Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:19-25
This will be a record short sermon for me. But it is OK. It won’t take long for me to deliver this message. I don’t want this church to survive. That may sound shocking to you, but the truth is God doesn’t want this church to survive. Don’t feel bad though, because God wants this congregation to flourish. God wills that this church experience renewal and resurrection power. God wills Broad Street United Methodist Church to burn brightly as a witness to Jesus Christ in this city. God wills that we become a congregation filled with vitality and life. Joy should mark our services of worship. Where there is spiritual life, there is joy. This congregation bears witness of truth of the Gospel. We let our light shine. We are a community of faith, a people of hope, a congregation of love. God wills that we become more and more authentic.
God wants a church that is reasonable (we use our brains and love God with our minds), rigorous (we study hard, pray with intensity, serve with vigor), and real (we don’t put on airs and live like hypocrites, we are real folk who understand and tolerate one another in our weaknesses and faults). A church like that God can use, and God wants that for this congregation. We are not dying as a church. We are living. We are growing and we are adding new life. All around us we can sense signs of new life and vitality. And we have a connection with God through the Holy Spirit. There is no higher connection!
Now this congregation formed about 243 years old as a little community of believers when they gathered to listen to a British Army officer and Methodist preacher, Captain Thomas Webb. He proclaimed the good news of the grace of God on the grounds of the public gallows during a hanging. A congregation formed having heard good news of God’s grace and forgiveness. They joined together to seek to know and please God. Back then in 1770 a little community formed to become disciples of Jesus Christ, apprentices of that Poor Man of Nazareth.
For nearly two and a half centuries this church on this site has born witness to Jesus. It has not been a perfect community. It is a mixture of saint and sinners, and saints who are also sinners. Sometimes we held the torch high and our light burned brightly. Many people crowded into this building. The church building housed a vibrant and committed congregation. At other times the light grew dim and people waned in their commitments. There was a time, I learned, when this church grew so feeble that there was talk of closing it. I believe that occurred back in around the 1830s. But God didn’t let it die and fold up. No, God sent revivals and pumped life and vitality back into this congregation. And the truth is, God is doing that again, today. Times have changed. Our American society has changed. The neighborhood has changed. Many businesses that once flourished folded. Empty store fronts in Burlington witness to changes in the society around us. But this congregation is still here. Why? Because God is not finished with us yet. We still have work to do. We have a task to accomplish, a ministry to perform, a mission to fulfill. And you and I are a part if this work of God. We are fellow workers with God. This congregation is the Body of Christ in Burlington. We are “Christ existing as community”. How we live, what we do with our resources, how we invest our time, talents, gifts and services, matter. They matter to God and they matter to those before whom we bear witness. Today I launch a new series of sermons entitled Worship + 2. I am calling on you as participants in this congregation to commit yourselves to attend worship regularly and then to make two additional commitments.
Each member commits herself or himself to:
If you confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, that means you have handed the reins of your life over to him. Christ is boss, Christ is the master. If that is so then let’s seek what Jesus wants of us. Today the first commitment is to worship. Worship is central because God calls for us to gather in his name and experience God’s presence. God meets us where two or three are gathered in his name. God loves community and calls us into community. John Wesley, founder of Methodism understood this. He said, “Christianity is essentially a social religion and that to turn it into a solitary religion is indeed to destroy it.” John Wesley
The earliest Christians began their lives together with zeal and fervor. But over time their enthusiasm lagged. It happens. We cool off and sometimes our commitment slacks off. We become careless. Other things crowd in and take priority. Our loyalties become divided. This happened in the early Church. Bad habits steal in among the people and the vibrancy and witness of Christ lags. No wonder the writer of the letter to the Hebrews urged his readers (and I am sure hearers) to reconsider their way and break that bad habit. He wrote to them: Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who made the promises is reliable. Let’s also think about how to motivate each other to show love and to do good works. Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25) Brothers and sisters, be encouraged to commit yourself to worship plus two. Gather with the people of God. Make it your practice to worship corporately, regularly, devoted. It is in worship the God reminds us of who we are and whose we are. Each member commits herself or himself to: