03-25-18 “Finish the Church”
OT: Isaiah 50:4-9a
NT: Philippians 2:5-11
Gospel: Mark 14:1-5
In Tod Bolsinger’s book, Canoeing the Mountains, he compares church leadership to the Lewis and Clark expedition. When their journey began they knew there would be obstacles in their way. The had heard stories of the wild, wild west. They were accustomed to the Great Smokey Mountains. How big do you think their eyes were when they came across the Rockies?
They were charting a course where they believed that everything they had done in the past would work in the future. How wrong they were. The Rockies posed problems they never imagined. In the Smokies they would get out of the canoe, beach it, walk over the top of the mountain and use a canoe they had left there, or carve a new one. Once over the Rockies there was not a nice, gentle rolling landscape like in the Smokies. This new terrain posed dangers that were nothing like they imagined.
They enlisted the help of Sacagawea, a native American girl who knew the land, the dangers and the language required to survive. This was a whole new world and these rugged travelers needed to reach out a trust the hand of someone not from their tribe. Someone to provide new ideas on how things should be done.
Last week I mentioned Christendom which is how Christianity changed with every new society it came in contact with. Didn’t God see the future and understand that humans would consistently shrink the Lord down to the size they could handle? People were changing the style and form of religious practice. Was any of this important to God as long as the people followed the greatest commandments love God and love neighbor? As long as in their hearts they believed in Jesus did all the trappings of human religion matter? Is it being submerged or sprinkled that equates baptism or is it the transformation of the heart and the belief in Jesus that matters more?
Is the road we take to get to Heaven more important than actually getting there? If Lewis and Clark believed their way was the only way the would have died shortly after entering Montana.
How can the church of Jesus Christ continue to grow in to the future without change? Thankfully, Lewis and Clark were willing to listen to the voice of change. That voice was essential to the very survival. Isn’t it telling that in the Old Testament reading we find Isaiah accrediting his perseverance and sustenance on listening. “He awakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”
As Isaiah listens, he hears God tell him to remain faithful. Others will fight against you, but you keep listening to me and you will be alright. God says He, not Isaiah, will be the vindicator.
Like Lewis and Clark, Isaiah came across many new spiritual mountains unlike any he had faced before. Isaiah could not simply rely on what he had done in the past. The challenges he faced on behalf of building God’s Kingdom meant he needed to depend on a new way of thinking.
Talk about a new way of thinking, in Philippians we hear that we are to have the same mind set as Christ. Isn’t it telling that the biggest issue Jesus had was with those who were unwilling to change. The Pharisees who believed every new mountain should be treated like the last.
The Pharisees were not willing to make themselves humble and accept the new ideas of Jesus. The Lord was looking for humility. Even the act first and think later disciple Peter was willing to change.
Maybe Lewis and Clark wouldn’t have died. Perhaps if they were not willing to humble themselves to listen to a young Native American girl, they would have simply turned around and never made it to their destination.
Being a Christian is not all about strict adherence to the law or leaving everything in God’s hands. There is a middle ground where we have faith in God and God’s ability in us. Maybe Lewis and Clark had enough faith in God to believe it was the Lord who sent Sacagawea to them. Maybe God’s church today needs to listen more and believe that the new voices they hear are the Lord’s speaking to them not to fear the future. Awaken our ears, O’ Lord.
Maybe someone, whom we perceive as ‘not from our tribe’ is the very one who will lead and guide us into tomorrow and help us over the mountains in our way.
On of the biggest issues with the Church today is that we no longer listen to new voices, much less one another. We stand at the foot of a gigantic mountain and believe the way we crossed the smaller one will work. We believe all we need to do is try what we did in the past only harder. We will either end up dead or in full retreat because we don’t listen to one who may know the way.
In the Gospel of Mark we are told that those who would not listen to Jesus were the ones who eventually planned to kill him. Is it a stretch to think that if we are unwilling to listen to the voice of God being spoken by someone other than from our tribe may result in the death of Jesus church?
If we believe listening is the problem, then what is the cost of not listening to that voice? If we are not willing to finish the ministry, then we may be finished as ministers. I say it is possible to kill, at least parts of church of Christ by not listening. When Dr. Martin Luther King spoke out for human rights those who opposed would not listen and plotted to kill him. Just like hundreds of prophets before him, not listening ended in death. This happens because humans love their comfort zones, and listening to others may require us to change.
If we look at the last verse two verses of our Mark passage we see this subtly played out. It is hidden under the guise of Christianity and building God’s Kingdom. “Why was the perfume wasted.” The argument is not evil. The money could have been used to help the poor. I think on the outside we can see the position of those who argued this point.
I think Jesus saw this as an attack on the church. This woman was being judged for the way she worshipped God. Nobody wanted to listen how she worshipped. Lets go back to Philippians verse 11 once more, “and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Money is our great comfort zone, actually it is our love of money. Money can be a great thing until it is worshipped. This passage is dealing more with the worshipping of money and instead of worshipping God.
Greed is the sin here and the inability to hear another’s voice being used to worship God is how it is manifested. When we refuse to listen to another person’s voice about how they worship God, is that really all for God’s glory? I think not.
If we are going to claim victory over another person because their sin is clearly mentioned in the Bible then we need to be prepared to follow every law and command in the Bible to the letter. If we don’t, we are going to be as guilty as those we claim to pick and choose which laws they obey. If we are going to follow every letter of the law in the Bible -what need do we have of a savior, the Law would be our Savior.
In this entire sermon series we have talked about the building blocks of faith to establish the Body of Christ. The problem is we are still stuck back at the beginning, debating law versus faith. When are we going to get the nerve to set aside our differences and begin listening? If God is in the hearts of all people then we must agree God is in the heart of those we disagree with. This country we love may never have come about if some white men were not willing to listen to a very young brown skinned girl.
Aesop had a fable called, The Four Oxen and the Lion.
A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they began to quarrel among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four. God can speak to us through Aesop’s Fables but even more though the parables of Christ.
The Palm Branch serves as a wonderful reminder of how much we love God today, but we will be looking for a handful of nails by the end of this week. Isn’t it time we began to listen and heed the warnings of our foolishness?
We are either going to finish the church or finish the church. Finish building it or finish destroying it. Well we don’t have the power to destroy God, who is the church, so we should probably get busy building it. Not by dividing it into smaller and smaller pieces and marginalizing everyone who doesn’t think like we do. No not by division, but by multiplication. As Christians we think we have solved the law vs. faith debate, but we haven’t. Isn’t it time we do?
Leader: Go forth in peace. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all
People: And also with you.