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MATTHEW 17:1-9 | ON THE MOVE

ON THE MOVE

MATTHEW 17:1-9

FEBRUARY 26, 2017

 

 

SEVERAL WEEKS AGO, GUEST PREACHER, MICHAEL ZEHR, SPOKE ON THE TOPIC “GO.”  IT WAS BASED ON JESUS’ GREAT COMMISSION “TO GO, MAKE DISCIPLES…”

 

AS I UNDERSTAND IT, ONE OF THE THINGS MICHAEL DID WAS TO ACTUALLY HAVE YOU “GO;” TO GET UP DURING HIS SERMON AND MOVE TO ANOTHER LOCATION IN THE SANCTUARY.

 

THEN, AS IT WAS TOLD TO ME BY ONE OF OUR ELDERS, IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE SERMON WAS OVER, MANY OF YOU RETURNED TO YOUR ORIGINAL SEATS.

 

I’M GUESSING SOME OF YOU DID SO BECAUSE YOU HAD LEFT YOUR PERSONAL EFFECTS, YOUR PURSE, GLASSES, BULLETINS, ETC. IN YOUR ORIGINAL SPOT; AND WHEN IT CAME TIME TO RECITE THE CREED, SING THE NEXT HYMN, ETC. YOU NEEDED YOUR STUFF.

 

FOR SOME OF YOU, IT MAY HAVE BEEN THAT YOU WERE SIMPLY MORE COMFORTABLE IN YOUR “REGULAR SPOT.”

 

WELL, I BLAME KING SOLOMON FOR ALL OF THIS.  KING SOLOMON, FOR ALL HIS SUPPOSED WISDOM, CAVED TO PEER PRESSURE, AND BUILT THE FIRST JEWISH TEMPLE.  (YOU CAN READ THE STORY IN I KINGS 6.)

 

INTO THE TEMPLE, HE PLACED THE ARK OF THE COVENANT, BEHIND A GREAT CURTAIN, IN THE HOLY OF HOLIES, AND THERE IT WAS BELIEVED, GOD WAS TO RESIDE FOREVER.

 

PRIOR TO THIS, YOU MAY REMEMBER, THE ARK OF THE COVENANT HAD BEEN IN THE TENT OF THE TABERNACLE, AND GOD, IT WAS BELIEVED, WAS PRESENT THERE, TOO.

 

WHENEVER THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL MOVED FROM ONE PLACE TO THE NEXT, AND THROUGHOUT THE TIME OF THE EXODUS, AS THEY WERE ON THE MOVE TOWARDS THE PROMISED LAND, GOD WENT WITH THEM; OR THEY WENT WITH GOD, AS THE CASE MAY BE.

 

AND WHENEVER THEY STOPPED TO SET UP CAMP, THE TENT OF THE TABERNACLE WAS THE FIRST THING ERECTED, AT THE CENTER OF THE CAMP, AND THEN THE PEOPLE WOULD SET UP THEIR OWN TENTS, SURROUNDING IT.

 

WHEN THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL FINALLY ARRIVED IN THE PROMISED LAND, FOUND IT WAS ALREADY INHABITED, AND BY PEOPLE OF OTHER RELIGIONS, ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THEY NOTICED WAS, THAT THESE OTHER RELIGIONS HAD TEMPLES IN WHICH THEIR GODS RESIDED, AND THE JEWS WANTED ONE TOO.

 

ONLY BIGGER AND BETTER.

 

LATER, DURING THE REIGN OF KING DAVID, THEY PESTERED HIM TO DEATH ABOUT BUILDING A TEMPLE; BUT GOD KEPT TELLING DAVID IT WAS A BAD IDEA;

 

ONCE DAVID DIED, AND HIS SON, SOLOMON TOOK THE THRONE, HE DECIDED THE TIME HAD COME TO BUILD GOD A PROPER, PERMANENT HOME.

 

SOLOMON WAS JUST THE MAN FOR THE JOB.  HE WAS A MAN OF VISION; A MASTER BUILDER (HE ALSO BUILT CITIES, ROADS, AND A PALACE FOR HIMSELF);

 

SOLOMON WAS GIVEN TO EXCESS (HE HAD 400 WIVES AND 800 CONCUBINES), IT MEANT THE TEMPLE WOULD BE BIGGER, BETTER, GRANDER, AND LIKE NOTHING ANYONE HAD EVER SEEN BEFORE.

