Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Church Follows

So Say We All. 

Joshua 24:15

New International Version (NIV)
15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

The world of science fiction is a special delicacy of mine.
For most folks it is an acquired taste.The genre uses elements and characters from some distant galaxy to convey it's story and meaning. If you're not familiar with or not open to the idea of some story told on a cosmic scale, a venue or a world outside of this place we call earth, then you most likely won't identify with the story as it unfolds. The thing is if we take the time to actually listen to what's being conveyed in a science fiction story we usually see that there are earthly constructs being dealt with inside of the constructs of the sci-fi story. I grew up watching things like Star Trek and then The Next Generation. It didn't take much to realize that they were dealing with earthly social and political aspects with their storylines. If there were currently some issue in the news involves foreign countries dealing with some inter-Americana aspect on a global level, then you could most likely anticipate that they would be dealing with that front somewhere in the Star Trek world.

For many folks the world of Star Wars is the ultimate place to discuss the realms of good and evil. It has been brought to the forefront that George Lucas, the creator of the famous storyline, was raised a Methodist. You can see as he deals with what it known as "The Force" that he is playing out the many dealing we humans think about as we discuss God, the devil, the Holy Spirit, and our inner workings and struggles as human beings. One important note to be made within the movie and TV genre is that things have changed over the years. In the sci-fi/action/drama world there used to be a strong emphasis on a "one man against the world" mentality. We might see that played out still, but not to the degree we grew up with in the 1980's. With the introduction of these science fiction storylines we begin to see more of a sense of community. It
's all of us taking on this inherent evil. One person can't do it all by themselves. I would truly suggest that the idea of one man taking on everything springs from the idea of Christ taking on everything. One man hanging on a cross wipes out sin for all mankind. Why can't we be like that? Why can't I stand against the evils of the world all by myself? Well, maybe because that's not what we are called to do. Even Jesus spoke to his listeners and followers and call them "the light of the world" - collectively. The Body of Christ has many parts, as the Apostle Paul would bring out in his letters, and we need to see how it all works together. 

One of my favorite story lines is that of the lesser known Battlestar Galactica.
A very short lived story that was introduced around 1979-80, it showed us what it meant to try and take on the role of creator and then realize how wrong we were in creating what we could not control only to find the people on the run away from their home world in search of a new place to start over. The 1970's version found new life almost 40 years later as the title was reintroduced with a darker plot twist. These robots known as "Cylons" had been quiet for the last 40 years and then suddenly show up destroying their home world. With really no chance to fight back or recover, this rag tag band of humans gather what resources they have and seek a new place to start over. All the while their creations, the Cylons, are still hunting them down as they try to run away. I want you to see a clip here. This is after the major battle has taken place. The humans have left their solar system and are running. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Displaced. Hungry. Not knowing where many of your family members are or even if they are alive. Morale is low. Confidence is even lower. They stop for a moment to mourn their dead in a memorial service. They read from their sacred scriptures. In what should be a hopeful moment the spiritual leader states the words that the people repeat. But, at this moment their is not much enthusiasm to find. So, it falls upon their military leader to step up and give everyone the much needed "kick in the pants". 

What I want you to take from this is the sense of "community" that happens.
Following is not something meant to be done alone. It's meant to be done together.

(Come to church on Sunday to see the full clip.)

I want you to look past the religious aspects of this fictional story and see the correlation between their world and ours. At the same time we'll bring in the scriptural focus from the Book of Joshua that is before us today. There is much we can make of the plight of humankind and the need for a new start. The people of Israel find themselves in this place over and over again in their journey to become God's people. Just as the people in this fictional story made servants for themselves who rebelled, so we see Israel making gods for themselves who always let them down. They follow the customs of their neighboring countries. Their neighbors are enamored with false gods made of wood and stone. They are promised that if they follow these gods that they will be blessed beyond measure. Joshua has quite a task in front of him. Throughout this book with his name the story says that the land among his people has been divided up. Each tribe has their location and area in which they have settled. There seems to be one last issue to deal with near the close of Joshua's story. This matter of staying on point and following the God who brought them out of Egypt. They have allowed the presence of their other gods to infiltrate their faith and life. That's not why God brought them here. As we have been covering in our Sunday School time, through the video series "That The World may Know", God brought them to the cross roads of the world - between two major continents, so that they could be an influence of the world around them.

There is another major issue. They have been running.
At first, they were out running their oppressors, much like the people in this fictional sci-fi story. They are looking for a new home. A promised land. Then, in the course of their running, they find there are many issues within that they must overcome. There is griping and bickering and complaining. There is a struggle for what a few want versus the needs of the community. Most importantly, there is a growing distrust for the God who set them free. They can't seem to grasp the concept that the reason they have been wandering so long out here in the desert is because of all the mistrust, the complaining, the griping. God has not done them wrong. He has fed them. When complained about meat, he gave them meat. When they were thirsty, he gave them drink. He led them with a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke. There are plenty of centering moments in their journey where the law is brought out. It is read and conveyed to all that God is what is most important.

What major parallels might we draw from our fictional and biblical stories. What applies to us?
We might start by asking, what are we running from? If we call ourselves Christian then the truth of new life in Jesus means that there was a point in time when we started following. This alos means we left something behind. We have been cut off from a past with no future. But, that doesn't mean the old life just gave up and quit pursuing us. there is guilt from former statements and actions. There are consequences from things that we have done and said. What we'd truly like to do is leave all that behind. We'd like a fresh start. We'd like to stand up feel refreshed, to feel forgiven and free. When I invited Jesus into my life back June of 1992 I was into rock 'n roll. I knew I wanted something similar to listen too, but with a Christian focus. The first Christian song I got attached to was by Geoff Moore and the Distance. A song called "Rescue Me".

"Running all my life, running all my days.
Running through the night, it seems like forever.
Take me now. I'm so tired. Take me now.
This time forever."  - from the album "Pure and Simple", Geoff Moore & the Distance - 1992

All of that parallelism and correlation might apply to some of us on a personal level, but what about the church? What kind application can we make that would apply to us all? Is there something the church is running from? Or, maybe, it's not a matter of running from anything, but now we feel like we are wandering. We remember the good ol' days when this seemed easier and better. Our church was full. The coffers were stuffed. It didn't seem like it was such a struggle to make it. Churches seem to dwindle down and down in a spiral decent to irrelevance and decline. Where will we go? What will we do? How much longer will we make it given the current circumstances? Last year we lost a six-pack of saints. People who, in their lifetimes, gave all they had to ensure that others had enough. Feeding. Clothing. Visiting. They'd give you their last dollar if you needed. Would it be better if we were one of them and now gone from this world. That what you're thinking isn't it? To escape this world with it's troubles and hardships. We're a long way from 1960 something, when the church was full and things were easier. Where shall we go? What shall we do?

All I know is this. If we follow the promises set before us and forget about what we want on a personal level, then God will bless us mightily. "Deny yourselves, pick up your cross, and follow me", our Lord and Savior said. I look out at you today and approach you in the spirit of Joshua. I plead with you to follow the Lord with all your heart. But, if following this path seems too hard for you, if following the Lord seems undesirable for you, then choose this day whom you will serve. Whether it be your own personal desires that will surely lead you astray, or some other religion with no promises of forgiveness and peace. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

It has been said, "Don't write checks that your butt can't cash."
I tell you today, we will become the church Jesus wants us to be.
On the memory of those saints who have gone on before us and banking on the promises of our Lord and Savior, we will hear the words "Well Done, good and faithful servant."
This church will be full again. And, we will serve the Lord with all our hearts.

So say we all.

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