One balmy day in the South Pacific, a navy ship spied smoke coming from one of three huts on an uncharted island. Upon arriving on shore they were met by a shipwreck survivor. He said, “I’m so glad you’re here! I’ve been alone on this island for more than five years!”
The captain replied, “If you’re all alone on the island why do I see THREE huts.”
The survivor said, “Oh. Well, I live in one, and go to church in another.”
“What about the THIRD hut?” asked the captain.
“That’s where I USED to go to church.”
Today, I am here as your cheerleader as I want to celebrate the church of Jesus by reminding all of us of some basic truths about this institution that we are all associated with. And by reminding us that Jesus is inviting us to participate with Him to build what is, in my mind, the most important institution on the face of the planet.
I celebrate the church of Jesus because it is a great place for people to find community, healing, and love.
Our society has been undergoing tremendous cultural changes for the last 50 years and the really frightening thing is to realize that these kind of cataclysmic changes are going to continue at an ever faster pace.
One of those changes has to do with the nuclear family, where Leave it to Beaver, Family Ties, and Family Matters, has evolved into Modern Family. ‘Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go’ to enjoy a home-cooked meal has become down the freeway, through the toll booth, off the ramp, down the boulevard, into the guarded gate community, where grandma pops something in the microwave.
One of the results of the decline of the nuclear family is that more people are living alone than at any other point in human history.
Here is where the church excels; being a place where people can find community, healing, and love. In other words, family.
In this congregation, when we dedicate an infant, the parents are stepping forward to declare their desire to see the child raised in the church. And notice that as part of each dedication the church asks you, the congregation, to be surrogate aunts and uncles.
“Brethren of the household of faith, I commend to your love and care this child,
whom this day recognize as part of the family.
Surrogate aunts and uncles; that’s what we are.
A long time ago, when I was a member of Willard FUMC attending a celebration dinner as were concluding a successful building campaign. It was supposed to be a dignified affair, white tablecloths and all. And I remember seeing little 4-year-old Charlie Frye lose his cool and take off running across the fellowship hall. And as he came by me, I kind of grabbed him by the collar and he just kept running in place. And I said, “Charlie, slow down, or you’re going to get hurt or hurt somebody.”
And he looked up at me and said, “You’re not my dad.”
And I said, “No, I’m not your dad, but I am your uncle. By the way, would you like to go talk to your dad?”
“Oh, no, no, no.”
I celebrate the church of Jesus for providing a place of community, healing, and love; of providing a family for those who have no family.
I celebrate the church of Jesus because it provides motivation for the most lasting, valuable, selfless efforts of humankind.
I am speaking of course about what we know as ‘mission work.’
You listen to endless cable news show prognosticators and you get the idea that nobody knows anything about history. Where do we think we got our schools, our hospitals, our orphanages, our relief agencies, women’s rights, the abolishing of slavery, the end of child labor and we could go on and on and on? These are just some of the crumbs that fell from the Christian table.
Take a trip up from Mexico up through California and you’ll come across places with names like San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and so on. Where did those cities get those saints and angels names? From the people of God who answered the call to share the good news with people who had never heard and cultivate them into communities of faith regardless of the hostile conditions they encountered in doing so.
And what did they get back?
Adoniram Judson was motivated to become a missionary in Burma (Myanmar). While he was there he buried four wives and all of his children. For what purpose? He tells us in his memoirs he wanted to accomplish two things. One, he wanted to have a Burmese church with 100 members, and second that he hoped to translate the NT into the Burmese tongue. He also tells us he once spent weeks hung upside down by a bamboo rod with his shoulders and his head in his own excrement. Why? Because He desired to remain faithful to the One who gave it all for him. 1
If we could somehow stick a syringe into this world and suck out of it the effects of world missions this world would collapse of its own weight.
Is it any wonder that famous missionary William Temple said, “The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members.” 2
Let’s applaud the church for what it is able to accomplish in the name of and with the blessing of the One who continues to build His church in these ways. I celebrate the church of Jesus Christ because it has provided motivation for the most lasting, valuable, selfless efforts of humankind.
I celebrate the church of Jesus, the Christ because it is the only institution in society that provides perspective to give dignity to all human beings.
C. S. Lewis helps us with getting a handle on this idea. He says, take a fraction and let the numerator be 100 and let 100 represent the man who beats the numbers; he doesn’t live to three score and ten, he lives to be 100 years. And in the denominator, put the combined dynasties of China, 5,000 years. The man lives 100 years, society lives 5,000 years. Therefore, society must be 50 times more important than that man.
Therefore, if society is more important than a man, then a man is just the raw material that you feed into the sausage grinder of society to produce the sausages of societal accomplishment. In the words of Khrushchev, who some of us balding people remember, when confronted by an American journalist who asked him about the terrible conditions inside Russian prisons housing political dissidents, “you have to break eggs to make an omelet.”
That is, to accomplish great societal purposes, you must use people. Men and women; therefore, have become a means to an end in modern society. And there is no end of people around who are more than willing to use us in their great designs and plans.
