joe Black accepted God’s shelter when he asked for God’s help. He put his fate in God’s hands and once he did that, his life turned around, and he was at peace. God’s shelter is a big warm tent shielding us not only from evil, but also from a mistaken notion of what is good. Sometimes we get so caught up in being the best kind of Christian and always comparing our Christian way to others that we begin to ridicule those who aren’t Christian. We separate ourselves and condemn the non-Christians when instead we should be inviting them to step under God’s tent. For that tent is not just God’s protection, but His love and provision. It holds His promise of new and everlasting life.

    The best part of accepting God’s shelter is passing on the Good News. Not only will it touch our lives, but possibly hundreds of others, we have to spread the word. God has so many plans that happen every day that we never even think about. Seeing the way Joe Black felt after getting over the depression touched me that day. I have to think about how it’s not only the happy ending of the story that touches people but the bad part as well. His children seeing Farmer Joe in such a state have now probably affirmed their faith in God by being witnesses to such a miracle. Without the bad in this story, the good wouldn’t be as brilliant. I wonder how many people his friends and family have told this wonderful story to. How many people’s lives have been touched? Not only mine when I heard his story but everyone else at Harvest of Hope. We are now going out and spreading the good news, just like I am to you. And who knows how many people you now can help to accept God’s shelter. The bad part touched enough people as it is, but think of the good. Now this farmer is saving many people’s lives by providing 18,900 pounds of potatoes and so much generosity. Donating his harvest was Mr. Black’s way of thanking God for saving him.

    This is a success story because his experience was a powerful witness that illustrates God’s power and love in sheltering him. So now how can we ask for God’s shelter? Well, I see the Lord’s Prayer as an invitation into the tent of God’s shelter. “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven” we are asking that His will be done through us everyday. Let us be a part of His plan that all comes together in the end. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” is asking for God’s guidance away from sin and shelter from evil. So later when we read the Lord’s Prayer take God’s invitation and enter into his tent of the shelter of His Presence. The last sentence is confirming our recognition that we are forever faithful to God and He is in charge of us. “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”