August 20, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 31}

Two things came together this past Sunday.  Our pastor is working through a summer-ending series called "What In the World is Going On?" addressing some major cultural issues and sharing how Christians can respond.  When I first saw the email about the upcoming topics, I shot him a quick note to say I'd be praying for his preparations and sermons.  I mean, really, who wants to tackle major cultural and political issues from the pulpit, or from anywhere for that matter.  (Have I mentioned I'm a conflict avoider?!)

Here's what has emerged from those sermons, now that we're three weeks in.  Pastor Hurley has reminded us over and over that regardless of how much it seems like evil is on the rise and/or winning, THERE IS A REDEEMER.  We have hope, life, joy, and peace to offer to anyone.  We have been saved from the pit of hopelessness, death, despair, and strife.  God has given us new, abundant, and eternal life in Christ.  As we walk along in this world, we can invite others to "Look up to the Redeemer!" with us.  Incredible.

Sunday morning, in addition to the pleasure of participating in worship, I started another three-week cycle teaching youth Sunday school.  The topic?  The Church.  I am very excited about this topic, as the Church (capital C, God's people all over the place and all over time) is a subject dear to my heart.  Even better than a great topic, though, was new insight from the curriculum!  The first lesson in each three-week grouping sets the stage, giving a big picture view.  For the Church, passages from the Old and New testaments were included to show the connection between God calling Abraham, then Israel, and later New Testament Christians.  God established His Church the moment he initiated a relationship with His people.  The lesson highlighted priestly language from both Exodus and 1 Peter.

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The commentary explained that the primary job of Israel's priests was to lead the people in worship.  So, if God calls His people a kingdom of priests and a royal priesthood, guess what the church should be doing in the world.  LEADING PEOPLE TO WORSHIP!  The Church is God's community of worship leaders!

I connect these two experiences - the sermons and the Sunday School lesson - because they both communicate the same message.  As God's people, our primary calling is to point people to God!  Like it says in 1 Peter, we can do this by declaring the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light!  We were orphans walking apart from the family of God; now we are His children!  We don't deserve mercy, but we have received it, from God, whose praise we can declare.

Maybe evangelism is really this simple:  "Hey, wanna 'look up' with me?  Check out the amazing God of the universe who makes orphans His children and wretches like you and me objects of His mercy!"  Or, like Philip said to a cynical Nathanael about Jesus, "Come and see!"

Being OPEN to do this means a few things:
  • "Looking up" to our Redeemer, every day, every moment.  We cannot share what we are not experiencing.
  • Looking back to remember how we needed redemption and the Lord was the rescuer.  We cannot sympathize with weakness if we forget our own.
  • Looking ahead because the Lord will come again.  We cannot be properly oriented if we forget that our eternity is secure and glorious, and will be here sooner than we think.

Time to Take Action:  I think the above list is enough to keep us busy, reflecting on how God has and does work in our lives and in our world!  God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - is so worthy of worship, but it is so easy to get lost in temporal trivialities.  Be encouraged by these words to worship and to invite others to get in on the action with you!  I know I sure have some practicing to do.  May God give us each opportunity to feel His intervention in our lives and to share with others how good it is to worship Him.

The peace of Christ be with you!

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