Summary: In times like these we need to meet together to experience the presence of God, encourage one another, and evangelize the lost.
1. Hats: A University had a policy that if the professor was 10 minutes late for class...it was cancelled. But one day a professor put his hat on his desk and then went to the faculty room. He apparently lost track of time and when he arrived back at the class he was 10 minutes late and found it room empty. He was furious. When the class next met, he informed his students "When my hat is here, I'm here!" His class learned their lesson well. The following day, the professor arrived at 9 a.m. and he was met by the sight of 25 hats on the desks -- but no students. They were "sort of there" but not fully committed.
2. It is very unfortunate that we live in an age where someone can be recognized as a respectable church member without being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. It is similar to my Weight Watchers experience. At the end of each meeting our leader tells us that we have lost a particular combined amount of total weight. However, too many times none of that weight was mine -- personally.
a. We can keep our name on the church roll; criticize its short-comings; and even boast in its achievements
b. But we can fail to become personally committed to its mission and ministry
Pirkei Avot 2.4 -- Hillel would say: Do not separate yourself from the community.
4. In our meeting together and greeting one another we:
I. Meet God's Expectation
When the Cleveland Browns announced that they were moving to Baltimore after 30 years in Cleveland people were devastated. Among the many Browns fans interviewed, one man sat in his pickup truck and wept as he said, "Now me and my family will have no place to go on Sunday." -- He obviously got something out of attending those football games.
A. God Wants his people to meet
1. The Three Feasts
2. The reading of Torah -- Ezra
3. More than a legalistic exercise
B. God Knows our need for community
1. Origin of Family -- Genesis -- not good
2. A witnessing community -- Edah -- Matthew 16.18
10 "You are my witnesses," says the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses," says the LORD. 13 "I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can hinder it?"
In What's So Amazing about Grace?, Philip Yancey recounts this story about C. S. Lewis: During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.
They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.
The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." After some discussion, the conferees had to agree.
The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law--each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional.
II. Encounter God
A. In Worship that Honors Him -- Acts 2.43, 47
1. Who He is
2. What He has done
B. In Worship that Humbles Us -- Isaiah 6.1
1. If not careful, we treat worship as if it was merely Christianized entertainment
2. We are praising the King of the Universe -- "Melek HaOlam"
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2 "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4 "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements--surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,