Susan and I made our ways to the sanctuary about 20 minutes before service. Sitting in our pew she was admiring a facebook post showing a hotel room of her trip to Southeast Asia two years ago. She remembered there were vermin criss-crossing the walls of the room she stayed at while in Cambodia but couldn’t remember what they were. I made a cool $5 off her as I bet her those were geckos climbing her hotel wall. She didn’t believe me when I offered the choices of geckos, salamanders and Komodo dragons. She was convinced it was some sort of supernewt but the google term “crawls on hotel walls in Cambodia” proved otherwise. And, yes, she paid me a crumply five dollar bill.
Any Sunday praise to God goes well when it sticks to the liturgy (order of worship) regardless of my opinion about the service as a whole. I’m convinced that during any particular service God reaches out and grabs a worshipper by the heart. This happens regardless if I’m counting cars driving past the windows or trying to remember what I had for lunch yesterday. Our first visits to Holy Cross, Susan and I are convinced, were tailored to our hearts as we were convicted with our sins Sunday after Sunday. My ‘self’ took quite a beating (and still does) but it was a pulp after a month of gospel and grace.
To begin service, Holy Cross installed Naomi as the first dog in our new Comfort Dog Ministry. It went on for a while with stories about the work she had accomplished in her short time already. She’s a good addition to our staff.
This was followed by hymns (Sent Forth By God’s Blessings; Have No Fear Little Flock, and three communion distribution hymns), readings from Genesis 15, Hebrews 11, and Luke 12 … but because of Naomi’s ceremony The Nicene Creed was passed over later on. It only takes 90 seconds to confess. We would have been just fine.
Pastor’s sermon concerned itself with Genesis 15:1-6:
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
I’m not saying it is easy to ‘believe’ but I wonder if it’s easy to say we do because when the promise seems so ridiculous it’s gotta be a metaphor. Maybe Abram thinks he’ll have to adopt a nephew or neighbor for this promise to be fulfilled. In this case, he eventually decides God was being metaphoric and has a child through Sarai’s servant, Hagar (Ishmael). No, it turned out that God was plainly saying Abram and Sarai were to have a baby despite their ages. I imagine in today’s North American culture we likely say we believe in God’s promise of the second coming of the Christ but I’m pretty sure most believers don’t want to be around for it. Whether a believer reads John the Revelator’s Book of the Apocalypse plainly or metaphorically it stands to be a rough set of circumstances to endure either way.
Pastor’s point was that God takes care of our faith, giving it to us as a gift (a), rather than a conscious decision on our parts (b).
(a) Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
(b) Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
Though He never forces Himself on anyone God never ceases working on the heart of the unbeliever. (stimulus)
Every person has the choice to accept or reject His gift. (response) (and who says there isn’t any science in the Bible?) If you choose to reject Him in this life then He will respect your decision after death. After all, what could be a worse Hell for you than to be forced to live with a God you reject?
So, what does one do?
Conviction upon the heart (stimulus) ==> Repent (response)
But the prettiest moment of Sunday’s worship was when an usher’s toddlin’ toddler ran up to him near the end of The Lord’s Supper and squealed “Daddy!”.
Yay! for kids!