Summary: A sermon on how to be a church where anyone can come to. Points are based on the episode of the woman caught in adultery. (Title came from Barry McMurtrie; Outline came from Greg Nettle)
Sermon for 11/5/2006
A Church Anyone Can Come To
To paraphrase from his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis says,
If anyone thinks that Christians regard sexual sin as the supreme evil, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins, if we think of putting sins into categories. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: The pleasure of putting other people down, of bossing and patronizing and backbiting and gossiping; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me...they are the animal self (lusts) and the diabolical (evil) self; and the diabolical self is the worst of the two. That is why a cold self-righteous jerk that goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But of course it is better to be neither!
A. In our gospel story today we have the picture of both of these, the self righteous jerks and the prostitute and it good to be neither!
B. There are people in our society who believe that they are too bad to attend church. There are also people in the church who are more than willing to let people believe they are too bad to attend church.
C. I remember one well meaning but misguided elder I served with. He was always a member of the welcoming committee and most of the time he did a good job except when someone did not fit in.
D. It doesn’t matter how good the music or sermon is, if the people are rude and unwelcoming, then most guests will not come back. People do not want to feel like an imposition.
E. We are welcoming and friendly. What if a man came on a motorcycle and looked like a hell’s angel? What if a person had a physical condition that disfigured his face? What if a person came in and had a mental condition that made it difficult for him to keep quiet or sit down? What if a person came in and was holding another man’s hand? Now we are not talking about people who want to cause problems. We are talking about people who are willing to be respectful. With these kinds of people above would we still be welcoming and friendly. We would try. But wouldn’t we really want them to go away?
F. This story of the adulterous woman from the life of Jesus really helps us in this quest to be a welcoming, friendly and kind congregation. Statue of Liberty- “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
G. Shouldn’t that be the church’s goal, to warmly welcome anyone who longs to be free through Jesus Christ?
Thesis: In light of this story, how can we be a church anyone can come to?
1. Check our motives.
* Our mission is to share our lives and Jesus Christ. With whom? Everyone we can.
A. Do we really care?
1. This was the problem with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law; they really didn’t care about people. They were just a means to an end.
a. (John 7:32) The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.
b. (John 7:45 NIV) Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn’t you bring him in?"(John 7:46 NIV) "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared. (John 7:47 NIV) "You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. (John 7:48 NIV) "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? (John 7:49 NIV) No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law--there is a curse on them."
c. This mob was supposed to be the very people with whom they were to be ministering. They were the ones who were supposed to be teaching the law to these people. Instead of looking at themselves, they criticize the uneducated people. They had no compassion and pity upon them. They were better than this mob.
d. In John 8, this woman was just bait. They didn’t care about this woman. They used her to trap Jesus (vs. 6). As a matter of fact, someone probably from their number put the hook in this worm of a woman. They knew where they could find loose women. To stone someone, there had to be at least one witness. That is why there were seldom stonings for adultery, because there had to be one witness. It takes two to commit adultery. Where was this man, he was guilty as well? Maybe in this crowd or at least in league with this group of self righteous jerks.