Who Are We as a Church? “Being Family”
4th Sunday in Lent, 03/06/2016
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Heavenly Father, on this 4th Sunday in the season leading up to Resurrection Sunday – the day we celebrate Christ’s victory over death – we confess our own self-centered agendas. As we enter into this season of special attention to our own wanderings from Your Word, our wayward walk-aways from Your path, our seemingly perpetual propensity for sin and self-centered decisions – help us, as Your Church, Your people, to move closer to what You want for us. Draw us closer to our Lord and Savior, in His name we pray, Amen.
An elderly man in Spokane calls his son Stan in Seattle and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but your mother and I are divorcing. Forty-five years of misery is enough! I’m sick of her, and I’m sick of talking about this, so call your sister in Portland and tell her,” and then hangs up.
The son frantically calls his sister, who goes nuts upon hearing the news.
She calls her father and yells, “You are not getting a divorce! Stan and I will be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a single thing, do you hear me?!”
The father hangs up the phone, turns to his wife, and says, “It worked! The kids are coming for a visit, and they’re paying their own way!”
When you think of “church” metaphors, words which describe what “church” means, what images come to mind? [Church building, Body of Christ, Bride of Christ, … most of us eventually get to Church Family. “LPC is my Church Family.”] (Here is the church; here is the steeple; open the doors and see all the people – those people are our Church Family – our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, with God as our Heavenly Father….) Thankfully, our weekly “Family Reunions” don’t usually require a conniving scheme or deceitful incentive.
This Lent Season we have talked about how we honor our differences – I Corinthians 12 illustrates this with the “Body of Christ” image; about what the Bible says about the Church being in unity – John 17 gives us Jesus’ prayer for His Church being in unity; about how we are called into humble service together – Philippians 2:5-11 tells us to be of the same mind of Christ who humbly gave up His place in heaven to die on the cross for us; about why we need to be a people of prayer for our church leaders – I Timothy 3 lists the required character traits, and boy is prayer ever needed!
That’s the question we are dealing with over this Season of Lent. Who Are We as the Church? Today we look at what it means to Be Family together.
Let’s listen to the Word of God written from the Apostle Paul to the troubled Turkish church of Ephesus, from Ephesians 5:22-6:4…. —-
“5 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body. 31 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
6 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Did anybody cringe at any of that passage? There are some words that definitely require some attention, aren’t there? And we could spend considerable time “defending” this as God’s Word, and therefore in need of no explanation – but today we’re simply going to concentrate on the overarching theme of these verses. During the Fellowship Time downstairs, when everyone is armed with hot coffee, let’s talk about your questions and concerns.
Paul writes some straightforward instructions for wives, followed by some very strong directives for husbands. But look at chapter 5, verses 32-33, “32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. ”
And then he describes healthy relationships between parents and children.
Don’t these verses remind us that, just as we are supposed to sacrifice for and love our families unconditionally, so are we to love those churches where God has placed us?! Our family members aren’t perfect, and neither are our church–family members. We are called to find joy in serving both our imperfect families and our imperfect churches!
Last week we listened to Paul’s invitation to pray for our church leaders. That’s a wonderful way to love our church family! When we feel a gripe coming on, or hear someone else starting to complain, stop and pray for those involved in your criticism. Pray for their hearts and minds, for their families, for their stressors, for their faith. And pray for Holy Spirit help to love them! Just maybe God will change our hearts for the better!
I met a retired Presbyterian Pastor a month ago who now runs a ministry called Christian Business Leaders Network; his name is Randy Simon. Randy asked me what image I compared my role as a pastor to. And I said that I think of myself as a sheepdog. That’s not a very biblical image, but hear me out. The title “pastor” means something akin to shepherd (and we sometimes speak of pastors as shepherds and their churches as their flocks); but Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd.
There’s at least one parable where Jesus says that “when the wolf comes, the hired hand runs away, but the Good Shepherd stays to take care of His sheep. (John 10:11-13)” Well, I don’t want to be one of those “hired hands”.
There are no sheep dog parables, but maybe you’ve seen the sheep dog contests on TV? Sheep dogs are awesome! They’re perfectly obedient to their Shepherd; they never really take their eyes off the Shepherd; and they keep their ears tuned into the Shepherd’s voice. And their job is to move the sheep from here to there, to keep them safe, and to help them grow.
I’m a long way from being a really good sheep dog – but that’s what I aspire to.
Then Randy told me that he considers his pastoral ministry as the one who is left in charge of taking care of the Bridegroom’s Bride. To help her be ready for when the Bridegroom returns. Isn’t that beautiful?
As church members, we are not merely to like our church or even to serve our church well. We are to fall deeply in love with our church. Christ is the Bridegroom, and the Church is His Bride. Our commitment needs to be to love that Bride with an unwavering, unconditional love.
That means we will continue to fall more deeply in love with that Bride. It means our love for the Church will grow even as we may disagree with something or encounter disagreeable people.
And as we grow more deeply in love with the Church, we’ll bring others with us! Yesterday Caitlin and I were walking home from The Service Station, about 1-1/2 miles. At the corner of Hawthorne and Hwy 2 a gentleman about 65 years old, mostly toothless, almost skipped to us and started telling us how he won’t be living in this neighborhood much long. They found a cute 2-bedroom apt for him overlooking the river. We congratulated him, then we all went our respective ways. Caitlin and looked at each other and said, “I guess when you have good news, you just have to tell someone!” As we grow more deeply in love with the Church, we’ll bring others with us!
We’ll pray for our Church together. We’ll worship together. And we’ll serve together.
We’ve probably all heard the quip that we get to choose our friends, but we’re stuck with our families. Ready for the gift God gives us? We get to choose to be stuck with our Church Family!
Each week during this Lenten Season our Sermon Notes Page has included a pledge for us to read, sign, and tear out, and use to remind us of our responsibilities as members of a church that wants to live like we believe what we say we believe.
Our fifth Church Member Pledge – this is not just for those who are actually on the roles of this particular church, but this is for any who claim to be followers of Jesus and saved by grace through faith – our fifth Church Member Pledge that we invite you to read, sign and tear from your bulletins so you can use it as a Bible bookmark, hang it on your prayer-closet wall, or attach it to your desk calendar, reads as follows:
I will lead my family to be good members of His Church. We will pray together in our church. We will serve together in our church. And we will ask Christ to help us fall deeper in love with His Church because He gave His life for her.
Read – sign – tear from your bulletins.
Let’s be the Church of Jesus Christ – may we start being family – well – to the glory of God. Amen.
Nyquist, J. Paul & Carson Nyquist; The Post-Church Christian; Moody; Chicago, IL; 2013.
Rainer, Thom S.; I Am a Church Member; B&H Pub. Grp.; Nashville, TN; 2013; Pp. 55-65.