Summary: To God the Church is fundamentally God's sent Children obediently carrying out God's mission, which began in the Garden of Eden, was completed in the resurrection, and is now left to us to tell the sotry both in content and by our way of life.
God Who Serves
Gen 3:21 Aug 15, 2010
I want to begin by thanking Randy for preaching last week, a good message from John 14. I had been at Gull Lake Camp with some of our young boys, and the first morning we were there I went to the 7:30am leaders meeting and heard the general announcement requesting the leaders pay a little more attention to the physical cleanliness of the camp – it seemed there were bits of litter, areas that needed some attention, nothing major but just a request that the summer staff pitch in and do some half-way-through-the-summer cleaning. With around 200 people on site and no full time custodians you can imagine the need for an announcement such as this. Well that day, my boys arrived back from their pre-lunch activity about half an hour before lunch, and so I announced to them that in our little space before lunch we were going to head over to the main lodge and see if we could find anything needing tidying (and I told them about the announcement I had heard that morning).
Now, what kind of reaction would you expect from 7, 6-10 year old boys to that kind of announcement? “Hey boys, come on, let’s go do some cleaning up! We’ve got some free time before lunch, let’s collect garbage and sweep floors!”
Here’s what they said: “okay, let’s go.” No whining, no complaining – now it wasn’t excitement or enthusiasm but it wasn’t resistance either. And I was really proud of them. In fact, I even heard one of them say to a friend afterwards, “I shouldn’t admit this, but sometimes even cleaning can be fun”.
I tell you that story first because I was proud of them, but more because I’m wondering if those simple, un-noticed, acts of service are in fact a deep reflection of Christlikeness. I wonder if one of the most spiritual things we did was pick up garbage and sweep a dining hall. If Jesus was at Jr. Boys and Girls camp in the flesh, is that where we’d find him?
This summer we’ve been looking at some of the fundamental practices of our faith – what are the basics about who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do as Christians? We talked about Jesus call to deny ourselves, take up the cross daily, and follow (Lk 9:23); we talked about daily walking in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:25), we talked about loving mercy and doing justly (Micah 6:8), and we talked about worship as a living, whole-body, daily sacrifice of worship (Rom. 12:1). This morning I want to talk about the servant heart of God, and ask if you and I have that same servant heart.
Of all your mental imaginations of God…
When I ask you, or a song of worship invites you to think of God, I would guess that the images conjured up in your imagination would be images of the King on a throne, or Jesus on the cross, perhaps a friend walking with you, maybe a mighty conquering warrior, or a source of power to help with the circumstances of your life, how about a wise teacher with counsel for living. The image might be distant and sort of intimidating in His power and holiness; or it might be friendly and close but still with a very definite sense of God and of power and wonder and ability to help and heal and change our lives.
Now, hear me clearly – those are not wrong imaginations of God. God is Holy and awesome, and God is close and intimate in His power. God invites us to relate to Him in those ways, sometimes describing Himself as the mighty Lord of heaven’s armies, sometimes as fierce holiness, sometimes as defender, sometimes as tender Father, and Jesus called us friends. Please continue to relate to God in those ways, as the Holy Spirit leads you and those whom He invites to lead you in worship or in counsel or in teaching.
But they are incomplete. And perhaps confusing, at least when it comes to our response. See, as Christians we believe we are to be transformed into the image of Jesus. We are to become like Jesus. We are to be Jesus’ hands and feet to the world, we are to share the light, we are His ambassadors in the middle of our culture. And those images I’ve just mentioned are not all that helpful to us in terms of us becoming like Jesus, because in all of them we relate to God in a position of power over us. If we then adopt those images as the expectation of how we should relate to others, we are in a little bit of danger… are you with me? If our images of God are all of amazing power and holy distance, and we are to be God’s ambassador, that sets us up to see ourselves in positions of power over others forcing them to do what we believe is right. And while that may be extremely distasteful to us today, it sadly has been the story at many times throughout our history. And if our images of God are of close intimacy with all power to heal and solve problems as we yield to Him out of live, again this sets us up with an expectation that if we are to relate to others we have to have it all together and have to be able to solve their problems for them. Either way, our limited images of God lead us to a hesitancy to really, actually, purposefully engage others with the Gospel, because we cannot bring ourselves to see ourselves the way that we see Jesus. And if we can’t see ourselves as Jesus, how could we possibly shine the light of Jesus through us? Am I making sense??