Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Church, Your Mother

I have started going to a different church here in Knoxville, and feel that I have finally found a home at Redeemer Church of Knoxville (huge sigh of relief and contentment...)

It is a small church in the heart of the city, with a delightful mix of tradition and fresh perspective; simplicity with depth; and people of all ages and walks of life.  I feel known here, like a part of the family, and I realize that I have been searching for this for over a year.  It is also of the Presbyterian tradition - new for me, but I am finding much to appreciate.

We are currently doing a sermon series on the life of David, and today's focus was on "David and His Community" during the time that he was hiding from Saul in the wilderness, and people began to come out to him and join him, and then also during the time that he lived among the Phillistines (1 Samuel 22&27)

I was struck by several things as we looked at this passage:
Much of the Old Testament is a foreshadowing of Christ coming - and David himself often serves as this - a sort of forerunner to the ultimate king of Israel.  I was struck by how these verses describe those coming out to David in the cave of Adullam, his place of refuge, and how it is such a parallel of all of us coming to Jesus today:
"David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam.  And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him.  And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him.  And he became commander over them..."

The pastor was drawing parallels between the cave of Adullam (a place of sanctuary and community for David) and the Church today, and he made this statement, which really struck me:
"The church must be the King's place of safety and welcome."

Is Jesus "safe" and welcome in our churches today?  Do we accept Him as He truly is, on His terms, or do we try to put Him in boxes, make excuses for Him and the aspects of Him that we find confusing, or offensive, or even unpallateable?  Do we seek Him truly, and welcome Him among us?  We want to respond, yes, of course He is!  But is it true?  Because I fear the answer is becoming more and more often, just the opposite. 
I fear because many people that I talk to, who claim the name of Christ, are hesitant to even make the statement that He alone can save!  They'll claim Him as the means of their salvation, but feel it isn't fair or accepting or tolerant to make that statement for anyone else. And I have to wonder - how can we claim to know and live by the gospel, if we fail to even understand & proclaim that He is our only hope!  Not just "us" the Christians, but "us" humanity.  He is the only one in all of history who came after us when we rebelled against Him, who fought for us, who rescued us, who took our guilt and shame and death, transferring to us His innocense and freedom and life.  He is the only one who made a way for us to return to God.  And therefore - the only way back to God is through Him. 
This is good news!  There is hope where all seemed lost!  Yet somehow our culture has taken the infinitely good news that there is a way to be rescued, and twisted it, saying, "how closed-minded of God, to only make one way for people to come to Him. That can't be good at all, that I have no other options.  No, I don't think I want a God like that."  How incredibly ludicrous!  Who scorns a rescue helicopter, complaining that they didin't get to choose the means of their rescue?

Yet, as I was reminded once again today in my wonderful church, though the church is broken, twisted, fallen in many way, She is the Bride of Christ, and I must love her, because Jesus died for her, because I am her, because, as Augustine said, "The Church is a whore, but she is your mother."  I feel that the Lord has specifically called me to love and serve and minister to the Church in the U.S.  I don't know what that looks like long-term, but currently, it means working with college students - teaching them who Jesus is, who they are in Him, how to believe accurately about Him and His word, and to live accordingly (things that I struggle to live out myself!) 
Thankfully, we do it all by the grace of God.  And so I leave you with the Confession of Sin, and Words of Encouragement spoken over our congregation this morning (one of my favorite aspects of my new church home):

Confession of Sin
Lord Jesus, your church is a gathering of people who are at the same time sinner and saint. Since we have confidence that nothing will ever separate us from your love, we freely confess our sins to you now. Though we have been saved by the patient grace of God, we fail to deal patiently with one another. Though we know our own weaknesses and failures, we get frustrated wiht this same condition in others and treat them harshly. Though we are filled with hope because of the resurrection, we often become hopeless about your church. Though you have made your church one, we grieve that we have become a broken communion in a broken world. Dear Savior, forgive us. Thank you for never giving up on us; may we never give up on your Bride, your chosen partner, your beloved, your church. Amen. 

Words of Encouragement (Ephesians 5:25-27, Isaiah 1:18)
Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himslef in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Christians, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.