My wife Kristen and I often watch a sitcom on Netflix at the end of a long day. I like Cheers; Kristen likes The Andy Griffith Show. So we compromise on one or the other.
Andy Griffith takes us back to a simple time and an idyllic, small North Carolina community, where people sang country gospel songs on their front porches and the sheriff didn’t carry a gun.
Cheers is set in a bar in Boston, in the late 80s. The jokes are sharper and the people are more sarcastic and narcissistic.
But are these shows so different? They may come from different eras and they may show the contrast between the small town and the big city, but I think a big reason why Cheers and Andy Griffith are successful is that they tap into our longing to belong.
To be loved.
To be at home.
To go “where everybody knows your name.” Where you walk into a room and everyone shouts, “Norm!” (or, you know, whatever your name is).
This longing is ingrained in us from birth. Have you ever played with a baby …
Then fed the baby …
Then held the baby …
Then changed the baby …
Then put the baby to bed, having met all his needs, only to find -- a couple minutes later or even immediately -- a crying baby?
And if the baby is old enough he will even pull up on his crib and hold his arms out to you, as if to say, “Come get me! I want to be with you! Don’t leave me alone!”
Where does this longing come from? It goes all the way back to Genesis. We are made in the image of God, and God has never been lonely.
God has existed from eternity as a perfect, loving community within himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So being created in the image of God means, in part, that we were created for community with each other, and with our God.
But early on we learn that community is hard, and for all kinds of reasons, many people don’t want to include us in their community. I remember being in elementary school, and discovering I was on the outs with this group because I wore the wrong clothes, and I was out with that group because I listened to the wrong music.
And once we become adults, sadly, not much changes. Even many churches exclude people who wear the wrong clothes or listen to the wrong music. We know it shouldn’t be this way. We know this isn’t God’s intention. But what is God’s vision for change? How will he bring it to pass? When will he bring it to pass? Where?
Let’s Stand For The Reading Of God’s Word, Eph 2:19:
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Paul throws a lot of metaphors at us here: we’re citizens, we’re a family, we’re a building, and even a temple. But we shouldn’t rush through this passage. Paul changes metaphors because he wants us to slow down and consider the implications of each one.
(PART ONE) Look at verse 19:
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,
“Consequently,” means “in light of everything I just said,” (last week’s sermon, which Pastor Jonah preached, about being at peace with God and with each other through the blood of His Son).
“Foreigners” and “strangers” were familiar terms to Paul’s audience. Citizens of Ephesus took citizenship seriously. They had rights and privileges that were not extended to non-citizens.
Think of our current immigration crisis. No matter where you stand politically, we can all agree that it’s no fun to be labeled an illegal alien. The label tells people, “You don’t belong. We don’t have room for you.” What they want, more than anything, is to have full rights as citizens. They don’t want our government to send them back!
Paul is saying, because of the blood of the Son, the Father will never send you back! You are a citizen in God’s kingdom.
But then he says something more surprising – mind blowing, even. He calls us members of God’s household! Imagine if our President walked up to an immigrant and said, “I’m not only going to grant you citizenship, but I want you to come live with my family in the White House. I’m even writing you into my will.”
But our heavenly Father isn’t a president who will surrender his authority in a few years – He’s the king of a kingdom that will never end. And his is a family that only gets bigger, never smaller. This is the only community that you never have to leave, because in this community, death is not the end.
There’s never an empty seat around God’s table. You know that feeling you get, the first time you come to a Thanksgiving meal after your grandma has passed away, or the first Christmas dinner without Dad? The seat goes unfilled. But we’re part of a bigger, deeper reality that doesn’t include empty chairs.
Anyone who was ever truly in the Church is still in the Church when they pass from this short life to the next. Look at this with me, beginning in Hebrews 12:22 – this applies to us right here, right now:
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn,whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Did you catch that? We, who are worshiping today here on Silver Street in New Albany, Indiana, are part of a much deeper reality. If we could only see it through spiritual eyes, we might faint. We are, in the most real sense, joining this morning in the worship gathering in heaven. We’re on the heavenly Mount Zion, worshiping with the angels and with the spirits of everyone who has ever died in Christ, and with Jesus himself, our true Worship Leader, leading us in praise of the Father.
