11/27/2016 – Advent 1 – Matthew 5:13-16 – “The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World”

If you want to LISTEN to this message, click HERE.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:13-16

The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World”

11/27/2016, First Sunday of Advent

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

“Actions speak louder than words!” My Dad told me that countless times. I’ve also heard it from coaches, teachers, youth group leaders, and myriad other people in authority.

In this season of national, denominational, political, racial, gender, religious, ethnic, divide – have we all forgotten this proverbial truth? Actions speak louder than words! Our words matter – very much – but when our words and our actions don’t line up, when they disagree or are in conflict, our actions will always be believed over our words.

As I watch the news, or read the paper, or look at Facebook posts – what I see Christians doing versus what we say we believe are very much at odds with each other! What is the world around us supposed to think of our Lord and Savior when all they see of His Church is infighting, name-calling, and blood-letting?

 

Today is the last Sunday of this six-week series on the Great Ends of the Church, and it is also the First Sunday of Advent – the Season meant to prepare us for Christ’s coming (as a baby in a manger 2,000 years ago and as the King of all kings and Lord of all lords when He returns!).

 

LPC was chartered in 1907 under the denomination called the Presbyterian Church in North America which adopted the Great Ends in 1910. In 1958, when that denomination united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America; this is also when this church’s denomination decided to recognize the giftedness of women in different roles of ministry, and these purposes were incorporated into the new constitution. And when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, recognizing the sin of prejudice and racism, and the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).

These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all, but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.)

 

Your Sermon Notes page lists all six Great Ends of the Church:

  • The Proclamation of the Gospel! Where we talked about speaking as well as doing the Gospel.
  • The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God!
  • The Maintenance of Divine Worship! In Spirit and in truth – in word and in deed!
  • The Preservation of the Truth.
  • The Promotion of Social Righteousness. Which includes fighting for justice with words and with actions!

 

Listen with me as the Apostle Matthew gives us Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and demonstrates the Sixth Great End of the Church: The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World. Matthew 5:13-16 ….—-

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

The very early Church, in the days right following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, their political culture was no less volatile than ours is. Roman Emperors ready and willing to deport those unwilling to worship him, and execute those willing to defend their rights to worship the only true God!

But the early Church still thrived. Acts 2 tells us that 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Josephus, the great historian from the 2nd Century wrote that the world saw the Christians and said, “Look how they love one another!

 

Do we live in a dark time? Are you sort of stuck in a dark funk? Who here is tired of being in pain? Tired of being depressed? Tired of defending your opinion? Who here is nervous about tomorrow? Nervous about the next four years? Nervous for our children or our neighbors or our parents?

Name some things that weigh heavy on you right now:

 

 

 

The people walking in darkness    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned. …
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor,     Mighty God,   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
 will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9)

 

This was written some 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But look at the hope these words from the Lord gave to these Israelites.

John tells us, 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

He goes on to say that any who receive this “Word”, who believe in His name, have the right to become children of God!

And this same Apostle, in his 1st Epistle (near the end of the New Testament) says: 11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another…. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God…. (I John 3)

 

Jesus not only says that He loves us. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us!” His actions speak even louder than His words. “We ought, therefore, to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

What does Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount? Be the salt of the earth. Be the light of the world. By the way we live, exhibiting the Kingdom of Heaven to the World, others have a chance of giving glory to their Father in heaven!

 

In my personal devotional reading I am in I Peter. Friday’s reading was I Peter 2. Listen to verse 9: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”.

We have been given the Light of the life, we have seen a great light. How will we exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven to the World around us? How will you let the light of Christ shine through you this Advent Season?

 

The 1st, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

The 2nd, and right on the heels of the 1st, Great End of the Church is the Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God – if we fail at helping each other grow in our faith & our Christ-likeness, we fail at actually being church!

The 3rd Great End of the Church, the Maintenance of Divine Worship, is what fuels us for righteous living. Do weworship in spirit and in truth”?

The 4th Great End of the Church is the Preservation of the TruthJesus is the (only) way, the (real) truth, and the (eternal) life and no one comes to the Father except through (faith in) Him.

