Creed / Jordan&Grace / Turn: Matthew 7
Funny how Grace says "We're going on Holiday" because of Peppa Pig.
Last week, Marshall talked to us about the 'Ecclesia'. Which is the to say the gathering or the assembly.
The way I figure it is you're most likely in one of 3 places.
And so, look, I'm sensitive to all of those positions. And no matter where you are when it comes to church, we're glad you're here. We want you to feel welcome.
But listen, I gotta be honest up front about this. I believe in the church. And as I always say, I'm a church guy. There's a lot of Christians who like to criticize the church, and hate on the church. I just need you to know that's not who we are. I love it, I believe in it. It's not perfect, but neither am I. And I know without question that my life is better because of the church.
And I was thinking about that, and I was trying to think of exactly why it is that I believe in the church in the way I do. And I don't mean theologically, like here's scripture that proves I should believe in it. But experientially. What have I experienced in the church that has made it so compelling for me over the years.
And there's a lot of ways to answer that question, but today I'm going to focus on Penguins.
(This is of course Jesus's famous sermon on the mount. And this is the conclusion of it.)
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. (Matthew 7:13)
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14)
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:17)
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. (Matthew 7:18)
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 7:19)
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:20)
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24)
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (Matthew 7:25)
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. (Matthew 7:26)
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:27)
Jesus concludes the sermon on the mount with 3 metaphors
It was a Shelter from the storm
Jesus was a great preacher. He understood metaphors. Metaphors let us visualize theological and philosophical ideas
If we were to talk about the church
I could say something abstract like: God's alternative society formed around faith in and allegiance to Jesus Christ.
I agree with that. It's the best description I've ever heard to be honest. But it doesn't really spark the imagination. Would you agree?
So how does the New Testament describe the church? It's a body, bride, city, temple, vineyard, house.
Jesus uses the metaphor of a shelter from the Storm.
Not originally from him.
He's borrowing from the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah uses this metaphor 3 times - "Shelter from The Storm"
(The coming King and Kingdom) - It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain. (Isaiah 4:6)
For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. (Isaiah 25:4)
See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. (Isaiah 32:1)
Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. (Isaiah 32:2)
Jesus takes this metaphor and contrasts it with a house that would NOT be a shelter from the Storm.
The Temple It's not just a timeless illustration, it's also a prophetic critique of the Jerusalem temple of that day. Which people really had a lot of affection for but it wasn't going to last in the coming storm. It wasn't doing what it was there to do. The Romans in 70AD would come and decimate Jerusalem and the temple. It was built on sand.
Jesus is ushering in a new "temple" if you will. The church. But there's one HUGE difference. The temple was built on the sand, but the church is built on the rock. And it will stand.
On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)
Jesus Christ himself is the cornerstone.
I love that metaphor for the church!
How many people know that's it's cold out there?
The world is rough. Hard to just get through life.
I can't think of a more beautiful way of inviting people into the Christian community than to describe the church as a place that is safe and warm.
"Come in, we'll give you shelter from the Storm."
Do you guys know that song?
Bob Dylan - 'Shelter from The Storm'.
It's a song about a man who's worn out, burned out, tired. And he encounters a women who offers him this kindness "Come in, I'll give you shelter from the Storm."
Can you picture it? A man, in a coat, and hat, in this pouring rain with no one to let him in and finally, he comes to a house, where the lady says 'Come in, I'll give you shelter from the Storm."
And my gosh, what a picture of the the church.
Read the lyrics when thinking about the church, how amazing it fits.
'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
Come in, she said - I'll give ya shelter from the storm
I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an' blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
Come in, she said - I'll give ya shelter from the storm
And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death,
and men who are fighting to be warm
Come in, she said I'll give ya shelter from the storm
I've heard newborn babies wailing' like a mourning' dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man,
is it hopeless and forlorn
Come in, she said I'll give ya shelter from the storm (Bob Dylan)
Who is this woman? - THE CHURCH!!!
Of course, Shelter from the Storm is a metaphor.
What provides shelter for people is not a building, but a people.
The Christian on their own totally misses all of this. Both in their ability to stay warm and to keep others warm.
