September 28, 2010
Sermon on the Church in the world
This Sunday I preached a sermon at my church, Roosevelt Community Church. The topic was the relationship between the world. I used three different moments in Biblical history to bring out three important points about how the church relates to the world. Then I also used each of those points to critique certain attitudes about the world that we sometimes see in the evangelical church.
Here are the basic points:
1. Based on the call of Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 I said that the church, as the people of God should be a blessing to the World. Ultimately that is fulfilled in Jesus. But we also carry out that same promise. I then criticized the tendency we sometimes have or to treat the world as if it were the enemy; as if we should stay as far away from it as possible. That is hardly compatible with being a blessing. The world is not the enemy of the church, but the recipient of its work.
2. Based on the giving of the Law (Exodus 19 and Deuteronomy 4:5-8), I said that the Law was given in order create a nation that would serve as an example of God’s goodness to the world. These themes are well summed up by Peter: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Here I criticized the tendency that we have to see the church as the solution to personal individualistic problems, including even “going to heaven”. These are all legitimate, but the church as a community is to be an example to the world of how human society founded on love and empowered by the Spirit can really be the best kind of life.
3. Finally, I used the sermon on the Mount to point out, first, that Jesus was giving a new “law” – thus the location and also the “you have heard … but I tell you.” But Second, that this “law” was based on the gracious reality of God’s character. We are to imitate his grace, and be a graceful presence. God allows everyone to experience his goodness and we should also be graceful to everyone (Matt. 5:43-48). The criticism here was the tendency to see the church as the moralizer of society. As if it was our job to make sure that everyone behaved properly. Our public rhetoric often comes across like legalistic condemnation, when in fact our message is supposed to be the graceful good news about Jesus.
Take a listen and tell me what you think!