The 5th Great End of the Church is the Promotion of Social RighteousnessWhat does the Lord require of you? Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with the Lord your God. Failure to work toward making a more just society, where people are treated with equality and love, calls into question our loyalty to the King of kings and Lord of all lords.

And the 6th Great End of the Church is the Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the Worldliving like we believe what we say we believe, in ways that bring the Good News of Jesus, the hope of the Gospel, the light of life, to the dark world around us.

 

If LPC were to disappear this afternoon – how long before our neighbors would forget who used to meet in the building on Nevada Street between Princeton and Heroy? If we exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven well, they would miss us quickly and deeply.

 

Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:

          Know the power and love of God, and

          Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to

          Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet

Know the power and love of God….

Did you hear the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World in that? Let’s be that kind of Church!

 

Resources:

The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; Episode 6; The Fellowship Community; 2016.

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11/20/2016 – Matthew 25:31-40 – “The Promotion of Social Righteousness”

Audio version of this message is HERE.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 25:31-40

The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Promotion of Social Righteousness”

11/20/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

I Googledjokes about injustice” and what pops up is a lot of reasons why it’s just not funny to joke about how people are mistreated in our society. That was the point I was trying to make, but I wanted to make it with a joke! So I went to my old brain-files and remembered these:

What did the lizard say to the snake? [“Need a hand?”] That’s cute, because it picks on a snake….

What do you call a man with no arms or legs in the water?  [“Bob”] We’ve all, perhaps, laughed at that … unless we actually know a person with no arms or legs.

A couple of weeks ago we elected a president who has made promises and has been recorded making statements about different types of people that have truly scared a bunch of them. This is not a sermon about whether or not Donald Trump was the right choice or is a legitimate victor – this is simply a commentary on the world in which we live.

On the day after the elections I heard from people rejoicing over the results, from people saddened by those same results, and from people who are honestly afraid of those results. I am not taking sides on those issues here, I just want to explore with you how we move forward together.

Today we are looking at the fifth of the Six Great Ends of the Church, where the word “Ends” means “purposes, or reasons for existence” – we discover more about what the Church is for! These Ends have been true almost since the founding of this particular church.

LPC was chartered in 1907 under the denomination called the Presbyterian Church in North America which adopted the Great Ends in 1910. In 1958, when that denomination united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America; this is also when this church’s denomination decided to recognize the giftedness of women in different roles of ministry, and these purposes were incorporated into the new constitution. And when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, recognizing the sin of prejudice and racism, and the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).

These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all, but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.)

So far we have seen that the first, and the foundational, End/Purpose of the Church is The Proclamation of the Gospel! And the second End/Purpose of the Church is The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God! The third End of the Church is The Maintenance of Divine Worship! Last week we looked at the fourth End of the Church as The Preservation of the Truth.

Listen with me as the Apostle Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ teaching about how we might Promote Social Righteousness. Listen for this fifth End of the ChurchMatthew 25:28-40 ….—-

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

I don’t know about you, but for me this is one of the absolutely most difficult teachings of Jesus in all the Gospels.

The reason it’s difficult is that it is not just about Jesus loving me / taking care of me / what a friend we have in Jesus / saving me – what this passage is about is how all of that effects the rest of my life!

Historically there has been a big divide among Christians and Christian Churches maybe some of you will recognize the divisive words between the evangelical strive to share the Good News of Jesus and the progressive endeavor over what was called the Social Gospel. One wants to tell people about God’s salvific love through Jesus Christ and the other wants to feed the hungry and right the societal wrongsboth, it seems, to the exclusion of the other!

But, these Six Great Ends of the Church, correctly tell us that it is both! Proclaim the Gospel AND promote Social Righteousness! The Old Testament Pentateuchal book Deuteronomy and Jesus both tell us to Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got AND to love your neighbor as yourself! BOTH!

In the Call to Worship this morning, Dick read the passage from Isaiah 61 that Jesus read in the story in Luke 4. Certainly that describes something of our responsibility, as followers of Christ, as well.

Today’s reading from Matthew 25 takes place in Jesus’ final week before He is crucified. In this passage He describes His return some day, as King of all kings and Lord of all lords. And as King and Lord He will judge according to what He sees us doing!

This does not mean that we are saved or damned based on how well we obey or how much we deserve one ultimate destination or the other. But it does mean that, as one can tell a tree by its fruit, our actions will reveal something about how seriously we say we are followers of Jesus.

God, in His perfect righteousness, demands our obedience. “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” And, God in His amazing grace, offers forgiveness. “For God so loves the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!”

In my own daily devotional reading, I’m in the Letter from James chapter 2, where this Apostle talks about “faith without works is dead faith.” We are not saved by our good deeds, but our Christian faith should be visible by the good deeds we do. He says it’s not good enough to wish hungry people a good day and hope they can fill their bellies. If we have food we can share, we are expected to share it!

The Union Gospel Mission preaches this lesson in countless ways. The scriptures are so full of stories describing how much God expects His people to take care of the poor around us.

The question we are forced to ask today – on the liturgical calendar today is called Christ the King Sunday, it is the last Sunday of the liturgical year (next week is the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the next liturgical year) – is Jesus King? Is He my King? Is He our King? Is He our Lord?!

We answer that question, in part, by how well we obey this demand on our resources!

Some of you have a cartoon on your bulletins this morning: Pontius Puddles. (Tell the cartoon – the pray-er says, “I wonder if God can really hear me … God, what should I do with my life?”  God says, “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the lonely.” The pray-er says, “Just testing.” And God says, “Yup, me too.”)

The last question on the Sermon Notes page asks about how we serve the King well by serving “the least of these”. That question is meant to ask about how LPC does this; but let’s personalize it, too. How do I serve Jesus by serving the least? How do you serve Jesus by taking care of the least?

It isn’t enough to only believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; or even to believe that and tell that Good News to others. Our faith is measured by the practice to which we put it. An oversimplification of the difference between the liberal and evangelical churches is that the liberals tend to concentrate their efforts on social issues while evangelicals tend to concentrate on preaching the Gospel.

My own personal sense is that this is not a useful distinction between liberals and evangelicals. There is a distribution of beliefs and practices in all churches, and I suspect that there is more overlap than most of us think. Both sides of these discussions need see that it is not simply either/or – it is both/and. Scripture makes this crystal clear.

But what makes this teaching of Jesus even more difficult is that it’s not simply about feeding this hungry person, or clothing that naked person – it’s really about fixing the societal systems that force people into these dire straits. The Churchnot just LPC, but the capital C Church – needs to step into the systems that put people on the streets and imprisons people for their faith.

Rise up, O saints of God – His kingdom’s task embrace;

redress sin’s cruel consequence; – give justice larger place

Give heed, O saints of God! – Creation cries in pain;
stretch forth your hand of healing now, – with love the weak sustain

The 1st, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Jesus often criticized church-leaders as hypocrites, two-faced, fake.

The 2nd, and right on the heels of the 1st, Great End of the Church is the Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God – if we fail at helping each other grow in our faith & our Christ-likeness, we fail at actually being church!

The 3rd Great End of the Church, the Maintenance of Divine Worship, is what fuels us for righteous living. Do weworship in spirit and in truth”?

The 4th Great End of the Church is the Preservation of the TruthJesus is the (only) way, the (real) truth, and the (eternal) life and no one comes to the Father except through (faith in) Him.

And the 5th Great End of the Church is the Promotion of Social RighteousnessWhat does the Lord require of you? Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with the Lord your God. Failure to work toward making a more just society, where people are treated with equality and love, calls into question our loyalty to the King of kings and Lord of all lords.

Friends, let’s live like we believe what we say we believe! Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:

          Know the power and love of God, and

          Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to

          Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet

Know the power and love of God….

Did you hear the promotion of social righteousness in that? Let’s be that kind of Church!

Resources:

Forness, Norman O.; Rise Up, O Saints of God; 1978.

The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; Episode 4; The Fellowship Community; 2016.

11/13/2016 – John 18:36-40 – “The Preservation of the Truth”

Click HERE for the audio of this message.

Mark Wheeler

John 18:36-40

The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Preservation of the Truth”

11/13/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

Last week the theme of the day was the third of the Six Great Ends of the Church which is the Maintenance of Divine Worship. I started that message with a list of things to do during boring sermons (my thought was that preaching is a part of worship), but I probably should have saved that list for today as we talk about the fourth Great Endthe Preservation of the Truth.

 

So, for today, here’s my favorite six things from that list:

  • Slap your neighbor. See if they turn the other cheek. If not, raise your hand and tell the preacher.
  • Start from the back of the church and try to crawl all the way to the front, under the pews, without being noticed.
  • By unobtrusively drawing your arms up into your sleeves, turn your shirt around backwards.
  • Twiddle your thumbs.
  • Twiddle your neighbor’s thumbs.
  • Wiggle your ears so that the people behind you will notice.

 

So ……. Let’s see who slaps whose cheek first.

 

After today we’ll be two-thirds through our 6-week sermon series on what is known as the Six Great Ends of the Church, where the word “Ends” means “purposes, or reasons for existence” – we discover more about what the Church is for! These Ends have been true almost since the founding of this particular church.

LPC was chartered in 1907 under the denomination called the Presbyterian Church in North America which adopted the Great Ends I n 1910. In 1958, when that denomination united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, this statement was incorporated into the new constitution. And when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).

These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all, but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.)

 

So far we have seen that the first, and the foundational, End/Purpose of the Church is The Proclamation of the Gospel! And the second End/Purpose of the Church is The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God! The third End of the Church is The Maintenance of Divine Worship!

Listen with me as the Apostle John tells the story of Jesus’ arrest and trial with the Roman Governor in Jerusalem named Pontius Pilate. Listen for this fourth End of the Churchthe Preservation of the TruthJohn 18:28-40 ….—-

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.  29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.  But now my kingdom is from another place.”

 

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.

 

With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

 

John’s Gospel account carries within its powerful storyline an undertone theme of truthLast week we read John 4 about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, and Jesus said that His real worshipers willworship in spirit and in TRUTH.” In John 8 Jesus says that “if you hold to my teaching and therefore know the truth, the TRUTH will set you free”. And in John 14, during the dinner just before His arrest, Jesus says, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life ….” In fact, there are at least 23 times that the word “truth comes up in John’s 21 chapters. And in this same John’s First Letter to the Christians only five chapters long, he uses the word “truthten times!

 

So, what is this “truth” we’re supposed to preserve, anyway? Isn’t that the mother of all questions? Isn’t every question we ever ask really just asking, what’s the truth about this? That’s what Pilate asks: What is truth?

How do we determine what truth is? [In a court of law, they ask for evidence to point toward the truth; they ask for witnesses to testify to what they believe is the truth; they try to prove that there is no other possible reality than their version of the truth.

That’s also what parents do with their children; and playground monitors; and insurance agents.

And that’s what we do with claims of religious truth. We weigh the evidence, and that which makes the most sense is where we put our faith.

C.S. Lewis tried to prove that the Christian religion was nothing more than fantasy, and in his research and study he was convinced that nothing else held as much real truth.

Avowed atheist and legally trained investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel examined the claims of Christ, and reached the irrefutable and hard-won verdict that Jesus is God’s unique son.]

 

When Jesus called Himself “the way, the truth, and the life”, what did He mean by “truth”? [He answers that Himself, in the next sentence He says, “No one comes to the Father except through me!”]

 

What is the difference between knowing about something and knowing something experientially? [Examples of this difference –

  • the Grand Canyon is a river-carved ravine in the AZ desert; but have you ever actually seen this giant hole in the ground?
  • Brussel sprouts are small dark green leafy vegetables – but have you ever been forced to eat a bowl full?
  • Name your favorite president – he’s the guy who did something magnificent, born in a certain place, maybe died at a certain age; but have you ever actually shook his hand?
  • Jesus was born in a manger, lived a remarkable life of miracles, died on a cross, and was resurrected to new life on the third day; but do you know Him personally, trust Him for your life, love Him with everything you’ve got – do you know how much He loves you?]

 

Listen to the Apostle John tell us about truth in I John 4:5-7, “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

 

In today’s reading from John 18, notice how this story ends. Pilate asks the crowd if they would like for him to release the King of the Jews, and they respond, in unison and in agreement with each other, “No! Not Him! Not Jesus!Pilate had not asked them about “Jesus”, not by name, at least. But they knew that Jesus was the King of the Jews! They knew about Him! But they rejected Him as their Lord and Savior! They did not know Him! Do you know Him? Really?

 

Have you gone from simply knowing about Jesus as God’s Son to actually knowing Him personally? In your Sermon Notes Page write down the when and the where that happened. If it is happening right now, mark the day. After worship today, before I go downstairs to celebrate November birthdays with you – and Kay has done another spectacular job of setting up for this celebration – I’ll be here to address your questions and pray with you.

 

This is the Truth the Church is called to Preserve. If we ever forget to tell and to live this truth, we are no longer the Church, we’re just a bunch of nice people (and we may not even be all that nice….) But when we Preserve this Truth, it will become evidenced by the ways we love one another, for love comes from God. And everyone who loves (with I Corinthians 13 kind of love) has been born of God and knows God (personally, directly, experientially).

 

The first, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Jesus often criticized church-leaders as hypocrites, two-faced, fake.

The 2nd, and right on the heels of the 1st, Great End of the Church is the Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God – if we fail at helping each other grow in our faith & our Christ-likeness, we fail at actually being church!

The 3rd Great End of the Church, the Maintenance of Divine Worship, is what fuels us for righteous living. Do weworship in spirit and in truth”?

And the 4th Great End of the Church is the Preservation of the TruthJesus is the (only) way, the (real) truth, and the (eternal) life and no one comes to the Father except through (faith in) Him.

 

Friends, let’s live like we believe what we say we believe! Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:

          Know the power and love of God, and

          Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to

          Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet

Know the power and love of God….

Did you hear the preservation of the truth in that? Let’s be that kind of Church!

 

Father, I know that I have broken Your laws and my sins have separated me from You – all of that is true. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward You. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe in the truth that Your son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

 

Resources:  The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; Episode 4; The Fellowship Community; 2016.

11/06/2016 – John 4:21-24 – “The Maintenance of Divine Worship”

Click HERE for an audio version of this message.

Mark Wheeler

John 4:21-24

The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Maintenance of Divine Worship”

11/06/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

On Thursday afternoon I ran across a list of things to do during a boring sermon. Here’s part of that list:

  • Pass a note to the organist asking whether he/she plays requests.
  • See if a yawn really is contagious.
  • Slap your neighbor. See if they turn the other cheek. If not, raise your hand and tell the preacher.
  • Listen for your preacher to use a word beginning with ‘A’ then ‘B’ and so on through the alphabet.
  • Using church bulletins or visitor cards for raw materials, design, test and modify a collection of paper airplanes.
  • Start from the back of the church and try to crawl all the way to the front, under the pews, without being noticed.
  • Raise your hand and ask for permission to go to the rest room.
  • Whip out a hankie and blow your nose. Vary the pressure exerted on your nostrils and trumpet out a rendition of your favorite hymn.
  • By unobtrusively drawing your arms up into your sleeves, turn your shirt around backwards.
  • Try to raise one eyebrow.
  • Crack your knuckles.
  • Twiddle your thumbs.
  • Twiddle your neighbor’s thumbs.
  • Wiggle your ears so that the people behind you will notice.

 

I figure that if the choir only does half of these, the sermon wasn’t too boring….

 

After today we’ll be half-way through our 6-week sermon series on what is known as the Six Great Ends of the Church, where the word “Ends” means “purposes, or reasons for existence” – we discover more about what the Church is for! These Ends have been true almost since the founding of this particular church.

LPC was chartered in 1907 under the denomination called the Presbyterian Church in North America which adopted the Great Ends in 1910. In 1958, when that denomination united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, this statement was incorporated into the new constitution. And when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).

These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all, but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.)

 

So far we have seen that the first, and by implication the foundational, End/Purpose of the Church is The Proclamation of the Gospel! And the second End/Purpose of the Church is The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God!