 

PROBLEM IS, SOLOMON DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH WISDOM OR FORESIGHT TO SEE THAT SOMETHING PERMANENT, RARELY IS; AND CAN BE DESTROYED BY YOUR ENEMIES, AS THE TEMPLE WAS, SEVERAL TIMES, AND IT HAS NEVER BEEN REBUILT.

 

AND EACH TIME THE TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, TOOK SOMETHING OF A HIT.

 

SO, I BLAME SOLOMON FOR BUILDING GOD A “HOME” IN WHICH HE BELIEVED GOD WOULD STAY PUT, AND SAFE (NOT!), AND WHERE PEOPLE COULD COME AND SEE GOD, AND WORSHIP GOD.

 

YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THE EARLY CHRISTIANS MIGHT HAVE LEARNED A LESSON FROM ALL THIS HISTORY, AND FROM THE FALL OF THE TEMPLE, AND FOR A TIME THEY DID.

 

FOR A TIME, THE CHURCH MET IN FIELDS, AND BY THE RIVER, UNDER TREES, IN TOWN SQUARES, BEFORE EVENTUALLY MOVING INTO PEOPLE’S HOMES.

 

BUT AT SOME POINT, PERHAPS AS THE CHURCH GREW TOO BIG FOR SOMEONE’S HOME, SOME OF THE CHURCHES IN VARIOUS CITIES DECIDED WHAT THEY NEEDED WAS A SINGLE CHURCH HOUSE, A PLACE OF WORSHIP, WHERE GOD COULD STAY, AND THEY COULD COME AND SEE GOD, AND WORSHIP GOD.

 

AND THAT’S WHAT PETER IS PROPOSING IN THIS MORNING’S PASSAGE.

 

THINGS ARE SO WONDERFUL ON THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION; JESUS IS THERE, MOSES AND ELIJAH ARE THERE, THE OVERSHADOWING OF GOD’S POWER AND PRESENCE IS THERE, SO WHY NOT JUST STAY RIGHT THERE!

 

“LORD, IT IS GOOD FOR US TO BE HERE;” PETER SAYS, “IF YOU WISH, I WILL MAKE THREE DWELLINGS HERE, ONE FOR YOU, ONE FOR MOSES, AND ONE FOR ELIJAH.”

 

IT’S NONE OTHER THAN THE VOICE OF GOD WHO INTERRUPTS PETER, OVERSHADOWING THE ENTIRE MOUNTAIN IN FLASHING CLOUD AND THUNDEROUS VOICE:

 

“THIS IS MY SON, THE BELOVED; WITH HIM I AM WELL PLEASED; LISTEN TO HIM!”

 

PETER, JAMES, AND JOHN, JESUS’ DISCIPLES WHO HAD GONE WITH HIM, FALL TO THE GROUND IN FEAR;

 

AND THE FIRST THING THEY HEAR FROM JESUS IS: “GET UP, DO NOT BE AFRAID;” AND THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW, THEY ARE ALL HEADED DOWN THE MOUNTAIN.

 

PETER, LIKE SOLOMON, AND THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL BEFORE HIM, AND THE CHURCH THAT WOULD FOLLOW HIM, WANTED TO BUILD GOD A PLACE TO STAY, BUT GOD THE FATHER, AND JESUS THE SON, HAD OTHER IDEAS.

 

SO DOWN THE MOUNTAIN THEY CAME; ON THE MOVE; ON THEIR WAY TO MAKING MORE DISCIPLES; BACK TO THE VALLEY BELOW; BACK TO THE REAL WORLD; AND EVEN ON TO JERUSALEM, AND ALL THAT WOULD MEAN FOR THE ENDING OF JESUS’ EARTHLY LIFE.

 

YEARS AGO, I READ SOMETHING SOMEONE WROTE ABOUT THE CHURCH BEING LIKE AN UMBRELLA.  THE WRITER’S IDEA WAS THIS: THAT THE CHURCH SHOULD BE A PLACE WHERE WE CAN COME IN, OUT OF THE RAIN, AWAY FROM LIFE’S STORMS.

 

THAT WHEN THE STORMS OF LIFE COME; WHEN TOUGH TIMES HIT; WHEN LIFE’S NOT GOING OUR WAY, THE CHURCH CAN BE OUR UMBRELLA; OUR SANCTUARY;

 

A PLACE TO COME IN OUT OF THE RAIN; TO GET OUT OF THE STORM; AWAY FROM THE LIGHTNING AND THUNDER OF THE WORLD.

