The Message by: John Hoffman

Sunday, June 21, 2020

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

 

We have continued to experience one of the most trying times of our lives. We may still be fearful and apprehensive concerning the Covid-19 virus. And we lately we are faced with civil unrest.
As I said in my April 26 message, we would do well to put our focus on Jesus Christ, and to place our trust in Him.

PART 1:

ULPP has been shut down since March 15. We are a body of believers, and part of the Body of Christ.
But we were closed during: the last 4 Sundays of Lent, (including Palm/Passion Sunday, and Good Friday); the 7 Sundays of the Easter season; and 4 Sundays thus far of the Pentecost season. So we "missed" - as a body - opportunities to hear the readings of the Gospel and the other lessons, and to respond to them. Private worship at home, including internet or TV, is a poor substitute.

Worst of all we were closed for Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter.
Jesus Christ's suffering and crucifixion are proven historical facts; the Gospels report these things, as do Jewish and secular historians. Every year on Palm Sunday we hear the reading from nearly 2 chapters of one of the Gospels. The Gospels provide detailed accounts of the brutal torture and execution - the suffering and death - of God's "one and only Son". Because of the shutdown we did not hear a nearly 20-minute long reading from Matthew 26-27. I suspect that I would not have been alone in shedding tears. The Passion reading is made all the more powerful when we are reminded that the ultimate reason for Jesus' death was that Christ, according to God's plan, paid the price for OUR sins. IF we accept His sacrifice, your sins, and my sins, are forgiven. And we receive the promise of eternal life.

And we missed the readings on Easter Sunday, where we see the empty tomb. Christ's tomb is empty, not because He did not die, or that his disciples stole and hid His body, or whatever deception that God's enemies propose. Rather, the tomb was empty, and remains empty, because God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. And Jesus appeared, in a new bodily form, to the various apostles and many others. His body was real; He ate and drank with the disciples; His body still showed the wounds in His hands and side. So Thomas believed. All of this proves that Christ triumphed over sin and death and that He clearly is the Son of God.

PART 2:

I have frequently thought about an article that I read many years ago in Charisma magazine. It was authored by the head pastor of a Baptist megachurch in California. He used a baseball metaphor to argue for 4 functions of a Christian congregation.
In baseball, batters must get to first base before they can score a run - i.e., "go home". They do not go to 1st base and then directly home; they don't cut across the diamond, traveling from 1st to 3rd and then home. No, the correct order is: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, home.

This pastor laid out the process for a church:

  1. 1.Get "the runners" (the members) to 1st base - i.e., get them saved

  2. 2.Advance the members to 2nd base - i.e., prepare them for ministry

  3. 3.Send the members to 3rd base - i.e., send the members out in ministry, and support them

  4. 4.Prepare the members to go home - i.e., prepare them for eternal life

Now, this analogy is imperfect, of course. But I contend that:

  1. 1.The very first goal of The Church, and ULPP, should be to make sure that members arrive safely at "1st base". This means that they believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, accept His sacrifice according to God's plan, and confess Him as Lord.

  2. 2.The church should always be preparing members to "go home", while also preparing them for "2nd
    base" and "3rd base". So we need regular and repeated reminders of the essential truths. Every worship service should contain elements that remind us, and inform visitors, of God's great plan of redemption. These elements include: the Hymn of Praise (historically, the Gloria in Excelsis); the Creed (Apostle's or Nicene); the Epistle and/or Gospel lessons; appropriate hymns; the "Lamb of God" (Agnus Dei) on communion Sundays.

It would be a challenge for the congregation or individuals to adopt such a way of looking at ministry.
We would be concerned that members don't "get picked off 1st base" - i.e., lose their faith, or vacillate. We would emphasize the importance of mastering the elements of faith in order: to share Jesus Christ with family and friends, and to fervently pray for the salvation of souls. This is preparation for "2nd and 3rd base".


In fact, holding fast to:
John 3: 16-17, 36; John 1:12: John 14:6: Ephesians 2: 8; Colossians 1: 15-20; Acts 4: 8-12
is preparation for "2nd base" and "going home".

Amen