Have you ever sung a hymn here, and thought to yourself, “My grandpa used to love that song. I could almost feel him, worshiping right along side me this morning in church”?
Well, the truth is so much better than that. The truth is, grandpa isn’t worshiping here with you … you’re worshiping there with him!
We worship in the Spirit, and accept it on faith, but one day we’ll see it with our eyes and realize, more fully than ever, that we’ve been a part of a family that only gets bigger, never smaller.
But it’s easy to get excited about worshiping alongside your grandpa, isn’t it? He’s in heaven – he can never disappoint you. One of the concerns I have for my three sons sitting here this morning, and my daughter growing in Kristen’s womb right now, is that we’ll hold them to an impossible standard as we long for our son who has been in heaven since his birth.
Parker is a child who can never disappoint us with his choices. He can never irritate us. He can never make a mistake. He can never keep us up all night with worry, or wake us too early in the morning.
We, here on earth – everyone in this room – are family members who have not been perfected yet. We can hurt each other. We can look past each other’s needs. We can sin against each other.
Not only that, but we’re not all Republicans or Democrats.
We don’t all like the same music.
Some of us use parenting techniques that others don’t understand or approve of.
Some of us like Cheers, and some like Andy Griffith.
And then we build walls around our preferences. And while we recognize the ridiculousness of looking down on people because of the TV shows they like, we still do it. And while we recognize the evil in looking down on someone because of the color of their skin or the size of their bank account, we still do it.
So how do we be a family, here? How can we love each other well? How do we not only tolerate diversity, but celebrate it? How do we not only celebrate it, but pray for more of it – much more than we currently see in our congregation?
The only way to celebrate diversity is to hold something in common – something much stronger than anything that could divide us. Something that goes much deeper than the color of our skin or even the content of our character. What is holding us together? What is this family built upon?
(PART TWO) Let’s look again at Ephesians 2:20-21:
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
A cornerstone is a stone in a building’s foundations that holds two walls together and keeps it from falling. It’s the first stone laid, and so everything else is framed and lined up according to it. When it comes to houses, the foundation is important. And the cornerstone is like the foundation of the foundation.
We all understand how crucial a good foundation is, and we’re frequently reminded in novels, films, TV shows and songs. In the movie Poltergeist, the house is haunted because it was built on top of a cemetery.
By contrast, in Miranda Lambert’s song “The House That Built Me,” we find out that the house of the singer’s childhood was built on love.
But Jesus himself paints the most famous portrait of the importance of a good foundation, beginning in Matthew 7:24
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Jesus is our cornerstone because we are saved and adopted into God’s family by the cross. What or who else can wash our sins away and save us from hell? What or who else can make us citizens in God’s kingdom and members of his household?
Our political convictions?
Our rules and regulations?
Our personal preferences, or our aesthetic sense?
Only Christ can join us all together. He is our cornerstone, our focus.
This means that the person who violates our personal preferences gets brought into God’s family for the same reason we did – the cross of Christ.
This is a warning not to reject those whom God has accepted. But it’s also hope for the rejected. Psalm 118 says, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, quotes this psalm and identifies himself as this stone that the builders rejected. Then Peter, in the book of Acts, says that the “builders” who rejected the stone, Jesus, were the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.
So do you ever feel rejected? Jesus knows what that’s like! And He, the stone the builders rejected, is now our chief cornerstone. In him, rejection ends and family begins.
But how do we stay focused on Jesus? How can we sacrifice preferences? How can we love each other well? It’s one thing to say, “Stay focused on Jesus,” but how is that different than saying, “Be good,” or “Don’t ever mess up?” Where do we get the power to do that? Look again at Ephesians 2:21 …
21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
We’re more than a house. We’re a house for the Holy Spirit of God – a temple.
This is good news for us because, even though we’re family, we don’t know and love each other perfectly yet. Many of you can think back to your own childhood battles with siblings, or look at your kids today. Family life is messy, and kids need to learn. We need to learn.