 

UNDER HERE, UNDER THE COVER OF THE CHURCH UMBRELLA, SECRETED AWAY FROM THE WORLD IN SANCTUARY, WE CAN STAY SAFE AND WARM AND DRY.

 

WHEN I FIRST READ THAT, AND EVER SINCE, I’VE BEEN BOTHERED BY THIS IMAGE OF THE CHURCH.

 

  1. IT IS NOT A VERY APT DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH, I BELIEVE.
  2. IT DOES A DISSERVICE TO UMBRELLAS.

 

YOU SEE, UMBRELLAS, BY THEIR VERY NATURE, ARE NOT INTENDED AS SANCTUARIES; SAFE PLACES FROM WHICH WE RETREAT IN A STORM;

 

INSTEAD, UMBRELLAS MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO MAKE OUR WAY THROUGH THE STORM; TO VENTURE OUT; TO GO; TO GET OUT THERE; TO DO WHAT WE NEED TO DO, REGARDLESS OF THE STORM.

 

AND THAT, TO MY WAY OF THINKING, IS A MUCH BETTER IMAGE OF THE CHURCH, AS WELL.

 

THE CHURCH IS NOT A PLACE WHERE WE HIDE FROM THE WORLD; WHERE WE SHELTER IN PLACE, UNTIL THE STORM HAS PASSED;

 

NO, THE CHURCH IS MEANT TO GET OUT THERE IN THE THICK OF LIFE’S STORMS AND DO WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO DO IN THE WORLD, AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD.

 

LIKE AN UMBRELLA – THE CHURCH – GIVES US THE COURAGE, THE ABILITY, THE PROTECTION, TO GO AND DO; TO GET OUT THERE; TO LIVE, AND MOVE, AND HAVE OUR BEING – IN THE WORLD; IN LIFE; EVEN IN LIFE’S STORMINESS.

 

I HAD AN ASSOCIATE PASTOR YEARS AGO, IN A CHURCH WE BOTH SERVED TOGETHER.

 

ON OCCASION, IT WOULD BE HIS RESPONSIBILITY TO OFFER THE CALL TO WORSHIP.  ONE OF HIS FAVORITES WAS ONE THAT SOMEWHAT BOTHERED ME.

 

HE WOULD CALL PEOPLE TO WORSHIP; HE WOULD TELL THEM TO LEAVE ALL THEIR TROUBLES AND WOES OUTSIDE; TO TURN AWAY FROM THE PROBLEMS OF LIFE; TO FORGET THE WORLD FOR A WHILE; AND COME INTO THE SANCTUARY OF GOD, TO WORSHIP GOD.

 

I KNEW WHAT HE MEANT, OF COURSE; I KNEW WHAT HE WAS GETTING AT; BUT I WAS STILL BOTHERED BY IT.

 

“WHERE, BETTER,” I THOUGHT, “TO BRING YOUR TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, YOUR TROUBLES, LIFE’S PROBLEMS, THAN BEFORE GOD, IN GOD’S SANCTUARY?”

 

THE CHURCH IS NOT A PLACE TO FORGET OUR PROBLEMS, BUT TO CONFESS THOSE OF OUR OWN MAKING; AND FORGIVE THOSE CAUSED BY OTHERS.

 

CHURCH IS THE PLACE TO PRAY ABOUT OUR TROUBLES; TO SEEK GOD’S GUIDANCE; TO SEEK THE WISDOM, HELP, AND PRAYERS OF OUR FELLOW BELIEVERS.

 

THIS IS EXACTLY WHERE WE SHOULD BRING OUR PROBLEMS AND FRUSTRATIONS WITH LIFE, WITH THE WORLD; WHERE WE ARE TO SEEK ANSWERS; DIVINE GOD’S WISDOM;

 

SHARE ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS, AND CELEBRATE ONE ANOTHER’S JOYS!

 

RATHER THAN AN ESCAPE FROM THE WORLD, FROM LIFE, CHURCH IS WHERE OUR LIFE AND FAITH MEET; WHERE WE MEET GOD AND OUR FELLOW BELIEVERS; AND WHERE WE CAN SORT THINGS OUT.

 

AGAIN, I UNDERSTAND WHAT MY WELL-INTENTIONED ASSOCIATE WAS GETTING AT, BUT RATHER THAN AN UMBRELLA UNDER WHICH WE ESCAPE LIFE’S STORMS;

 

WHERE, PERHAPS, WE PRETEND, EVEN IF ONLY FOR AN HOUR ON SUNDAY MORNING, THAT LIFE ISN’T SO BAD; THAT LIFE’S LIKE IT IS IN HERE;

 

INSTEAD, THE CHURCH IS THE UMBRELLA UNDER WHICH WE CAN VENTURE OUT INTO LIFE’S STORM, BE ON OUR WAY, DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE.

