Summary: Today’s passage challenges us to think about the Christian discipline of prayer. How is your prayer life? How is our church prayer life? How do we measure a faithful prayer life? Jesus’ parable from Luke 18 offers us some freedom from guilt…and a call
Opener: Please allow me to rant…I often wonder if we Christians take time to reflect on what we look like to the unbelieving world that is outside the four walls of our church…Sunday after Sunday.
Why go to church…why be a part of the church community? – This is a question that I have been grappling with lately…here are my thoughts…
· I don’t think we’re supposed to be competing with popular culture by making our music and our church experience “easy to swallow” for the unbelieving world. What I mean by this is that I agree with Marva Dawn who describes Christian community as an “alternative society.”
“We dare not make worship too easy, for God is always beyond our grasp. Worship cannot be only cerebral or emotional, for God is mysterious and wise. Worship must be unceasingly comforting so that through it God will address our suffering. It must be perpetually paradoxical so that we know we must worship forever. Strangers will have no need to return to our worship services if they can understand all that our worship offers of God in one Sunday gulp.” (Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, Marva Dawn, p. 289)
· If this is true, then what do we have to “offer” to an unbelieving world?
i) I think we offer a place for authentic relationship. A level playing ground where different generations and socio-economic groups can put aside their differences and worship the living God (and actually live together in harmony!)
ii) The church is the only place where the Holy Spirit ministers from one believer to another….through prayer, Bible Study, worship and encouragement. You can’t get Holy Spirit blessing from Dr. Phil!
iii) The church humbly offers the Eucharist as the means of hope, forgiveness and life. When we partake of the elements, the presence of Christ is supernatural and his ministry is powerful yet mysterious.
iv) The church SHOULD offer a place where people can be “held” and ministered to on a weekly basis so that they can go back into the real world and be ambassadors of this “alternative society” that we have been called to. Being “nice” and “moral” people is not enough...it’s a pleasant bi-product of the Christian life but there are lots of “nice” and “moral” people in the world who don’t go to church. This should have significant implications on what we choose to do for worship, prayers and our teaching/preaching. Are we just making ourselves feel good about being Christians, or are we participating in something that is essential for our hearts, bodies, souls and minds?
v) The church should be a place where we can know and be known (this can’t happen just on Sundays….therefore we need small groups!)
vi) The church ought to be a place where people are invited into the rhythm of God. This might mean that we are intentional about honouring Sabbath. Why is it that Christians are just as tired, busy and burnt out as the rest of the world? Do God’s people have a different rhythm and rest that would intrigue the unbelieving world?
vii) We are gathering to declare that God’s “empowering presence” is in our midst. God touches, heals, renews and redeems. And we invite others to experience this…is our community “trade-marked” by grace, unity, mercy…?