Summary: We have ’Free Church Homecoming’ - an ecumenical service once a year. This sermon is an encouragement to go and to be the church universal, not just a congregation.
I have a confession to make. I have not been looking forward to Free Church as I ought. I remember when I attended my first one eight years ago, I looked forward to it. But nowadays, sometimes it seems like it’s getting just a little bit old. It’s tempting to say that the idea has had its day and it’s time to retire it before that old horse gets beaten to a pulp. I find myself agreeing with those who say we should do it less often, and then feeling somewhat guilty.
And you know what? I think I need to listen to that guilt. When I read the Bible, I can’t help but get the sense that what Free Church is trying to accomplish comes straight from the lips of our Savior. Above all else he gave us one simple command: Love one another.
That’s what Free Church is supposed to be about, and that’s what we as members of the Church are supposed to be about as well. We love one another.
Now, I’m not here to say that the schedule and the service and the zillions of details that you’ll see in about an hour are somehow sacrosanct. But if you are going, and I am urging you to do so, I want to suggest you to a simple survival guide to the service. All you need to do is remember one thing – you are the body.
What we will be doing at Free Church is pretty simple – we’ll be giving that body some exercise. You see, 51 weeks out of the years, we concentrate on being Long Branch Church, or Middleburg Church, or the Methodist Church. But every so often we need to remember a simple fact. Those aren’t church – they’re congregations. We are all members of one body – one church.
Now, before you think I’m going to launch into some fuzzy feel-good about just ‘getting along,’ let me tell you there are some pretty good reasons we don’t worship together every week. I don’t believe in having even one church service where you just preach to the lowest common denominator. Jesus never minced words. When somebody was wrong, he said, ‘Hey! You’re wrong!”
I have never believed that church is a place to get all nostalgic and comfortable. It is a hospital for battered souls. Yes, there is rest and recuperation, but sometimes there’s surgery too. Healing – true healing – means both. If you want a vacation, you don’t head to the hospital, you go the beach! If you just want pretty words and nice sentiments, frankly Hollywood is far better than you’ll ever get from me. But if you want truth, you just need to look to this book.
Let me say that again. If you want truth, you look here. Not to me, not to your belly button, but here. I am only doing my job insofar as this – that I point you back to this book.
Now, this may sound a bit heretical, but I wouldn’t even suggest you look to those big Baptist leaders in the sky. I don’t think that God said we need to be Baptists or Catholics or whatever denomination you want to insert here – In fact, I kind a suspect that God can use even our division. And, if you stick with me, I’ll try to show you that here in 1 Corinthians 12
You may not realize this, but in the United States alone, the IRS recognizes over 33,000 separate denominations. That’s not churches – that is individual denominations. Fifteen million Southern Baptists account for precisely one of those. That’s a pretty staggering sum. And if we think that we’re the only one those 33,000 that is going to make it, we are in serious sin.
But we need to understand this. There might be 33,000 different denominations, but there is only one confession. Jesus is Lord. We have way more in common than we have disagreements.
You’ll remember two weeks ago I pointed something out. If you were to randomly pick three people from anywhere on the planet, chances are one of them will tell you this: Jesus is Lord. Not me, not my country, not even my religion. Just, Jesus is Lord. What’s more, that one in three people will tell you that this Jesus is a man who is God – He’s the Son of God. There’s a fancy term for that – it’s called Christology.
One in three people will tell you that this God Man died for us and wants to save us. There’s a fancy word for that too – it’s called Soteriology. In fact, one of the cool things about taking classes is you learn all sorts of fancy terms for things we agree on: Eschatology, Bibliology, Ethical Theology – Basically you learn fancy words for where to find big old books in the library. And, when you read them you find out that people are often arguing over distinctions with very little difference. When you boil it all down, you find out that as Christians we’re aren’t really arguing over much.