Shaken or Unshaken?

Rev Patrick Dominguez | August 21, 2022 | Heb 12:18-29

The latter half of Hebrews 12 reminds us that we are receiving a "kingdom that cannot be shaken." How does this impact our present life when we think of all the things in this world that can (and do) shake us?


Shaken or Unshaken? | Heb 12:18-29

A reading from the book of Hebrews 12 18 29 for you have not come to what may be touched
ablazing fire and darkness and gloom and attempt this, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice
whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them, for they could not
endure the order that was given. If even a beast touches this mountain, it will be stoned indeed. So
terrifying was the sight that Moses said I tremble with fear. But you have come to Mount Zion. And to
the city of the living God. The heavenly Jerusalem. And to innumerable angels and festival gathering
and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven and to God. The Judge of all and to
the spirits of the righteous made perfect and to Jesus. The mediator of a new covenant. And to the
sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who
is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less
will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised. Yet once more I will shake not only
the earth, but also the heaven. This phrase yet once more indicates the removal of things that are
shaken, that is, things that have been made, in order that things that cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And thus let us offer to
God acceptable worship with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire. The word of the
Lord. Please stand for a reading of the word. This is a reading from Luke. He went on his way through
towns and villages, teaching and journeying through Jerusalem, and someone said to him, lord, will
those who are saved be few? And he said to them, strive to enter through the narrow door for the
house. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Then once the Master of the house
has risen and shut the door and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, Lord, open
to us. Then he will answer you, I do not know where you come from.
Then you will begin to say, we ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our streets. But he will
say, I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil. In that
place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and
all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourself cast out. And people will come from east and
west and from north and south and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some who are
last will be first, and some who are first will be last. A reading of the word of the Lord.
My kids, as we get ready to send you off to Kids Alive. Did any of you see lightning this morning and
hear thunder? Was it awesome? Her dog probably barking at the lightning. Snoring that's louder than
lightning and thunder. I love it, I love it. But lightning and thunder is pretty powerful, but God is more
powerful still. And though we don't want to be out in the middle of a storm, when God shows up, he
shows his power and his love for us. So you're going to learn more about that in Kids Alive. So, Father,
I pray that you'll show the awesome power of your love to these young people in Jesus name, amen.
All right. God bless you as you go. Yeah. So this morning, speaking of kind of awesome things, we're
going to be in Hebrews twelve, where it talks about thunder and lightning and smoke and this
mountain that is just being shaken. So much so that Moses and all the people are terrified. But then
there's promises that are shared in this passage and it tells us that we are going to receive a kingdom
that cannot be shaken. And yet in this life, we experience a shaking, don't we?
I want to invite Jolie Kilpatrick to come up and to share with you a story of ways that she's been
shaken and yet that God has proved faithful. Thank you, Julie.
Good morning, everybody. So when Patrick asked me to speak, my first thought was I haven't had that
much suffering. I've never felt very far from God. I've never felt abandoned by Him. I've never lost my
entire home or my family. I haven't experienced war, famine or severe illness or persecution myself. I
grew up without much in the way of material goods. But my dad always taught us we were rich and
friends. Sorry, I've got to read this. Rich in friends and family. And that was all we needed and I
believed it. He also taught me that God shows up when we follow his will and submit to his plan. The
last season of my life has been a struggle. Many of you know and prayed fervently for my family as
my father battled a very rare cancer that quickly took him from the future we had imagined. It was a
whirlwind of looking for answers, grasping on the edge of hope, while knowing in the back of your
mind it was most likely not the answer we wanted. It was long hours driving to and from New York,
sitting in hospitals and was difficult navigating how to help my dad come to terms with his diagnosis.
He had 2% survival rate. I found I was more ready to accept it than he. And how do you start the
grieving and mourning process of acceptance when the person this is happening to is unwilling to
accept it. I don't think my dad was angry as much as he was confused. He felt he was doing such a
good work here and had so much left to do. He couldn't understand why God was choosing this end
and why now. But as a family, we had faith there was something more coming from it. I just prayed
dad would be able to see the fruit of his illness before he left. And I believe he knows a lot more now
than we do. There's a lot of suffering in this world. Sometimes so much I want to tune out and ignore
it. I can understand the draw some to want to drown out the sadness and hurt with a simple phrase
like smile, Jesus loves you. But I think in order to understand the love of Jesus, we have to understand
the pain that comes with that love. Many friends who struggle to believe in a God who allow suffering
have asked things like if he can stop it, why doesn't he?
