This week's sermon:
Hebrews 11:29--12:2 - "Saving A Church"
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I imagine that different letters in the New Testament were written with varying degrees of haste. Paul wrote an angry letter to the church at Corinth. You can tell that as he wrote it he had a lot of things on his mind. On the other hand, the Book of 1st Thessalonians consists almost entirely of prayers and praise. Obviously, there was not a great sense of urgency about the letter. When Paul wrote his brief letter to Philemon, he told his friend and former slave, Onesimus, to personally deliver it. It could have gotten there a lot faster if it had gone by the regular mail, but Paul wanted this letter hand delivered.
Then there was the letter written to the Hebrews, from which our scripture text for this morning comes. It was a thick letter. Probably took three stamps to mail it. And on the front of that letter I feel sure that they wrote: Special Delivery. There is a sense of urgency about this letter. The moment you open the letter up you know why. Hold on, it says. How many times does the author write—hold on. Don’t shrink back. Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Stir up each other. Encourage each other. Don’t stop going to your worship assemblies. Don’t get discouraged. All the way through that is the tone. The writer, who is a pastor, is trying his best to revive a church.
What is wrong with the church? When you read the letter you discover that it was once a church that was full of love and joy and fellowship. It took delight in serving each other and serving the Lord. But that is now no longer the case. Between that time of wonderful joy and the writing of this letter something dreadful has happened to this church. What has gone wrong?
I. There is heresy.
II. There is pagan worship.
III. There is persecution.
IV. But primarily they no longer care.
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The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....
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