Being aware and faithful to God (03/03/13 Sermon)

1 Corinthians 10:1-13
10I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,3and all ate the same spiritual food,4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
6Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did.7Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.”8We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.9We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents.10And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.11These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

 

Have you heard this word, unagi? It is Japanese. If you love sushi, you are probably familiar with this. Yes, unagi is a kind of sushi. But now I am not telling you of sushi. Unagi has a different meaning. It is from the Japaness fighting style, karate. It means a total awareness or a total state of awareness. When you have achieved unagi, you can prepare and defend yourself from any danger at any given moment. A total awareness to prepare and to protect.

Have you considered this kind of awareness in your spiritual journey? In order for Christians to perform well in their spiritual journey, the awareness of God’s presence and grace is crucial.
However, as Christians, we have many challenges in our journey and those challenges make it hard to be aware of God’s love and presence. Especially, Christians living in modern American society face many challenges to their values and lifestyles. One of the biggest of these challenges is maintaining their Christian values while being continuously bombarded by worldly values found in secular music, movies, television programs, magazines, and advertising. American Christians have faced the challenges which come from the gap between Christian values and secular values. Also, they have faced many challenges such as diseases, disasters, injustice, murders, and various sufferings in their daily lives. We have many questions and those questions have gotten in the way of our spiritual journey. They distract us from the ability to be aware of God’s presence in our lives. We are very often disturbed and distracted in the course of our spiritual journey. We very often fail to be aware of God.

As I said, in the course of our spiritual journey, the awareness of God’s presence and grace is crucial. That is why Paul, in today’s text, told the Corinthians “I do not want you to be unaware.” Being aware of God is a way to communicate with God, to experience God’s love, and to keep our faith in God. Moreover, being aware of God helps us see ourselves as Christians and reexamine our faith in God.
I believe that Lent is the season to sharpen our awareness of God and ourselves, so we can grow in our faith and relationship with God. I encourage you to do this through this Lenten season.

 

Now take a look at today’s Scripture. According to the Scripture we read, Paul warns the Christians at Corinth that some of them are not on the path to a meaningful Christian life before God. He uses events from the Exodus to illustrate their plight. The Israelites were the Church’s spiritual ancestors who had participated in the outpouring of God’s providential care in the wilderness. They were covered by God’s grace and love and they could pass miraculously through the Red sea. They were under God’s protection and baptized as one community of God’s kingdom. Their spiritual food was manna and their spiritual drink was the water from the rock. This manna and the water from the rock of our ancestors remind us of the bread and wine in the Holy Communion in which God is present and God’s love and grace are full.

However, Paul says, God showed God’s anger to many of them because they engaged in various evils such as sexual immorality and testing and complaining and building idols like the golden Calf, even though God took care of them in the wilderness. These are the reasons why “God was not pleased” with the Israelites.

In verses 11-12, Paul now completes the point he kept in his mind. He warns the Corinthians that they are in a similar situation to the Israelites. They are blessed, yet at the same time they are sinning against God by flirting with idolatry. In this respect, Paul warns the Corinthians “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall (v.12)!”
Then in verse 13, he turns to encourage the Corinthians with this truth. That is, No temptation has seized you except what is common to all men and women. And God is faithful; God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, (and this is most important) God will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under any temptations. God restrains the tempter’s hand and ends the test before it overwhelms us. When we rely on the Lord, we endure.

The one thing that we need to do in the Lenten season is to be aware of God’s presence with us and God’s faithfulness and to rely on God. In the sermon of the first Sunday of Lent, I planned to share a great lesson, but our worship was canceled. Still, I believe that the lesson is great and worth repeating, so I would like to share it with you today. Some of you may have read the sermon on our website but for some who didn’t read it, I will present the lesson again.

This lesson is from a dog. I now invite you to pay attention. Dogs are considered man’s best friends. They are very cute and friendly and love people. Moreover, dogs are faithful. Anyone who has trained a dog to obey knows this scene. A bit of meat or bread is placed on the floor near the dog and the master says, “No!” The dog knows that she must not touch it. The treat looks and smells so delicious that the dog starts to salavate. However, the dog does not touch the food because the master said, “No!” The dog will usually take her eyes off the food, because the temptation to disobey would be too great, and will instead fix her eyes on the master’s face. Do you catch the point? Even though the dog is tempted by the food, the dog intentionally takes her eyes off the food and intentionally fixes her eyes on the master’s face. We know that the dog sometimes glances at the food and makes a groan. But the point is the dog tries to fix her eyes on the master. How about that? Isn’t it great? That is the lesson from the dog. For Lent, please keep this in your mind whenever you are tempted and whenever you feel you are too weak, “Always faithfully look to the Master who gives us strength and wisdom.”

In Korea, there is a native dog called Jindo dog. These dogs are beloved by most Koreans. Do you know why? Jindo dogs are regarded as one of the most faithful dogs. Masters love these dogs because of their faithfulness. Likewise, God will shower us with love and blessing when we are faithful to God. There is no doubt about that.

We often fail to be obedient to God as the Israelites failed to be obedient in the wilderness. Nevertheless, there is good news. Paul says in verse 13, God is faithful and God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. Lent is a season to fix our eyes to God who is always faithful and helps us to overcome the challenges and temptations in our lives. That is the good news. As a response to God’s faithfulness, let us be aware of God’s faithfulness and grace.

Let me wrap up today’s sermon. Being aware and faithful to God is a key practice for this Lenten season. So during Lent, let us together practice our faith and unagi, the total awareness. Let us fix our eyes and our hearts on God. When we do this, then we will experience the fullness of God’s grace and love in our family, our job, and our lives.

Let us pray,
Loving God, we believe that you are always faithful to us and aware of our needs. We give you thanks. Also, we give thanks to you for the opportunity to grow closer to you this season. Due to your love and grace, we come together to worship and pray. Help us to be aware of your presence in our lives. And enable us to be faithful. In your name, we pray. Amen.

 

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