Or how can you believe a God is good if he can stop things from happening but doesn't? Often? I
struggled with those questions myself and had to accept this was perhaps one of the mysteries of
God that I would never understand. But seeing what can happen to a child when suffering is kept as
far away from them as possible has opened my eyes. Throughout my years as a dance coach,
working with hundreds of children, teens and young adults, and through my own constant learning as
a parent, I have learned that bulldozer parents where a parent clears all strife and struggle from the
path of their child. Where they make the bad grade go away with a call to the school, where they
create perfect playmates through phone calls and editing of friends and neighbors, where they enroll
and unenroll in schools, activities and sports based on the whim and will of their child. Where they
make every interaction and experience one of excellence in success. These are the perfect conditions
for anxiety. Issues of self confidence and depression is where they all festers. I'm not saying we as
parents do not have a role in wisely choosing safe environments for our children, but a safe
environment is not one without struggle.
As one who likes to dabble in gardening, I learned that starting seeds indoor is the key to a successful
year round bounty for any bounty. If you live in upstate New York, where I come from, where it's
always winter but never Christmas, however, one cannot simply grow a seed indoors in a controlled
climate with the perfect amount of sun and water. After the seedlings begin to sprout, and before you
can plant them in your garden outdoors, there's a time of hardening off. This is when you begin to set
the seedlings outdoors. For short amounts of time, they must experience the heat of the sun and the
wind. That may be harsh at times, as they strengthen and grow to be able to withstand the world in
which they will soon live. Without this time of hardening off, a plant would be destroyed because it is
too weak to handle life in the world without having struggled and strengthened. It would never get the
opportunity to grow and bear fruit without this struggle. God is not a bulldozer parent. He knows in
order for us to grow, we must suffer. But he does not wish us to walk our suffering alone.
And we are not to keep our suffering to ourselves. We are called to share in the suffering of others, to
share the burden of it. I have felt the prayers of so many throughout the years and especially this
season of life. My family has been blessed through food, care, gifts and communications. It has been
awe inspiring to see the people who stopped their own lives to care for my family and my father. If
anything, these struggles have bolstered my face. I was able to witness so many little miracles. The
day of my father's going away party, we met at my parents'house. It isn't large, but the number of
people that showed up to say goodbye would have made any health expert nervous in an age of
COVID. So we prayed. God was merciful and we did not hear of any spread from that event. At one
point, we planned a time of prayer and praise which was to be held outside so everyone could gather
together. Around my dad there was a 100% chance of rain. We rushed to get everyone set up and
started to get as much in as we could before the clouds opened up.
But as my dad sat in his chair, the clouds cleared away and the sun broke through. The first raindrop
didn't fall until he rose to go inside. He was given three months in December. But by the sheer will and
determination and the grace of God, he was given. For a neighbor who previously was a stranger
became a dear, dear friend who joined us with her head bowed and on her knees as we prayed and
sang through one of Dad's last nights on earth. By leaning into suffering, submitting our pain, grief
and future to God and his will, our faith can grow stronger, we can be made more whole, and God can
be glorified through all things. Many of you may have noticed the tattoo on my arm. You may not
know the story that goes with it. Each flower represents one of our children. You see, between every
beautiful child that I have here with me today, I have at least one I never got to meet for a long time. I
was told miscarriages were normal. And though they are, I have lost half of my children to them. I
often had to get pregnant and lose one before I could have the hope of meeting one.
The normal joy of those first few weeks of knowing you're expecting were ones I lived with my breath
held tight, worried that every day was the day I would begin losing my baby. And four separate times,
that's exactly what happened. I have eight hot air balloons on my arm floating up to the heavens. Four
of them are blooming flowers, and these represent my four children I've been blessed to watch grow
and blossom. I also have four buds who I wait for now and hope that I will get to see them bloom
someday. My second thought after speaking with Patrick became, god is so good to me, has been so
good to me. He has given me the gift of faith. I've never doubted his love or goodness. I have never
felt abandoned or forsaken. Jesus took all that on the cross. He was forsaken for me, so I would
never have to be. He was abandoned and alone, so I will never have to be. He took it all the sin, the
loneliness, the misunderstood, the forsaken, the utter devastation. So I will never have to go through
that on my own. From Jesus death on.
