Grace for every race - the setting
“Worship in the local church (and the whole of the Christian life) exists between two worlds. We live in the light of the resurrection, but we live in a darkened world that awaits its fullest renewal in the return of Jesus and the restoration of all things. In the “already” of redemption and the “not yet” of consummation.”
A week ago, I vividly experienced this tension during the liturgy at our gathering at Sojourn Chattanooga. I had the opportunity to preach on racial reconciliation from Acts 10. I thought that you’d enjoy both the setting provided by the liturgy and also in another post the sermon itself. Side note, as I type this, I’m at Caesarea in Israel! Seriously, I’m on the Mediterranean Sea with a group on our Precept Ministries Holy Land Tour! I’ll share more about that later this week too!
We have a living God who speaks to us from His living Word and who works among us through His living Spirit. And our living God wants to bring life to us by shining the light of the work of Jesus Christ on us this morning!
CALL TO WORSHIP:
Let’s stand for our Call to Worship! I’ll start us off. Join me by reading the underlined portions out loud so that we can proclaim God’s Word to each other.
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
“Listen closely, and eat was it good, and delight yourself in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant of my steadfast and sure love for David.” -Isaiah 55:1-3
God is shouting this invitation from Isaiah to all the nations - to people who were cut off from the true living God and without hope. And thats what God invites us to do this morning. “Come to me with nothing, and freely receive everything I have to give through King Jesus!” All of us can respond to that! Let’s move the feet of our souls towards Him as we echo His invitation in song.
Let’s pray together.
“Father God, we need your help this morning because there is often a wide gulf between the gospel we proclaim and the gospel we display. We proclaim that we are the poor, the needy, and the sick in need of a physician; we proclaim that we are the poor in spirit, but yet our hearts, our minds, and our eyes are often closed to the poor and needy around us. We have an inbred instinct to keep our distance from people too different than us, but Jesus, when we look at your teachings and your ministry, when we read the words your Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles to write, we see you aiming to kill that old self of ours, to expose its shame, and to clothe us with a new self that puts on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and above all, a love that binds everything together in perfect harmony. These are the clothes you require all who are invited to the great wedding feast of Your kingdom to wear, but our lives show that we hardly find ourselves in need of putting them on.
Why do we reserve our gospel proclamation for people just like us, Lord?
Why do we feel more comfortable with displaying a kingdom that looks more like a country club than a kingdom that looks like every nation, tribe, and tongue?
Why does your Great Commission thud against our closed ears?
Help us, Lord! We know that in your mercy you will renew
all that we present to you as a living sacrifice.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Forgive us, Father! We have forgotten our own poverty. We’ve been lulled to sleep and conformed again to this world. We offer ourselves to you. Transform us. Renew our minds. May the gospel we love be the gospel we live. May the Kingdom we graciously call home be the kingdom we most greatly display. In Jesus’ powerful name we pray. Amen!”
-from Colossians 3:10-14, Matthew 22:11-14, Romans 12:1-2, and Matthew 5:3
When we lose sight of who we were in the economy of God before Christ found us, called us, and saved us, we lose so much of our ability to be the people God remade and commanded us to be. So let’s remember together who we were, what Jesus did, and the work He desires to do to make us a people who display God’s beautiful gospel and kingdom!
“Remember, at one time you were separated from Christ, alienated from God’s people and strangers to His promises, without hope and without God in this world. But now in Jesus Christ you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us one by breaking down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility, abolishing the law and all it’s commandments that divided us.
Christ united us as one man within himself, making peace, and reconciled us both to God in one body on the cross, killing the hostility. He came to you who were far off and preached peace, and he did the same for those who were near.
Now all of us can come to the same Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.
“So now we are no longer strangers and foreigners. We are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. We are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him we are being made into dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
-based on Ephesians 2:11-22
We were without a clue, without God, and without hope. But Jesus joined us to himself to save us. And He joined us together in His body with people we’re guilty of fearing and despising. He paid for all our prejudices and insults. He tore all of it down so that we can display to the world that peace has been made and it has been made by God alone! That’s something to live for thats worth far more than what comes natural! It’s supernatural! That’s what God wants to do His children and in His church. Let’s sing and commit ourselves to displaying all we believe that Christ has done for us!
Isn’t that amazing, friend! The liturgy of Sojourn Chattanooga prepped and readied our hearts to hear and receive the gospel from Acts 10 & 11 in our Jesus Continues series in Acts. I’m so pumped - I’m sitting at thre place where Cornelius and the first Gentiles received the gospel and the Spirit eight years after Pentecost! Tomorrow, I’ll post some notes from the sermon and the sermon audio too!