Tim Keller says the lone Christian is like a totaled car. It's not that it disappeared. No, it's still there, but it's totally incapable of fulfilling a it's job.
There is no doubt that the Christian faith involves this cosmic conflict. Following Jesus puts you in direct conflict with the principalities and powers.
So it's certainly a battleground of sorts. But the church is also a home. And it's a home with open doors to people who are suffering in a very cold world.
The single mom with 3 kids who is struggling to get by. And she comes here and there's people here who love her, who are concerned for her, who are willing to help her, to pray for her, to help babysit her kids for free. The church becomes a shelter from the storm.
It's finally time to talk about Penguins.
Penguins endure some of the most extreme temperatures this planet has to offer. But amazingly, they survive. How? Well, lets find out.
(Penguins - Video)
Is that incredible?! So to survive the penguins all huddle together and they're rotating shifts on the outside and shifts on the inside. So nobody is always on the inside and nobody is always on the outside.
And I know that for a lot of people here, your life has been an example of this.
And I wanted to not just tell you about this, but to actually share some stories of people who have experienced this covering during a hard time. So this past week, I asked if people would send me their stories. I have 3 that I would like to share.
In November of 2019, we went through the worst tragedy we could never expect. The loss of our beloved son. Our one and only. Our world was crushed so unexpectedly. His life was cut way too short. It seemed as if ours was as well.
Throughout the 18+ years we have attended BCA, we have had many blessings. I think we all have a story to tell. Sometimes life is so blissful, sometimes life can bring tremendous pain.
Our church family pulled together to carry us through this time of despair. We were lost in so many ways. God, once again, proved to be here at our lowest by sending much needed love and support through the church.
My husband's passing was sooner than expected. The very first person I called (after 911) was a dear friend I had met through the church. The second person I spoke to was one of my pastors. There is indeed a spiritual covering in our pastors given to us by Jesus. I knew during the hour they tried to revive my husband there were many in my church praying with me and for me. Then came the crisis with the family - very unexpected. All of a sudden I had no place to live, very little money and no family support. Again the church rallied to assist me. Yes they were with me spiritually every step of the way but they also took care of my physical needs with phone calls, food, shelter, cards, helped me move, helped organize me in my new surroundings and even went with me to the funeral home. There were those individuals who helped me financially until I could get back on my feet. Where would I be without the church? I would have no spiritual covering, very few friends, no understanding of the love of Jesus and his church, and probably homeless. Everything we need can be found in the love of Jesus and in His church demonstrating His love and care.
(Not just attending, but by getting involved.)
In 2006 my family and I moved from New Orleans to Albuquerque when my husband was transferred here after Hurricane Katrina. We knew no one at all in the city and found ourselves miles away from family and friends. It was here at Believers Center, in the church, that we found a safe place to heal, we found love, we found friendship. We found a community of believers who eventually became family to us.
In 2014 It was this same family that rose to the occasion and once again embraced us after I was diagnosed with stage 3 Breast Cancer. They rallied around us offering support in every way possible, by offering to take me to appointments if my husband could not make it, preparing meals for us during my treatments, cleaning our house, making sure that my spirit remained high and most of all covering us in prayer. Not only did they pray with us and with each other but also asked other believers outside of our church to pray for me. I still meet people for the first time who say to me "we prayed for You".
I am forever grateful for the love that was poured out to us during this time. And still today I offer much thanksgiving to God for His church and the way that they held us up during our times of difficulty.
So here's how I figure it. There's 2 kinds of penguins. Inside penguins and outside penguins. And every penguin is actually both and inside penguin and an outside penguin, just at different times.
And I just think: That right there, is a beautiful picture of what the body of Christ is supposed to be.
Now listen, some of you, right now, are outside penguins. You're able to take the brunt of the cold to keep someone else warm. And others of you, right now, are inside penguins. Where you need us to gather around you, and keep you warm.
And over the course of a Christian life, you're both an outside penguin and an inside penguin. In different seasons of life. Sometimes you're a little of both.