God is always there in the suffering. There's no longer any imperfect suffering when his people are
going through it because it has been covered by the blood of Christ. I have always had assurance that
everything was working for my good and God's plan. As a child, that meant I would tell myself god
had something better for me when things didn't go the way I had thought I wanted. As an adult, I've
come to realize God has something better for his kingdom, and I am part of that. But the things I go
through might not feel as if they are for my better. I leave with this quote from CS. Lewis the lion, the
Witch and the Wardrobe, which has always stuck with me. And this is where Mr. Beaver is talking to
Susan, and he says, Aslen is a lion. The lion, the great lion. Oh, said Susan. I thought he was a man. Is
he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion. Safe? Said Mr. Beaver. Who said
anything about safe? Of course he isn't safe, but he's good. He's the king, I tell you.
Thank you, Jolie. Let's pray for Jolie. Father, we give you so much thanks for Jolie and her
faithfulness, for her family, for her presence among us in this church. We ask deep blessings upon
them. We ask that you would continue to work healing and the grief that she feels over her dad and
the children she will see in heaven, Lord. And we ask that you continue to use her to bless many
people as you have, Lord. In Jesus name, amen. Thank you. Joey is also organizing our pizza today,
so she's going to be running off to go get those. But I'm so grateful that she was willing to come up
here and share. She shared that story with me about her children when I asked about her tattoos. And
I thought of that when I thought of this promise of an unshakable kingdom. The writer of Hebrews
wants the Hebrews to know that there's a kingdom coming that is unshakable. The ancient world was
a very shakable place. Nothing was certain in the ancient world, whether it was famines or the sword
or very bad economic times. People in the ancient world faced a lot, a lot that we often take for
granted we might never have to face.
But in the midst of it, the word of God gives many encouragements. And the writer to the Hebrews
said, I want you to know the kingdom is coming that is unshakeable. What does that mean for us who
believe? I think we saw something of what it means for Jolie. What does it mean for us who believe
that there is an unshakeable kingdom coming when we're in the midst of shaky times? There's a
solidity, there's an unsakable quality available to God's, people that really can become part of our
lives. In many ways. I know I would rather be someone who holds on to what is solid then who's
always being shaken all the time. So how do you experience it? Well, to experience it you have to take
the long view both backwards and forwards. And we see that in the book of Hebrews in the last two
weeks, as we've been in chapter eleven and chapter twelve, we see there are saints who have gone
before, who are people just like us, who had faults and flaws and foibles, and yet they had faith. To
experience unshakable faith, we need to look backwards at God's faithfulness to his people
throughout the ages and of the faith that they displayed in holding on to God even when they didn't
see the promises that were given to them fulfilled.
But we also have to look forwards. And that's where the writer of Hebrews goes now to the angels
and the saints ahead. And so I want to help us do that. If you want to look in Hebrews, chapter twelve,
in verse 18, the writer tells them you've not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is
burning with fire to darkness and gloom and storm. What he's speaking of there is when the old
covenant was given, when Moses went up on the mountain and the Ten Commandments were carved
out of stone and given to Moses by God, god had warned him and said, do not let anyone come up on
this mountain, for this mountain is holy. Do not let anyone come up, not even an animal, or I will break
out against them and they must be put to death. And the result of this gloom and the storm and
lightning bolts and all these things was terror Moses and the people were terrified. Moses, the man of
God, who the Bible says spoke to God face to face as one speaks to a friend. Yet he was filled with
terror. And the writer of Hebrews wants the people to know that that's not what's going on for you.
You've not come to that kind of mountain the mountain where the law of God was given where the
awesomeness and the fierceness of God was made known where his purity and his truth and his
beauty were so majestic they could literally undo you that to see God would be to know death. You've
not come to that kind of mountain. No, he says. Instead, you've come to Mount Zion to the city of the
living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You've come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful
assembly to the church of the Firstborn whose names are written in heaven. I love this picture. We
see it sometimes in some of the stories we read or the movies that we watch. If you've seen Star
Wars, the very first one, the end of it there's this joyful assembly as they're cheering that the Death
Star has been destroyed. And Luke and Han and Chewbacca got to do that that they've saved the
universe, right? The galaxies. You see it in The Lord of the Rings. I think if you want to understand the
Gospels sometimes you ought to read The Lord of the Rings because I think J-R-R.
Tolkien somehow understood so much of the depth of the Bible and what salvation is all about. And
when Frodo and Samwise managed to destroy the Ring the one Ring that Lord Sauron wants and Lord
Sauron disintegrates and Mordor is defeated and the enemies of all that is good Go fleeing for their
lives a great celebration is held in the city of Gondor and thousands upon thousands gather. And
there was a tree in the center and that tree had been lifeless. But the tree comes to life and the people
are rejoicing and the hobbits are honored. It's taken right out of here. That's our destiny, that we've
come through something. And the struggle has been worth it. In The Lord of the Rings, as they're
contemplating what they have to do Samwise is speaking and he's trying to speak of the worth of
what they're going through. And he says, it's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really
mattered full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end
because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much
bad had happened?
But in the end, it's only a passing thing this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come
and when the sun shines it will shine out the clear. Those were the stories that stayed with you that
meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think mr. Frodo, I do
understand. I know now, folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't.
They kept going because they were holding on to something. And Frodo said to Sam what was that,
Sam? They were holding on to? There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for.
See, the writer of Hebrews wanted the people to know there's good in this world. That's being shown
even now. The kingdom that's unshakable is breaking in even now, and we see it. The ancient world
was a terror, and the Gospel broke through into it. And the Gospel, since that time has been
establishing beach heads of light and goodness, of learning, of medicine, of healing, of blessing, of
safety, of the ending of wars. If you think our wars are something, the tribes in the ancient world were
constantly at each other's throat.
And everywhere where peace is making way, it's because the gospel has broken forward. There's
some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for. And there's a good kingdom that's coming that
will ultimately bring forth all that is good and put to death all that is evil. And so he says, we're coming
to that kingdom, to the Church of the Firstborn. And I love that because you know what it means to be
first born. How many first born children are there in this room right now that's good? You've been kind
of ripped off, I got to say. You've been kind of ripped off because to be first born in our day and age
usually means that more expectations are put on you, greater pressure from your parents without any
of the rewards. Maybe there's some, maybe they give you some. But in the old days, if you were first
born, maybe some of those expectations were put on you. But you were going to receive the lion's
share of the inheritance in the family. You are going to receive the status of being first born in the
family and thus would be responsible for the carrying on of the family, for your brothers and your
sisters, and they would look to you.
And we're called the Church of the Firstborn. It's not just that Jesus is first born, but actually this
firstborn is plural, that you and I are now considered first born, that you and I received the lion's share
of the inheritance, that you and I are sons and daughters of God. Does that mean that we should be
arrogant? No, it means we should be the most humble of all people. For when you're first born, there's
nothing you've done to deserve it. You simply receive it. He's saying everyone in the Kingdom of God
will be treated equally. Everyone in the Kingdom of God will receive the lion's share because we
belong to the lion, the first born Jesus Christ who wanted all for us. It's such a beautiful picture, but I
realized that if you're trying to share that with people, that sometimes they might say, well, isn't that a
cop out, right? You Christians, isn't it? Just a cop out? You don't really deal with life as it is because
you're saying, oh, there's a better life that's coming. That it's all pie in the sky, in the sweet buy and
buy. There's probably something to that.
And people have reacted against that. My wife and I are watching a series of Western on TV called
1883 and it presents some of the incredible harsh realities of the west. It shows this family that is on
a wagon train that's leading a bunch of immigrants across country, and they go through all kinds of
brutalities. There are bandits, there are storms, there are crossings of rivers where people drown.
There are rattlesnakes that bite and kill, and all this kind of stuff happens. And this young lady, it's
kind of a coming of age story. Her name is Elsa, and she's something of a cowgirl. And she is taken by
the beauty of the west, of everything that she sees and of all the potential and the possibilities. But as
she's facing these tragedies and these deaths, she's also dealing with the dark side of things. And so
she's coming of age. She's trying to work out what's it mean to have all this potential and all this
possibility and all this beauty, and yet it can all kill you. And so Elsa says this the world doesn't care if
you die. It won't listen to your screams.
