Friday, May 12, 2006

The Journey to God Knows Where

This is the title of my sermon I am preaching Sunday at Southern Hills Church of Christ. This year the church's theme is "The Journey to God's Horizon," so I thought I would take a stab at what that journey is.

What is our journey as the people of God? As I've thought about it, I've realized that is new language in some ways. Christians have not always perceived themselves as being on a journey, but at our most faithful, we are pilgrims who do not call this world home. However, all too often, we have been comfortable here forgetting our journey at times.

I have always seen Hebrews 11 as the "Hall of Faith," but there is a tremendous amount of journey language there as well. Abraham was an alien who lived in a tent who sought a city designed by God. Moses left the confines of the Moses' palace to suffer disgrace for the sake of Christ (thousands of years before Christ was here). These people were on a journey and did not stay stationed anywhere for much time.

But, the journey stopped for many of God's people. The Israelites asked for a king and a temple and God allowed them to have these things, but these are the first things that keep them from their journey. Israel becomes a sedentary people who forget to journey on.

The people of God are most faithful when they are pilgrims on a journey, but they are most unfaithful when they settle for an earthly kingdom rather than an eternal, lasting city.

In the fourth century, Emperor Constantine created Christendom (Christianity was the state religion). And for 1600 years, Christianity has been at the center of culture. The church was built in the town square not by accident. This reality symbolized the social location of Christianity. But, in the last few decades, the church has moved to the margins. We are losing our place as the powerful church. Some would even say we're losing our influence and for some that is scary.

Many want to regain our position at the center of society. There are two main ways to do this. Many try to seek political power. These people try to legislate through the courts what has already been lost in society. Others try to market the church and these churches become vendors of religious goods and services for consumers. Both of these possibilities miss the mark. If we seek political power as the church did in Western Europe, we risk losing the story of Christ exhanging the spiritual city for an earthly kingdom. If we market the church, we risk losing the uncomfortable and challenging message of Scriptu8re in an effort to gain people through attractions.

Hebrews 13:11-14 gives us the response of those who want to rejoin the journey. We are to follow Christ who went outside the city bearing disgrace and we are to join him on that road. We must leave the safety and security of the city to rejoin God on the journey. We drop all attempts at regaining power because we follow the one who accepted his role at the margins of society ministering to the marginalized.

This is the church's call. To become a pilgrim people who forsake power as we continue the journey that Abraham and Moses began. We are to leave the city. We are to live in tents. And we are to follow Christ outside the city on the path of disgrace. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Yesterday was WATS (We Are The Sermon) Day. Southern Hills, with several other Abilene area churches, left the building early and went to do acts of service in the name of Jesus throughout our community. What a blessing it was!

I had the opportunity to be our group's team leader, which gave me the chance to meet the lady we would be working with beforehand. Josephine was the owner of the house we worked on. She was an older woman who had no family to help her. In fact, we heard story after story about how she had been mistreated by them. Her son had come by earlier in the week for the sole purpose of cutting her air conditioning line in 90 degree weather. She was in need of so many things.

We decided to take on the task of painting her house because it was very run down. It was great to see our young marrieds' class working together outside of the church building in the community. There were over 50 projects just like ours throughout the town of Abilene going on simultaneously. What a work of God. I will never preach a sermon in all the years I have ahead of me that will make such a difference in so many lives.

Yesterday, I saw the church as God intended it. We were salt and light. We were the hands of feet of God bringing cold water and shelter for dozens. Many might say the work we did could not possibly further the name of Christ, but I want to say the work we did was more powerful to Josephine than any tract or sermon could have ever been. Instead of being a church that waits for people to come into our fortresses, we were "sent out" to the lost. This has to be the model for the church in the future.

There is a picture from yesterday that will stick in my mind forever. On the corner of Josephine's street was a Church of Christ. Her house was next door to the church, but she said she had never met anyone from that church in all the years she had lived there. This woman, living in poverty in a house that is needing to be condemned, had not been visited or helped in all of these years. I was amazed, but then I was convicted. How many neighbors has Southern Hills neglected? How many neighbors struggling to get by has your church looked past? There are so Josephines in our communities who can see Christ through us if we take the time to see them and meet their needs.

Josephine couldn't have heard a message of Jesus without her house being fixed. Meals on Wheels had been planting seeds for years with her, and I believe that we have watered those seeds and I am confident God will bring the growth. What a blessing it was to serve Josephine yesterday. Yesterday was what church is all about.