Maybe you're thinking "I don't need that! I don't need people's help!" Maybe your storm hasn't come yet. That's ok. It will. Is that too negative? Life will happen. And you will be the one that needs help.
So do you follow that? Being an inside penguin and being an outside penguin. If you don't understand what I mean by that, the rest of the sermon is going to be utterly bewildering to you.
Dick Fitzpatrick Went to be with the Lord in 2016. Many of you remember him. Well he was a man that for most of his life he was an outside penguin. He was always busy taking care of people and loving people. And then with one call from the doctor, his life changes and he gets very sick. And he switches from an outside penguin to an inside penguin. This man that spent so much time caring for us, now needs us to keep him warm.
Only come when hurting But see, a lot of people come to church only when they're hurting and you can see how that totally messes the whole thing up.
BC often times it's not that needs shelter, it's the person that's next to you.
I am a technology guy. I love technology almost certainly more than you do. People are afraid of getting the computer chip, I want two of them. One for each hand. No that's not the mark of the beast. That's Facebook. Kidding.
I love technology, but man, I gotta tell you, for a lot of people, their phone is an escape from having to look out into the real world.
David Meyers - Galen Woodward I have a friend who tells a story that years ago he was in a church, and it was before service and he was having some personal issues. And the lead pastor of the church was walking by and said "Hey there, how you doing?" And my friend said "Not too great." And the pastor said "Awesome, see you in there."
And that's an innocent mistake. It's just hysterical and a great illustration of how we can all be. If we just skate in to church 10 minutes late, and leave as soon as they escort you outside, how would you know if the person who was sitting next to you really needed someone to pray with them? You wouldn't. I know Covid makes that all difficult, so I'm not suggesting you break the 6 foot rule, but you can look in someone's eyes, ask them how they're doing, and actually listen to their response. You can do that from 6 feet away.
So that's the first step if you want to be an outside Penguin. Lift up your eyes.
Now this is a classic David point, I know. But I think it bears repeating.
I think : The big barrier that stops many Christians from being a true help to others is their unwillingness to be inconvenienced.
Over the last 5 years of so, it has been my unique honor to do the majority of the funerals at the church. And with that comes caring for grieving families during some of their most vulnerable moments in life.
Can I tell you something I've learned: Dealing with hurting people is never convenient. Never.
People aren't rushed to emergency surgery at times that are convenient for me.
True generosity is displayed in the interruptions.
So that's point 2 to being an outside penguin - Allow yourself to be inconvenienced.
Something that is really tragic, and I use that word on purpose, is when people go through intense pain, their tendency is to run from community.
And I don't know if that has something to do with shame, I suspect it does. But let me be clear: If you're hurting, grief, despair, sorrow, loneliness, you should be here.
I need you to hear me: Isolating yourself will only make the problem worse.
I think about how the church was in the book of acts. And how similar they were to the penguins.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. (Acts 2:43)
All the believers were together and had everything in common. (Acts 2:44)
They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (Acts 2:45)
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, (Acts 2:46)
praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
So I put the word "directly" in there because something we see a lot in ministry is people post their issues on social media and then they get mad when we don't acknowledge them or do anything to help them. Listen, we don't see your posts.
So if you need help, communicate that with your community. Don't make them read to tea leaves to discern if something is going on with you. If you need help, say so. And give people an opportunity to help.
2 More Scriptures for you
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, (Ephesians 2:19)
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:20)
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:21)
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
Amazing. We are built TOGETHER into a dwelling place for the spirit.
There was a time when God and man lived together. In the garden. And there will be a time in the future where God and man lives together. God himself is our shelter. No pain, suffering, fear.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. (Revelation 21:3)
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Revelation 21:22)
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. (Revelation 21:23)
So that's the blessed hope. That in time, God himself will become our temple, our shelter. Gone will the be the days where we're all huddled around each other, because the light of Jesus will illuminate and warm every part of creation.
And so we get to put that on display now. In this miracle called the church.
With Christ as the cornerstone. When the world seems so chaotic and twisted, don't forget that this is his church, and he’s watching out for his church.
I feel like there are people here who are in need of shelter. We're here to provide that to you today.