Summary: What does the death of a church look like? What does it take for new life to take place?
Luke 24: 36-48
Paonia United Methodist Church
May 4, 2003
A young, ambitious pastor was called to serve in a certain church.
He was warned by his predecessor that this congregation was "dead"..
It was not even worth trying to save it.
But this pastor accepted the call because he believed with God’s
guidance he could bring life to that church.
He was an optimist and he worked hard, visiting the members,
preaching his best sermons enthusiastically,
he tried to develop an outreach or lay visiting program so
that visits might be done in the homes of the active,
the inactive and new people moving
The harder he tried, the more he knew that his predecessor was right,
this was one seriously dead church.
It was a shrine for the frozen chosen.
A mausoleum of faith.
There was just nothing there.
The spark for ministry, the excitement sharing the gospel was just not there.
So one Sunday he made a startling announcement to the few who
were gathered for worship.
He said, "In as much as you are a dead congregation, unresponsive to
resuscitative efforts, unresponsive to any effort of pumping life into the workings
of the congregation, in as much as the vital signs of the congregation
are dead, I will conduct a funeral for this ’dead ’church next
Sunday morning at 10:00am."
The members, at least the few who were there,
buzzed with excitement following the service.
One said, "What’s ’s he trying to pull anyway?"
Another said, "I don’t understand?"
The pastor and his announcement of a funeral for the church was the main talk
of the tiny rural town during that week
The phone lines were hot with talk, the coffee shop was filled with men
talking about what they expected next Sunday.
Sunday arrived, and as the people gathered,
there was an open coffin in the front of the church. As the 10:00 approached,
the pastor looked out and saw that every pew plus some chairs
were filled for this funeral service.
He began the funeral service by reading scripture, he shared prayer,
he even gave a very sad sermon on the demise of this over
100 year old church and congregation.
After he finished his sermon, he did something which again startled the membership.
He asked the members to please rise and pass slowly by the open coffin
to pay their last respects to this now dead church.
Row by row, the people rose and walked past the coffin.
And, each of them got the same sheepish, startled look as
They scurried quickly away from it.
The coffin was empty except for a mirror.
As each person peered into the coffin to view the deceased
each looked upon his or her own face.
It’s a great story!
I wish I could tell you that I was bright enough to come up with it.
But, it certainly does open up a question for us this morning
As we take a look at the text…
“What does a dead church look like?”
Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
This is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“What does a dead and defeated church look like?”
I think that the gospel we just heard is a pretty good example.
Think about this scene for a moment…
Jesus and the disciples are just coming off a very long couple of weeks.
There was the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the betrayal,