Listen with me as the Apostle John records a story about Jesus and a woman from Samaria as He describes the third End of the Churchthe Maintenance of Divine WorshipJohn 4:4-24 ….—-

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”  (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty(K)and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

 

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

 

What does it mean to “worship in the Spirit and in truth? How do we follow Jesus’ instructions for proper worship here? There are many passages of Scripture that describe different aspects of the worship of God, but there’s not much that gives a comprehensive list.

One of my favorites comes from the Old Testament prophet Micah 6:6-8:

With what shall I come before the Lord     and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,      with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,      with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,      the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.      And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy      and to walk humbly with your God.

 

Micah, speaking for the Lord, clearly states that the Lord is way more concerned with what is in our hearts and the way we follow His Law than He is with the outward trappings of a worship service.

Does this mean we don’t need to come together for corporate worship? No!

Does this mean that it really doesn’t matter what we do or how we order our worship services? No, it doesn’t mean that either – although it might mean that our rituals and traditions are way less important than we think they are!

In fact, God requires our worship – because He is so Worthy of our love – but all the offerings we make, all the prayers we pray, all the songs and hymns we sing, all the ties and pretty dresses we wear mean nothing if we fail to act justly,   and to love mercy      and to walk humbly with our God.

 

We Presbyterians, who love our decency and orderliness, describe what should, what ordinarily must, take place in worship in the part of our Book of Order called The Directory for Worship:

  • Prayer
  • Scripture read and proclaimed
  • Baptism (when appropriate)
  • The Lord’s Supper (on regular occasions)
  • Offering of Self
  • Relating to each other and the world

 

The Maintenance of Divine Worship! We have been blessed by not having to actually invent, or create, worship that is divine! All we are asked to do is maintain it! Are we successful? How do we know?

What makes for “divine worship”? How would you define “divine worship”? What do you think? Any thoughts on this? I’ve heard people say things like, “This chocolate is ‘divine’.” What does that mean? So how aboutworship”? I believe that what makesworship” “divine” is when God is pleased with it! Did we keep our eyes on Jesus? Was the intention to honor God? Did we praise Him and love Him with our whole being – all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength? But also, were we moved to love our neighbors as ourselves?

 

The rest of your Sermon Notes Page asks about your personal areas of need and appreciation for our corporate worship gatherings. The truth is that different people are affected differently by different parts of the worship service – for some it’s the singing (and they may love a “singing” church, where the songs take up 40 minutes of the worship experience); for some it’s the preaching (where they might wish the sermons were 45-minutes long); for some it’s the times of prayer, or the chance to respond with an altar call, or the meaningful fellowship that happens around the worship service, or the specific ritualistic elements of worship (like Communion or the Call to Worship of the Prayer of Confession….).

 

And that, of course, leads to the final question about How including different “styles” of worship might enhance our corporate experience.

This means remembering that it’s not about “me” (or “you”). Worship is about God! In Jesus’ conversation with this woman at the well in Sychar, He says that worship is not about “where (and we might read “how”) we worship; it’s about “Whowe worship… “in spirit and in truth” – doing justly (taking care of those in need, working for people who are under-served or abused), loving mercy (finding ways to offer forgiveness and grace), and walking humbly with the Lord our God (that means worship is way more than just the 75-90 minutes once-a-week at church, but it is a daily relationship with Jesus).

 

Do you have that “in spirit and in truthkind of worship in your life? Can you find peace in the midst of all the personal and global suffering and evil? Do you really know Christ as your Lord and Savior? Are you filled with His Holy Spirit?

 

The first, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Jesus often criticized church-leaders as hypocrites, two-faced, fake.

The second, and right on the heels of the first, Great End of the Church is the Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God – if we fail at helping each other grow in our faith and our Christ-likeness, we fail at actually being a church!

And the third Great End of the Church, the Maintenance of Divine Worship, is what fuels us for righteous living. Do weworship in spirit and in truth”?

 

Friends, let’s live like we believe what we say we believe! Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:

                   Know the power and love of God, and

                   Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to

                   Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet

                   Know the power and love of God….

Did you hear the maintenance of divine worship in that? Let’s be that kind of Church! Amen.

 

Resources:

The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; Episode 3; The Fellowship Community; 2016.