If you bleed on the ground, the ground will drink it. It doesn't care that you're cut. There is no heaven
to go to because we're in it already. We're in hell too. They coexist right beside each other. And God is
the land. You see, Elsa shows herself to be a person of resilience because she's able to see the good
and the bad, to see the horrors, and yet still see the beauty. And I suppose I'd rather know a person
like that than one who thinks that everything is just all sunshine and roses because Jesus loves you.
Everything's good, right? But I'd also rather know someone like her who not only sees the dark but the
beauty, than someone who sees only the dark. As many people kind of give up in life, and they say life
stinks some even to the point of taking their lives. See, there's something about a person like that. But
we who believe in the beauty of the gospel precisely because at its heart, we see a good and beautiful
God who enters into a world of beauty and mayhem, of possibilities and the robbing of those
possibilities. The God who enters so fully that he experiences the worst that life can give rejection and
betrayal and mockery and torture and death.
Of course, we know the gospel says that Jesus rose from the dead to promise a new heaven and a
new earth and this unshakable kingdom. So that's why the writer of Hebrew says you've come to God
the judge of all. So the spirits of the righteous made perfect by this Jesus who entered in to Jesus the
mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of
Abel. And of course we know in the ancient world that Adam and Eve gave birth to Caine and to Abel
and that Cain and jealousy killed his brother Abel. And the Bible said that his blood cried out from the
ground. Blood crying out for justice, crying out for vengeance. But now we are sprinkled with the
blood that speaks a better word. The blood of Jesus from the cross that speaks forgiveness and
transformation and light. The blood that tells us that though these kingdoms of the world are
shakable christ is unshakable. And he belongs to you and to me now. And so the writer of Hebrews
gives a warning. But it's not like the warning that was given to the people at the mountain in Moses
He says, See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape where they refused
him who warned them on earth. How much less will we if we turn away from him who warns us from
heaven. At that time, his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised once more I will shake not
only the earth, but also the heavens. The words once more indicate the removing of what can be
shaken that has created things so that what cannot be shaken may remain. See, the warning that's
given is saying look, a word of mercy has been spoken to you. A word of grace and of beauty. How
can you reject it? How could you walk away from it? How terrible it will be for those who do, but for
those who believe there's an unshakable kingdom coming and it's given to you through our Lord
Jesus Christ. And he's shaking the heavens. So that literally everything that's impermanent right, the
stuff that we think is going to make our lives right, the stuff we pour money into, the stuff we pour our
hopes into, those things are all impermanent.
But faith in Jesus Christ and everything that stokes that faith is unshakeable. That's why we worship.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken let us be thankful. And so worship
God except with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire. That's why we gather to remind
ourselves in this shakeable world that the one we worship is unshakable to tune our lives to him. That
what we do. That how we live. What we give in life might be those things deemed by the Lord as
unshakable. Might be those treasures that the Lord said you could build up in heaven. And so this
table demands that we examine our hearts. Lord, are we living into what's unshakable? Are our lives
developing an inward solidity that though the world around us. Shakes we know that. We know that
we belong to you and that everything we give to you all reverence, all thanks is unshakable because
you are unshakable. Terry Glenar Bishop likes to say that personal pain robs us of perspective. Isn't
that true? The moment we're going through pain, we can't see straight. We need others to come
alongside us, to steady us.
We're in trouble when we're in the midst of pain. Personal pain robs us of perspective. But worship
restores that perspective. Why? Because when we worship God, we worship that which is unshakable.
When we come together, a solidity is being given to the people of God. When we take, eat and drink
that which we consume from our God who's a consuming fire consumes us and the result is peace
and goodness and joy and everything that cannot be shaken. Father God, we pray that we would live
into your unshakable kingdom. We pray that the words of the prophets, those who have gone before
and the angels who await us in the kingdom that we would come to that joyful assembly full of the
goodness of the Lord full of testimony and story of what you have done. Though we don't understand
at all, Lord that we be a solid people pool in the midst of a world that is shaking it's. In Jesus name we
pray. Amen.


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