Sunday, July 01, 2007

July 1, 2007 Sermon "I Don't Know, But..."

Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5
(First sermon to the church)

Ladies, one of the hardest things for a man to admit is that I don’t know. Maybe it's so hard for me because I say it so often. I honestly believe that I have made the statement, "I don’t know", more often this week than I have in the past five years:
"What's the phone number here?"
"I don’t know."
"What's your new address?"
"I don’t know."
"Preacher, what can I do to help?"
"I don’t know."
"What will happen in the Jack Wengert situation?"
"I don’t know."
What pains me so much about most of my replies is that I need to know and I need to know now! Maybe that’s the reason I appreciate Paul so much, because he was honest and humble enough to willingly say, "I don’t know" even when he was faced with important questions that needed answers. READ TEXT.
When we look at this text, we must remember that the church at Corinth was going through some hard times, faced with internal struggles and external vices. In their desperation they remembered Paul, the founder of their church, who had personally led many of them to Christ. He was their spiritual leader, and it was natural that they should turn to him for guidance.
In these challenging, uncertain moments, it's natural to look to the past for comfort and strength. You’ve had some good pastors here. You had Deedee who knew how to work with the Conference offices and get such programs as Igniting Ministries started. You had the bright, young and exciting Nathan. You had the gentle and laid back Lynn McClure. Each of your previous pastors brought their own strengths and each touched you differently. Some of you would be so comforted to reach out to those familiar leaders who know this church and would surely have the answers.
Instead, here I am. Most of you are looking at me and wondering "What is he going to be like? Does he have any answers? Is he going to be a flake?" It may or may not help you to know that I am wondering the same thing! You see, WE WANT CERTAINTY!
Please imagine how surprising these words from Paul were to the Corinthians. Instead of saying, "Yeah buddy, those were the days!" Paul reminds them how it had really been. "Don’t you remember?" he asked. "When I first came to you I was very weak and afraid; why I trembled at the mere thought of speaking to you. And even when I did talk, it wasn't anything profound…why, it was just my own words." "No," Paul said, "don’t build me up. I didn’t know what to say then and I’m not sure I do now. Your problems were so big, your needs were so great that I didn’t know how to answer your questions. That’s why I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified!"
Maybe you don’t identify with those words, but I do. It has been my pleasure to meet so many of you this week. Many of you flatter me with your kind comments and high expectations. Inside, I still feel like Paul did. I have not come to you with eloquence, superior wisdom, or a thorough knowledge of the programs, polities, or procedures of the Arkansas Conference. I do stand before you today with fear and trembling. I know there are great challenges ahead and my efforts alone will never be enough to move us where we need to go. I say to you today, along with Paul, "I resolve to know nothing while I am with you but Jesus Christ, and him crucified!"
At times I feel like the blind man in John’s gospel, chapter 9. Perhaps you remember the story. There was a man sitting outside the Temple, a man who had been blind from birth. Imagine how limited his world was. They had no Braille, Seeing Eye dogs, or white canes then. There was no disability insurance or Medicaid. One must earn their living or they did not live. He couldn’t enjoy the beauty of this world for there was no beauty in his utter darkness. He didn’t have the freedom of going where he wanted. He had to, necessarily; take a well ordered path through life. It may have been something like: 50 steps forward from the house, turn right 100 steps along the stone wall, dodge the chariots…..well you get the picture. He could do nothing except beg. There was no "up side" to his life.
Then Jesus came. He mixed a little clay with a little spit and pushed it into the man’s eyes. He washed it off and his eyes were opened! He could see! His whole life was changed. I hazard to say that life, as he knew it, ended that day. HE COULD SEE! HE WAS FREE!
For those who desired a well ordered world, this was a problem. No one could figure it out and the neighbors couldn’t believe the change: "I don’t know how this can be the same man!" The whole event caused an uproar. Some of the neighbors refused to believe it was the same man. Others said it was. The Pharisees got involved. Anyone who would admit that Jesus was the Christ was to be excommunicated. In a society that believed God controlled everything, it was akin to a death sentence. They called the man’s parents. The parents rolled over on their son. They said, "He’s a big boy, you ask him."
The Pharisees asked of the man whether Jesus was the Messiah. The formerly blind man said, "You’re asking me questions I don’t know the answer to. Let me tell you what I do know. I know neither how he did it nor do I care. Then I was blind. Now I see."
He didn’t have to know how it happened. He simply accepted the fact that it did. His eyes were opened but so was his heart. He gained the courage to stand up to the Pharisees (v. 30). He now recognized Jesus as THE MAN!
This is where ministry begins, when we say along with the recovered blind man and with Paul, "There are a lot of things I don’t know….but I do know Jesus the Christ, who overcame Satan, and stormed the gates of Hell." The Romans took their best shot and killed him. Still he beat them, for one day the Empire would become Christian. His Kingdom survived the empire. I say along with the blind man, Jesus changed me!" That affirmation propels me back into full time ministry and will send us all out to do ministry. When we decide to be a church that points the way to Jesus Christ; when we determine to know Christ and to love Christ and to rely on Christ and to be led by Christ; life will change and ministry will flourish!
In the book of 1 Peter 2:9-10 we find, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you might declare the wondrous deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous life. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have." You and I who have been so touched by Jesus Christ now have a chance to touch others with that same message of grace. People NEED grace.
Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world around us is our opportunity for the future. "Declare the wondrous deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous life." Think of the people who will walk through these doors in the coming years. There will be beautiful babies and children. Others will be couples starting out in life. There will be youth who want a place to be taken seriously; men who are disillusioned, women who’ve given up.
Our great purpose is: to share with them the good news that Jesus the Christ is calling and leading us out of darkness and into his beautiful light. His message is one of comfort to the young mother of the colicky baby who is working on three days with little sleep. It offers hope to the man who has established himself in life only to find he still has that hole in his gut. And the great thing about this message is that it's the gift that keeps on giving. It not only offers a better life here but another after the undertaker has you.
The song writer, Brad Paisley, got it right you know:
When I get where I'm going
on the far side of the sky.
The first thing that I'm gonna do
is spread my wings and fly.
So much pain and so much darkness

