Sun, May 27, 2018

Guardian of the Galaxy

Isaiah 6:1-8 by Doug Gunkelman

Guardians of the Galaxy is a burgeoning movie franchise that first hit the screen in 2014. Vol. 2 appeared almost precisely a year ago (May 5), and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is scheduled for release in 2020. In these films, a team with quasi, semi-impressive superpowers comes together to be guardians of the galaxy.

In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the guardians travel throughout the cosmos as they help team leader Peter Quill learn more about his mysterious parentage. The movie grossed more than $863 million worldwide, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of 2017, while also out-grossing its predecessor which had made more than $773 million.

But now, let's think about the real Guardian of the galaxy. This Protector is the ruler of everything, the omni-potentate of innumerable universes filled with galaxies we cannot see, and is more powerful, fearsome and wise than we can imagine. And, based on today's text, this Guardian is holy -- more holy than we can imagine -- and just.

This Guardian is triune and thus exists in three forms, each being peculiar and unique and yet each possessing the powers of the other. In a word, this Guardian transcends everything we know or think we know about guardians. A trinity of powers; a unity of personality.

This is the triune deity who stunned Isaiah in our text. The prophet writes, "I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew."

Make a video game. All the elements are there: A powerful Being whose glory covers "the whole earth," cool clothes, celestial beings that fly around with six wings, lofty thrones, powerful earthquakes, lots of smoke and a cool name for the all-powerful Being -- "The King, the Lord of Hosts."

We can establish from the Bible the claim that God is Guardian of the galaxy. We cannot cite all the texts available to us, but we can start with the same prophet who had the vision of God as recounted in today's text. Isaiah records the words of the Guardian who says, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?" (40:12).

Not only is God the Guardian, but God created everything that is now guarded.

Moreover, Isaiah says of the Guardian, "All the nations are as nothing before him; they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?" (40:17-18).

He lays it on even thicker: "Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing" (40:21-23).

God is the Good Guardian of the Galaxy unlike the movie guardians of the galaxy who aren’t always so good. Groot sometimes loses focus on his mission when he hears 1970’s classic rock and starts dancing with it . . .

You know you’ve come full circle when you can buy the same Christmas present for your father and your 4 year old son and they both love it!

God is good all the time. God is good . . . Goodness is one of his attributes. God is the source of goodness as well. Consider these verses. In Psalm 34:8 we read, "O taste and see that the Lord is good." The psalmist also declares, "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good" (107:1). Jesus reminded the rich, young ruler that "there is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:16-17).

God is so good that just by understanding the goodness of God, we should forswear the bad stuff we do. This is the Apostle Paul's point in Romans: "Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4, NKJV).

God is good . . .

God is just.

God can hardly be unfair, even though we may be inclined sometimes to think that God is. But an unfair God lacks perfection. A perfect God is one who is just and fair. And so God is.

God is not only justice, but God is the judge! Listen to Abraham pleading with God to save the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, "Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (Genesis 18:25). Notice that God is called the Judge of the earth. God is also described as a judge in Judges, "Let the Lord, who is judge, decide today for the Israelites or for the Ammonites" (11:27). And in James 5, the same thing: "Do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!" (v. 9).

We like someone who is fair and just. It's a quality that we appreciate in those who are our superiors in life, whether an employer, a parent, or a grandparent.

To be unfair is arbitrary, unkind, unreasonable and mean-spirited. No one could like such a God, much less worship such a God.

Granted, God's justice is often delayed. Sometimes the wicked seem to prosper. Evil seems to be winning. In spite of all our best efforts, the tide of evil continues to march forward. But one thing we can safely say is that the Bible teaches that in the end, evildoers and the wicked will face justice. They will meet their Maker, who is justice.

This God of the universe does not want anyone to face wrath and justice. "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Although God is just and God's justice demands that evildoers receive their just reward, God offers everyone, including evildoers, a path to redemption. God provides this cross-shaped loophole because God's essential nature is pure, white-hot, all-encompassing, blinding love. God is love. We heard it in Bishop Curry’s wedding sermon last weekend. God loves. God loves the world. God loves the natural world. God loves the mountains and lakes, the meadow and its flowers, the deer and the rabbits. God loves saints and sinners alike. God loves children. God loves us when we're good and when we're bad, when we're happy and when we're sad. In fact, there's no power in the galaxy that can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

What's not to like and love about this Super God who loves us, is fair with us and who is essentially good? We stand, like Isaiah, in total awe and amazement in that moment when God's incredible power and fearful essence are revealed to us. The veil is lifted.

Like Isaiah, we might say, "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a [person] of unclean lips ... yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" (1:5).

Catch a glimpse of the greatness of God, a God of superpowers beyond human description.

Granted, God can often seem confusing to us. God is love, yet sometimes God seems testy, whimsical and moody. Yet, even our need for God to be tidy, understandable and rational is a human need. We cannot fit God into that kind of tidy box. God will be testy with Job, have compassion on the sinners of Nineveh and forgive someone like David. God will be God.

And the most incredible part is yet to come! This same God sends us out to speak to the world. In verse 8, we read, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?'"

Isaiah responded as we, too, should respond: "Here I am; send me."

On this Holy Trinity Sunday and Memorial Day weekend, we remember and honor our brothers and sisters who when called upon, responded as guardians of our freedom. We present quilts of valor to one of our WW II veterans, Merle Graning and one of our Iraq veterans, Brian Regovich.

Merle Graning completed his basic training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi before spending 3 years in the South Pacific going from island to island fighting the Japanese while carrying the tripod for an air-cooled light machine gun.

The fighting got most intense in the Philippines where “a lot of our fellas got it going from town to town on our way to Manila. They attached us in the open country between towns”.

As the war came to an end, Merle made it home and while still in uniform, joined together with Virginia in the covenant of marriage on May 26, 1945. Merle had written her a letter almost every night during the war and she always wrote back. Merle’s best friend, Harry Rounds would be the best man. Virginia had become close friends with Merle’s sister Charlotte, who was the maid of honor. In February, Merle celebrated his 100th birthday. We thank Merle for his service with a quilt of valor.

Brian Regovich was baptized, celebrated first communion, confirmed, and married right here in our Divinity sanctuary. I remember officiating at Brian and A.J.’s wedding just two weeks before he left for basic training at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri and then more training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. After their October wedding, Brian was on his way to Kuwait by the end of December, 2004.

Brian spent one year stationed in Baghdad, living in one of Saddam’s guardhouses next to one of several palaces. Brian’s National Guard unit spent much of their time doing “route clearance” which means locating and removing IED’s on the sides of the roads. Friends were lost.

Brian’s second job was as a gunner providing security for people moving from place to place. It included transporting guards to and from the Abu Ghraib prison. For 3 months, Brian was also part of a “QRF” (quick reaction force) to respond to attacks.

One year later, on Christmas day of 2005, Brian flew out of Baghdad to Kuwait and then home. Since then, Brian and A.J. have been blessed with 3 children, Haylie, Jacob, and Justin. Brian has now served in the National Guard for 15 years. He is a military policeman based out of Chagrin Falls. Brian has also been a policeman in Garfield Heights for the past 11 years.

We thank Brian for his service with a quilt of valor.

I, the Lord of sea and sky,

I have heard My people cry.

All who dwell in dark and sin,

My hand will save.

I who made the stars of night,

I will make their darkness bright.

Who will bear My light to them?

Whom shall I send?


Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?

I have heard You calling in the night.

I will go Lord, if You lead me.

I will hold Your people in my heart.