The good news for us is that we have a perfect father. And unlike our human families, we can do more than rely on the example of parents – God places His Spirit inside of us.
How do we know this? How do you know you’re a Spirit-filled Christian? Did you know there are many people who think there’s a difference between a “Christian” and a “Holy Ghost-filled Christian”? They think, “Maybe if I pray harder. Maybe if I fast longer. Maybe if I cry out to God louder …”
The truth is, every Christian is a Spirit-filled Christian. We learned this back in Ephesians 1:13:
“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”
So how do you know if you’ve got the Holy Spirit? Did you believe? Is Jesus your cornerstone – is that your confession? Then you’ve got the Spirit! He’s the Father’s seal, his guarantee of life with Christ, for all eternity.
God is working on each of us by His Spirit, building us together on the cornerstone of Christ. And the Spirit uses each of us to work on each of us. Proverbs describes it as “iron sharpening iron.” God uses you to make me more like Jesus, and he uses me to make you more like Jesus. That’s iron on iron, which produces friction. We should expect to have friction in our relationships, in our community groups, in this church. We are sinners, but the Spirit is at work. It’s a gradual process, but we can trust the Spirit to do what God’s Word says he will do.
So to be loved by the Father, indwelt by the Spirit, built on the cornerstone of Christ is the only eternal answer to our longing to belong. This is news worth sharing, because everybody is looking for the answer.
Mad Men is a show about advertising executives and creatives, set in the 1960s. In a recent show, two of the main characters, Peggy and Don, are trying to come up with an ad campaign for Burger Chef, the fast food chain that we now know as Hardees.
They accidentally stumble into a great campaign while talking about how lonely and miserable they are. Peggy says to Don, “What if there was a place where you could go, where there was no TV. And you could break bread. And whoever you were sitting with was family.”
This is something they are dying for, but instead of searching for this place, which they don’t really believe in, they realize that their own longing for such a situation is the longing in every heart, which they can exploit to land the advertising account.
So they create an ad campaign. As they sit around a conference room table with Burger Chef executives, Peggy begins to give her sales pitch by noting that, even at this point in time (in the 60s), the TV is usually a few feet from the dinner table. She begins to describe the typical family dinner experience:
“Dad likes Sinatra, son likes the Rolling Stones. The TV’s always on … Vietnam playing in the background. The news wins every night. And you’re starving. And not just for dinner.
“What if there was another table, where everybody gets what they want … and we can have the connection that we’re hungry for. There may be chaos at home, but there’s family supper at Burger Chef.”
They tapped into a deep longing, didn’t they? But it was just to sell fast food. Advertisers do this to us all the time. They tap into the deepest longings of the human soul, exposing our heart cries, getting our hopes up, only to sell us sugar water, junk food, clothing that will look ridiculous to us in a decade, and electronic idols that only leave us empty and longing for more.
But … what if there was another table (pick up the bread and hold it out) … where everybody gets more than they could ever want? And we can really have the connection we’re starving for?
On the night that He was betrayed, after giving thanks, Jesus took a loaf of bread and broke it, saying, “This is my body, broken for you.”
Then he took a cup of wine, and said, “This is my blood, shed for you. Drink this in remembrance of me until I come again.”
And he promised he wouldn’t drink from the fruit of the vine again until he breaks bread with us around the family table, at a feast that will never end.
There may be chaos in your life, but there’s family supper here each week – a reminder that there will come a day when all the family is together, where everybody knows your name. And greater than that, the King knows your name. He sent his own son to bring you home, and he adopted you into his family.
Our tradition here is to come forward in rows, after I pray. You’ll tear off a piece of bread and dip it into either wine or juice as your conscience permits. The cup of wine will have a string of twine tied around it.
If you’re not a Christian, we ask that you not partake of this family meal. If you’d like to join this family that only gets bigger, never smaller, come forward and pray with one of our leaders who is wearing a lanyard that says, “Pray.” Accept Jesus as your cornerstone – your Lord and Savior. Then you can take this family meal with us next week. There will still be room at the table.