August 15, 2021

Looking Ahead With Christ

Passage: Psalm 146, Ephesians 4:1-13

Strange how our attitude to age varies. You can ask a little girl how old she is and she will proudly hold up three fingers and say "three". Ask the same question of some adults and you may be looking for trouble! I find it fascinating that some seniors proudly tell you their age while others refuse to divulge that information. I recall one elderly threesome who refused to tell their age to the hospital admissions desk when one of them had a stroke. The same routine was reenacted later for the funeral director. I finally found out the reason for this was that many years earlier they had told their minister how old they were and he had blabbed it all over town!  I wasn’t that minister!

We can be curious about the age of many things such as antiques, people, automobiles, buildings and churches. Langley Presbyterian Church has been here for about 43 years. My family was part of the congregation from 1987 to 1994 when John Rhoad was your minister. My daughters Shari and Heather were part of the music team as Bev well remembers. Of course the church is not a building but a group of people. We, you and I, are Christ’s church here and now. Sometime we tend do think with nostalgia of the good old days when life was somehow simpler, with less crime and less overt racial contempt and violence, and our congregations were filled with lots of children and youth. But we ought not look back with nostalgia to envisioned better bygone days but look ahead to what God is calling us to be and to do tomorrow. This is especially true as we look ahead to the post pandemic church, a church that will be different.

 God has called you to be his people in this geographic area. All of us are challenged to grow by actively sharing our faith with non-Christians that through us God would bring others to faith I Christ.

Some of you have been part of this congregation for many years while others have been here perhaps a year or two. But all of us are called to be part of a congregation in both sharing our faith with non-Christian neighbors, work associates and acquaintances and in growing in our own faith.

Our reading from Ephesians conveyed the very important teaching that every believer is called to be part of the Church, the body of Christ. Every Christian without exception has been given by the Holy Spirit at least one specific gift to be used not for self but for the advancement of the cause of Christ.

Paul stated to the Romans, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ and individually we are members of one another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. Some of the gifts are teaching, exhortation, kindly helpfulness, generosity, prophetic insight, wisdom, music, deep spirituality, service, hospitality and administration. One of the wonderful realities of congregations is the diversity of gifts the Spirit has granted to the people. How important it is for us to realise that we do not choose our own gifts but they are given to us by the God's Spirit to enable us to collectively advance the cause of Christ. So I urge you to rejoice in God's call to you to be part of this congregation and to remember that you are a people gifted by the Spirit of God to the end that the Church of Christ might flourish.

In expectation of tomorrow I hold before you the Christ who proclaimed I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus said I am the Way. When he said this he indicated that it was through him that people could come to know God. “He whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus also said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. The Bible equates evil and sin with darkness. It also affirms that all have sinned. We know that sin separates us from one another and from God. While many religions endeavor to reach out and find God, we believe that in his grace God has chosen to reveal himself to us and has done so progressively through the Hebrew people. The climax of this revelation is seen in Jesus who declared, I am the way, I am the light shining in a sin-darkened world.

 Jesus is the Way and the Truth. He said if the disciples followed him they would know the truth and the truth would make them free. Two fundamental truths are revealed in the Bible. The first is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The second is that in Jesus the Christ God offers the twin gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus said that in following him people would know the truth which would grant them freedom. From what? We are constantly confronted with the presence of evil in our society. The daily news covers stories of child abduction, drug and alcohol addiction, murder, violence and hatred each of which is an example of evil. The prime meaning of sin is a power that enslaves a person. Sin is the power at the root of society's corruption. Jesus said that he was the truth and the truth would make us free from that power of evil, from sins grip over us.

Jesus went on to say the he was the life. How erroneous are some views of Christianity. Some believe the Christianity is a narrow, restrictive life of "thou shalt nots". If you're a Christian you can't do what you really want to do or do what others encourage you to do. Others view Christianity as "pie in the sky when you die." Cheer up, life may be dreadful for you now but when you die you will go to a better place. But the prime thrust of Christianity is not futuristic desire but a present reality. We are called to be on a journey with Christ, a journey in living our lives in accordance with the plan of our creator. It is a life dominated not by negative prohibitions but by positive affirmations. Christ’s church is the locale of a deep bond of love between people, a loving care extended not only to fellow Christians but to all people.

Jesus also said “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me even though they die will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus here was not talking about physical death but spiritual. Human reality is that we have been born and one day we will die. When we as Christians face the hard reality of the death of a loved one, we grieve. We hurt. We cry. But we also know that Christ has promised that not even physical death can separate us from the love of God. The apostle Paul stated: What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword? No, in all these things we are more that conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Death is the doorway through which we pass into God’s eternity. A favorite song of mine is “In Christ Alone”. The final verse is:

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till he returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Jesus is the way, the truth, the life and the resurrection. He is also the way of victory. I said earlier that Christ freed us from the power of sin. But we still face temptations and we still fall victims of desire, selfishness and greed. But the wonder of our faith is that in any given situation we can have victory over temptation. Paul stated no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. That is a marvelous promise! When faced with a temptation all we need do is stop and pray: God, give me the will and the strength to say “no or “yes” to do what I know I should. God always answers that prayer. What a life! Thanks be to God!

A congregation collectively experiences Jesus the Christ as the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection  and the victory. Remember that we are called to be proactive for Christ, to live for Christ and to share Christ using the gifts he has given us. We must always keep before that the two-fold mandate of knowing Christ and of making him known to others. No congregation is free from occasional hick-ups or problems because no congregation is comprised of perfect people. But God has blest and prospered  your ministry. As we go from this service today I want us to be filled not so much with thoughts about the past and present but with expectation for the future. What is God calling you to be and to do tomorrow in post pandemic days? What new avenues of outreach and congregational development is God placing before you? Who is God calling to be your next minister? You are the gifted people of God, a people who acknowledge Christ as the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection and the victory. Through us God has done much but I believe he has a grand plan for our tomorrow. Listen to the fresh winds of the Spirit of God