Psalm 29:1-11 and Mark 1:1-11
(Quoted scripture is New Revised Standard Version)
I listen to a lot of Contemporary Christian music while I drive some 30,000 miles each year doing ministry.
What I’ve found is the contemporary artists are more willing than ever to write songs from their heart, sharing dark places they’ve been in and how Jesus brought them into the light. Among my favorite songs is one written by Bart Millard and performed by his band MercyMe. This is what Bart says inspired him to write I Can Only Imagine.
“When my father died of cancer in 1991, he left me with the assurance that he was headed to a better place. He used to always tell me that I was getting the raw end of the deal because I had to stick around here. For several years following his death I would find myself writing the phrase, ‘I can only imagine’ on anything I could find. That simple phrase would give me peace and hope thinking about what my dad was finally experiencing.”
“Years later, in 1999, MercyMe was writing songs for an independent project. I remember coming home from a show and being wide awake on our bus at 2 o’clock in the morning. I was trying to write lyrics in an old notebook of mine, when all of a sudden, I stumbled across that phrase. About ten minutes later, the song was written. Some people say it’s amazing that it was written in ten minutes, yet it had been on my heart for almost ten years.”
I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe
I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
Chorus: Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine, I can only imagine
I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine, I can only imagine
This heartfelt song was written out of Bart Millard’s life script, what he experienced in his father’s death. The movie I Can Only Imagine is coming out in March of this year. Joe and I plan on watching it, and I’m hoping to take the youth of the church too.
For many writers of Christian songs, their songs are written from their hearts, out of what they’ve experienced in their lives. Think about Fanny Crosby, blinded in infancy because of a doctor’s treatment. From her life experiences, her life script, she wrote approximately 8,000 hymns. Hymns such as Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. Words written from her heart. ‘Jesus, keep me near the cross; there a precious fountain, free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s mountain. In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever, till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.’ (#301, UMH)
Fanny was literally in a very dark place and yet she found hope in the assurance that Jesus’ blood flowed from Calvary’s mountain for her sins, and she looked forward to finding rest for her soul beyond the river when she died.
Our Life Script: I believe who we are today is whom we have been. We are the sum of our life experiences.
Sometimes, because of abusive life experiences, we have a difficult time living a Life Script which pleases and glorifies God. Yet, A Life Script which pleases and glorifies God is possible when we give our heart and life to Jesus. Jesus is the transformation agent for our lives and our world. That is where baptism comes in.
In our reading from the Gospel of Mark 1:4-5, “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean country side and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”
Baptism is a powerful symbol for the Christian. There is an Old Testament scholar and author named Walter Brueggemann who is influencing how many Christians are thinking about baptism. From reading Brueggemann’s writings, came the idea for today’s sermon title, Our Life Script.
Brueggemann begins by saying that everybody has a script. You and I have a script that we live by. Think of a script from which an actor reads. Each of us, says Brueggemann, has a script in his or her brain and we live our lives both consciously and unconsciously guided by that script. This script is the product of a lifetime of influences. Part of this script comes from the rituals in which our families engage. For some of us this may be as simple as, “My dad always said . . .” (2)
Part of the script comes from our family. Writer, James P. Lenfesty tells about an eleven-year-old boy fishing one night with his father. Suddenly the boy’s pole doubled over. He knew something huge was on the other end. With much effort he reeled it in. It was the largest bass he had ever seen. His father watched proudly, but then looked at his watch. It was 10:00 p.m. two hours before the bass season opened. “You’ll have to put it back son,” the father said. The boy couldn’t believe what his father was saying. No one was around. No one would know. Why should he throw it back? That was thirty‑four years ago. Today, the boy is a successful architect in New York City. He still lives by the ethics his father taught him that night. That is part of his script. (3)
Part of the script comes from our surrounding culture, especially television and advertising. The average American, we’re told, is bombarded by up to 3,000 ads PER DAY! Ads such as, “You only go around once in life,” or “Because I’m worth it!” or “Just do it.” With enough repetition these messages become part of us.
Central to our cultural script, says Brueggemann, is the assumption that happiness comes in a bottle, a drug or in a product. According to this script, “there is a product or a treatment or a process to counteract every ache and pain and discomfort and trouble, so that life may be lived without inconvenience.”
Here is the problem, says Brueggemann. This script has failed. It promised to make us safe and happy and fulfilled. Yet, the truth is, it has instead produced new depths of insecurity and new waves of unhappiness. Every survey tells us that we are wealthier than we’ve ever been our houses are bigger we have more discretionary income, we live better than any previous generation on earth and yet never have we been unhappier and more uncertain about our future. The script has failed. Never have we been more disconnected from the things that really matter.
When I sit down to have a meal with the teenagers of today we say grace before we eat. I offer to let them say the grace, asking what grace they say when they sit down with their family at home to eat. I can’t think of one teenager who says they sit down with their family to eat and say grace before the meal. Most say they sit in front of the TV or eat in their room while being on their computer or phone. This is a failed script!
What kind of a Life Script are we writing for our children’s life? A sixth-grade girl said the other day, “This is the day of life lived on our phones.” She’s been told technology will make us happier. Meanwhile our families are in shambles. Sales of antidepressants are soaring. People are suffering from all kinds of emotional disorders. The script has failed.
I’ve been speaking lately about the younger generation, not having hope for a future. This is because their Life Script may come from not having a relationship with God, or other human beings. It comes from a failed script.
Our physical, mental, moral and spiritual health depends on disengaging from and relinquishing the failed script, and living by a Life Script from the Word of God, the Bible. I believe this the task of the church and its ministry to detach us from that powerful, yet failed script.
That’s my job each week. Not to entertain you, not to reinforce world views you already hold, but to give you an alternative script that is rooted in the Bible and the love of God, exemplified in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His one and only Son.
Mark 1:7 reads, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.”
You and I are not worthy of the love and grace of Jesus, but I know for certain Jesus loves you and me because the Bible tells me so! I want to honor this love and grace of God given so freely through Jesus, by striving to live a Life Script that pleases God.
We will renew and affirm our baptismal vows today. We will read the renew and reaffirmation vows, and then come forward to dip our fingers in the baptismal font, touch your head, your heart and pray for as long as you wish. This is a new year, Jesus is the presence who can make you new again. Jesus is the presence who can help you live out a Life Scrip which honors and glorifies God.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: 2. The Christian Century (November 29,
2005), pp. 22-28.
3. “Catch of a Lifetime” in Stephen R. Covey, Everyday Greatness (Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 2006), pp.122-123.