 

AND THIS, I BELIEVE, IS WHAT JESUS WAS SAYING TO PETER, JAMES, AND JOHN.

 

WE CAN’T HIDE OUT ON THIS MOUNTAINTOP, FOREVER; IT’S TIME TO GO; THERE’S WORK TO BE DONE; LIVES TO SAVE; SOULS TO BE LOVED; NEEDS TO BE MET…

 

IT’S TIME TO LEAVE THE RELATIVE SAFETY OF THE MOUNTAINTOP, OF THE SANCTUARY, AND VENTURE BACK INTO THE REAL WORLD, TO DO GOD’S WORK IN THE WORLD.

 

“AND IT’LL BE MESSY,” I HEAR JESUS SAYING.  “AND IT COULD COST US OUR LIVES;” HE SAYS.   “AND IT’LL BE ROUGH; AND STORMY, AT TIMES.”

 

LIFE, PARTICULARLY, THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, IN THE REAL WORLD, IT’S DANGEROUS, AT TIMES.

 

“GO,” JESUS SAYS, “MAKE DISCIPLES … BAPTIZE THEM… TEACH THEM…”

 

YOU SEE, THE PEOPLE OF GOD, THE CHURCH, IS AT ITS BEST, WHEN IT’S ON THE MOVE.

 

THERE’S A TECHNIQUE IN TELEVISION AND MOVIE PRODUCTION CALLED THE “WALK AND TALK.”  THOSE OF YOU WHO WERE FANS OF THE WEST WING OR NETWORK SERIES, BOTH BY AARON SORKIN, ARE LIKELY, FAMILIAR WITH IT.

 

THEY ALSO USE IT ON SERIES SUCH AS LAW AND ORDER, NCIS, HOUSE, ER AND MOST OF THE OTHER POLICE, LAWYER, AND MEDICAL DRAMAS.

 

THE TECHNIQUE INVOLVES ONE CHARACTER WALKING, WHEN ANOTHER CHARACTER JOINS THEM, AND DIALOGUE GERMAIN TO THE STORY HAPPENS,

EN ROUTE.

 

THE TWO CHARACTERS ARE OFTEN INTERRUPTED BY YET ANOTHER, AND THE DIALOGUE, AND THE STORYLINE CONTINUE, TAKING ON YET ANOTHER PLOT DIRECTION.

 

THE TECHNIQUE IS MEANT TO SHOW HOW BUSY THE CHARACTERS ARE, AS WELL AS GETTING THEM FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER, WITHOUT A LOT OF TALKING HEADS JUST STANDING AROUND IN ONE PLACE.

 

I’D LIKE TO SUGGEST TO YOU THIS MORNING, THAT THIS, THE WALK AND TALK TECHNIQUE IS AN APT DESCRIPTION FOR WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO BE THE CHURCH.

 

WE ARE AT OUR BEST, WHEN WE ARE ON THE MOVE.

 

WHEN WE ARE MOVING IN, AND OUT, AND THROUGH, THE REAL WORLD AROUND US;

 

WHEN WE ARE SPEAKING THE TRUTH; MEETING NEEDS; MINISTERING IN CHRIST’S NAME.

 

GOD DOES NOT “STAY PUT;” SO IT SEEMS LIKELY THAT GOD EXPECTS THE SAME FROM THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN GOD.

 

“FOLLOW ME,” CHRIST SAYS, INDICATING THAT HE TOO, WAS ALWAYS ON THE MOVE.

 

“COME,” “GO,” “FOLLOW ME…”

“TAKE, BLESS, BREAK, EAT, DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME…”

“GO,” “MAKE,” “BAPTIZE,” “TEACH…”

“FEED, CLOTHE, WELCOME, VISIT…”

“DO UNTO OTHERS;”

 

THESE SEEM TO BE THE WORDS, THE VERBS, THE ACTION WORDS, OF OUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.

 

THEY ARE OUR MARCHING ORDERS; OUR COMMANDMENTS; AND OUR COMMISSIONING.

 

THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST, AND WE, AS INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS, ARE AT OUR BEST, WHEN WE ARE ON THE MOVE.

 

SO, “GO;” “DO”!

 

 

 

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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