But C. S. Lewis says, suppose that isn’t the way it works. Suppose that man doesn’t live 100 years, supposing man is, as the Bible says, eternal. Now it’s a little hard to write eternity in a number. We could set every computer printer in the world to printing out zeros and let them go at it for as long as you wish and they will still never come close to writing eternity. So we have to scale it back to get our brains around it, so let’s take a billion. If you took a billion dollar bills and sewed them end to end, they would go around the equator 2 ½ times. So now we take the man we talked about earlier and in his place we put a billion. Put below the line the combined dynasties of China, 5,000 years and suddenly man is infinitely more important than society.
This is the essential Christian message. God made the world and said it was good, He made the man and the woman and said it was very good.
Everything around us that seems so solid and natural is an illusion. It will be at some point in history be folded up as an old garment and disappear. But every person that God created in His image will be alive somewhere a billion years from now. Therefore, human beings have more importance than society.
When I was in seminary, I learned about a man who went to a South American jungle to work for Wickliffe Bible Translators. He walked into one of those native villages of about 700 people and he points to his nose and says, ‘nose’ and they said their word for ‘nose’ and he wrote it down phonetically. And he points to his eye and says, ‘eye,’ and they say their word for ‘eye.’ Over the course of 24 years, he reduced their sounds to a written language and then taught them to read their language. Then he took the New Testament and translated it into their language. Then he taught them to read their NT, and finally, he told them about Jesus.
Why do you bother with a small group of 700 people? Why send a man with 6 years of graduate education in Biblical studies, down to Equador to work with a group of people who are never going to contribute in any way to the American society?
And the answer is that one native living in the jungle is worth more than everything traded on Wall Street from now until the kingdom comes!
I celebrate the church because it is the lone institution that stands in the midst of the world and reminds the world that the dignity of the world lies in the human being himself, not in the world that is around him. Not in the baubles and trinkets of society, people are where it’s at, baby!
Lastly, I celebrate the church because it is the only institution in society dealing with the ultimate issues of life and death.
We know that there are dozens of societal issues that need solving today: global warming, immigration, opioid crisis, pollution, terrorism, trade agreements, etc.; but only the church of Jesus Christ is talking about the ultimate issues in life.
Because even if every woe on the planet gets solved, I am still going to find myself at some point in the future going toes up. It doesn’t matter if I eat healthier and/or join the Rec Center within the next 25 years or so, I’m going to find myself standing in eternity. And it’s only the church that talks about eternity and God and life and death and His love and forgiveness.
Listen, it all boils down to this. You and I are either creations of God or we are not. You and I are either complex neuro-physical beings moving without rhyme or reason throughout time and space, who came from nowhere and are going nowhere, or else we are unique creations of a holy God.
If we are simply cosmic accidents, if we just happened to have evolved from some primordial soup and this whole thing is some kind of great cosmic joke, the worst thing about that joke is that in the end there will be nobody around to even laugh about it. If that is true then you and I have a deep problem that we cannot solve with all the oratory in the world.
But if on the other hand, this is our Father’s world and if Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was born into this world with the express purpose of dying on a cross so that sinners such as you and I could be reconciled to God – if that is true, then some institution on the face of the earth must stand up and remind us of those truths.
And Jesus said that His Church is going to be that institution and that He Himself is going to build it one life at a time through people like you and me who have the honor and privilege to point people to Him!
Speaking of pointing people to Him, I believe people tell people about things they believe in and are proud of. If you get yourself a candy apple red 57 Chevy my guess is it won’t take very long for the whole town to know about it. You’ll be driving it up and down the streets and even say unprecedented things like “Oh, honey can I go to the grocery store for you?” And you’ll be waving to everyone because you’re proud of what you are riding in.
How many of you have ever watched the Rose Parade? Notice how each year those floats get more and more elaborate and expensive. It takes up to half a million bucks to be able to put a float in the Rose Parade. You just can’t stuff some Kleenex in some chicken wire and get it entered in that parade you know. And as those half-million dollar floats in that parade come by you can hear people in the crowd go “oooh and aaah and ooooh and aaaah.” But when the parade is nearing its end, you start to hear applause and people stand up and you think ‘my what kind of a float is this going to be,’ and when it comes into your view you see a little group of people dressed in blue and red uniforms playing on these little trumpets “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Note that it is not a million dollar float that sustains applause from the beginning to the end of the parade but the Salvation Army!
Why? Because even secular society recognizes the real McCoy when they see it. And they break into spontaneous applause because no man has ever served this country in a foreign country without meeting the Salvation Army there. No one who had ever had a house blown down by a hurricane or tornado who didn’t meet the gospel of Jesus in that way.
We are here today to celebrate the fact that we are part of the church of Jesus Christ, a church that has far-reaching impact all over the globe. And we are here to celebrate that we are helping Him build His Church right here in Medina County, Ohio, in a little village of 700 people called Chippewa Lake. Where each and every person is a person for whom Christ died.
And so let us continue on our efforts to be a place where people can find community, healing, and love, as we do what we can to provide in our small world some of the most lasting, valuable, selfless efforts of humankind, celebrating the dignity of humankind by pointing people to the only One who grants eternal life to human beings.
His name is Jesus of Nazareth!
1 Missionaries You Should Know: Adoniram Judson – International Mission Board
2 16 William Temple Quotes | ChristianQuotes.info