in this world we stumble through.
All these questions I can't answer
So much work to do.
But when I get where I'm going

There'll be only happy tears.
I will shed the sins and struggles

I have carried all these years.
And I'll leave my heart wide open
I will love and have no fear.
Yeah when I get where I'm going
Don't cry for me down here.
Some might call this a fallback position but it IS the hope that Jack and Emma have right now. You will never hear me knock organizations such as the Civitans or Rotary, for they do many good things. But they just don’t cut it when in the end it is the gospel that matters, and that is what WE have to offer.
I know this is a wonderful church. I am privileged to be your pastor. Over the years, you have touched the lives of hundreds or thousands of people by sharing the good news in a darkened world. For these many years God has used this church to touch lives and help people. You have a proud heritage. I must tell you something today: "You can have an even greater future! Your best days are ahead. Your greatest victories are yet to be won. Your greatest deeds are yet to be done. I will do all that I can to help you move into what can be your greatest times ever. There can and will be a time in which Waldron United Methodist Church proclaims the gospel of Jesus the Christ boldly and proudly. Lives will be changed by God’s Spirit through Jesus Christ.
No planning committee can do this until; no program can do this until; no project can do this until; no pastor or preacher can do this until we are willing to put our selfish ways behind. We are called to lay our lives at the cross and commit ourselves fully to the challenges God puts before us.
This is, indeed, a day of new beginnings! Will you accept this challenge to commit yourself fully? Jesus throws down the gauntlet to you today. It involves change; it takes the same courage as that required of one involved in combat. We are in a battle. We are in a war. We are in a dogfight. We do have an enemy. He does want us dead. We are the people of God, chosen by God. You are a holy nation. Let’s go out and take it to the enemy that his blackness will never cover us. That he will not overcome us. That our light will never go out. We are not a people of darkness, we are THE people of light. Let us go out and be the church!


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