Hope for Our Church – Part 1
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart
and with the full assurance that faith brings…” vs. 22
A great organization and one I have a lot of respect for is the Make-A-Wish-Foundation. If you go to their website it says this as their mission/vision statement:
“Granting wishes to kids with life-threatening medical conditions gives them more than an amazing experience. A wish come true has the power to make kids feel stronger, more courageous, and more determined to overcome their illnesses.”
Here is one of their stories you may be familiar with:
Miles Scott at 18 months old was diagnosed with leukemia
Miles and his parents live in Tulelake, California near the Oregon border
Miles and his parents were referred to MAW as he turned 5 years old.
He told them his dream was to be batman
The MAW foundation started about a month before the even by the local chapter sending out an email and hoping a couple hundred people would volunteer
It usually takes about $7,500 dollars to MAW dream come true (This wasn’t usual)
The estimated cost of this excursion ended up over $105,000 and was covered by John and Marcia Goldman
Estimates are somewhere between 10,000-12,000 volunteers made it happen and these volunteers transformed part of San Francisco into ‘Gotham City’ Friday.
The event was attended by over 20,000 people
Miles ended up being the sidekick of Batman and took on the name Batkid
He took part in rescuing a damsel in distress tied to the cable car tracks on Russian Hill
He also took part in subduing The Riddler who was robbing a bank
And he helped nab The Penguin who had captured the SF Giants mascot Lou Seal
The chased him to At&T park. Batman and Batkid then climbed through a series of obstacle courses, in hot pursuit of The Penguin. They slid down the park slides, finding The Penguin’s “lair”, and then chasing him down to the mini-Baseball diamond in the stands. Batkid freed Lou Seal and Batman chased The Penguin, ultimately capturing him and handing him over to officers from the S.F. Police Department.
At the end of the day Batkid was taken to SF City Hall where the largest of the crowds gathered in the thousands for a rally. He was given the key to the city by SF mayor Ed Lee. He also received a video Tweet from President Barack Obama
Some interesting stats from the event
Batkid tweets generated (through Sunday 11/17): 545,576
Number of countries where Batkid was discussed: 117
Number of Instagram photos with #SFBatkid:16,000 reaching approx. 19.5 million
Number of hits per second to all Make-A-Wish websites during peak: 1,400
Many people ask us, “How is Miles doing?” The answer is, he’s doing great! He is now 8 years old and in third grade, he plays little league baseball, and he now has another younger brother! Miles bravely fought leukemia like so many other children do, and a wish can be an important part in their recovery.
I think it’s safe to say that people are able to accomplish a lot by working together and when there is hope. The same is true for the church. Today we are going to look at a passage from Hebrews 10:19-25 and how there is hope for our church. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word.
Read Passage – Hebrews 10:19-25
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Not Interested in Church
It’s pretty well documented that church attendance is in decline. People are not interested in church. Yet…I would say that spirituality is up. People are interested in spiritual things but the church has lost is credibility and its ability to draw new people. In fact, I would even say that we see people changing churches more often and that makes it seem like churches are growing when in fact it’s just people switching churches. Unfortunately, the church has probably earned that reputation. We have not been loving and forgiving, we have not been understanding, and we have come across as “better than thou” to many people and have turned them off and turned them away.
Ex. Kicking people out – my grandmother because of divorce.
We have not dealt with sin well and have handled many things in the wrong way.
Brennan Manning in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel tells this story:
The story goes that a public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden entry to the church. He took his woes to God. “They won’t let me in, Lord, because I am a sinner.” “What are you complaining about?” said God. “They won’t let me in either.”
Brennan knew what he was talking about because many people tried to have him kicked out of the church because of his issues with alcohol. It really drives us to consider what the church is all about and are we really being the church that God wants us to be?
Our Christian Community of Hope
Hebrews 10 gives us some great insight into what the church is all about and what we want our church to be like. One thing comes up that we need to be aware fo before we jump into that; it’s verse 25a which says:
“(Let us)…not giving up meeting together…” vs. 25a
The word in the Greek for meeting is episynagoge which is where we get our word synagogue. It means congregation. So the verse is saying don’t stop congregating. Many pastors and church leaders have misused this verse to guilt or coerce people into coming to church or force them to be at church every Sunday. Let’s look at what it really implies and how it can learn to be a Christian community of hope.
- Are We_________ or ___________??
First, this passage is talking about being a congregation. A congregation is a community in which all aspects of the members’ touch lives. Another word is aggregation. An aggregation is a collection of individuals.
Ex. Let’s look at this through an illustration. Are we?
Aggregation – a bag of marbles
Congregation – a cluster of grapes
What is the difference? (Wait for people to respond)
The marbles are individuals and have no connection to each other. You can take one out with no problem. It’s just a collection of individual things.
The grapes on the other hand are organically related to each other. They are connected to a vine. To get one, you have to pull it off the vine.
So the Bible tells us that we are more like a cluster of grapes because we are connected, and what are we connected to or by? Christ. Here are a few verses tht tell us that.
“Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Eph. 5:23
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church…” Col. 1:17-18
We are not really a group of individuals, we are connected because of Chri. We are a congregation. We don’t just come together to hear a speaker or have an experience. That is a club. We eat together. We pray together. We learn together. We love each other. We confess to each other and we walk with each other through the tough issues.
How? Sunday services, yes. Eating together. (Women’s tea nd men’s breakfast) Potlucks. Prayer meetings. Communion. Small groups. Working together. Playing together (golf tournament, etc.). See we are not just suppose to come and sit here on Sunday and say, “Oh, we are together.” No, we are involved in each others lives, spend time during the week together, and are community
- A Place of ______ __________ Friendships
A second implication of meeting together is that the church is to be a place of deep friendships. The Bible talks about us as being brothers and sisters. The bond of being together in Christ is supposed to drive us into deeper friendships with each other. The analogy that the bible uses is the body. In Romans 12:5 it says:
“…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:5
We help each other and work together. We are intertwined and linked to form a body. Each part works with the others to accomplish things. We pick each other up when another is down, we assist each other to accomplish tasks, and support one another in the good and the bad. We let each other into our lives. You open up about your hurts and problems, and needs. We hold each other accountable. We celebrate together and build each other up.
- Graduations – attending graduations, parties, etc.
- My hurt foot – the rest of the body picks up the slack.
So what does being in deep friendships look like? 1 Peter 2:17 gives us a clue when it says:
“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers…” 1 Peter 2:17
It means everyone belongs, everyone has a place, we respect everyone because we are bound together through Christ who loves each of us and therefore we love and respect one another. Verse 24 tells us how that happens; by spurring one another toward good deeds.
Ex. Helping Mission School with buckets for their music program
- A Place of _____________
And a third implication of meeting together is that the church should be a place of encouragement. In the OT the worshippers could not draw near to God. In the tabernacle and in the temple there was a Holy Place. That is the place where God dwelled. Only the high priest could draw near to God and that was one day a year. The temple was a place of confession and sacrifice. The temple was not a place of encouragement but a place only of repentance for sin. The importance of this is that Jesus changes all that. Verse 19 tells us:
“Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…” vs. 19
The work of Jesus allows us to enter the place where God dwells and to be in his presence. The author is saying that because of Christ’s death and resurrection we can come right into the presence of God and in his presence it is no longer about what we have done but what Christ has done. We are transformed and that transformation is we are encouraged by meeting together and we are called to encourage one another. We no longer come with fear but we come with assurance of God’s love and that love is extended to one another. Verse 22 says:
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance…” vs. 22
CS Lewis says in Mere Christianity:
“Christ works on all of us in all sorts of ways, but above all he works on us through each other. We are carriers of Christ to each other.”
Ex. Our greeting time, the joy of meeting together, genuinely like and love each other
So the message of meeting together is not one of a demand to come to church but one of the hope the church can be and I believe it’s what we want to be.
A Glimpse of What’s To Come
The bottom line is that it comes down to not what we have now but what we have now being a glimpse of what is to come. This passage ends with these words:
“and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The day being talked about here is the day that Christ returns for his church; us! Christ returns for his church and then we see that all this was just a glimplse of what is to come.