Message for 5/17 “A Rededication”

The church is open for service on Sunday 5/17 at 11 am! With masks and social distancing, but celebrating being together. For those who can’t make it, Pastor has recorded and provided a copy of the sermon so you can read or watch on Youtube (below).

17 May 2020 Sunday Service “A Rededication”

Call to Worship; Luke 2

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Tithe and Offering Prayer: Father in Heaven, you know the hearts of us all. Lord today we pray to accept our rededicated attitudes, heart, and sole, to be in you, to serve you, and walk with you in service to others in this dark and hurting world.

Amen!

Message “A Rededication of our Church”

Scripture Reading; Nehemiah 3:11-18, 12:27

13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

(And now completion and dedication Nehemiah 12: 27)

27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.

Message; Re / Dedication

It seems like the streams of life have a familiar pattern of; forming, rejoicing, thriving, declining, morning, repenting / learning, then re-forming to do it all again. It certainly seems to be the case throughout scripture as well. The Old Testament has been referred by one Jewish Theologian as a biography of a dysfunctional family, and he is right. With every kind of human defect on display, and then the pinnacles of grace, kindness, and love revealed those same tribes, our faith ancestors managed to survive as members of God’s family in spite of themselves and due entirely to the grace of a loving, forgiving, passionately caring God!

Nehemiah’s depiction of the state of Jerusalem is a perfect metaphor of the poor spiritual condition of Israel at that time. Remember Nehemiah had travelled back to remote Israel from the center of the Persian Empire to reestablish, rededicate, and resurrect Israel’s formal worship of God through a reopened Temple in a Jerusalem, revamped with walls and gates for protection. Metaphorically, as the gates and walls are rebuilt, one can see the growth and maturing of Israel’s relationship in God.

I am excited to try something with today’s message, and that is to compare what our little Church is going through and where we are as a faith family to our extended family in scripture. Don’t get me wrong, this is nothing new, I have made a habit of trying to compare us to our family in scripture with the idea of using their lessons learned as nourishment for our use. It’s just that today we are covering a lot of territory in one message “Our Dedication and Rededication with the Lord”

Today’s Call to Worship featured the young Jesus’ natural irresistible fondness for the House of the Lord (The Temple), emphasizing his relationship to God the Father, and today’s message reading, the rebuilding of the gates and walls of Jerusalem (The greater Temple), showing our own draw to the Lord. Both have a common theme that we can identify with in our church family today.

Both readings:

  1. Reflect a human longing to be with God
  2. A longing to be in communion with God

(As reflected in the Call to Worship in Luke 2)

  1. Our yearning to commune with God as a family

(From our Scripture Reading in Nehemiah 3)

  1. Both reflect a state of separation from God
  2. Both reflect a desire to mend the gap

So today based on our readings, and who we are as a church, I have three big ideas that I would like to convey to you:

  1. The desire to seek out God is natural.
  2.  Living and working with others in harmony is expected with God.
  3. Scripture provides new ways to look at life.

This list is just my organization of some random ideas, and can serve you as a foundation to build upon as you grow in your own relationship and understanding of the Lord. Starting with: …

1). The desire to seek out God is natural.

We learn in Luke that for Jesus everything takes a back seat, nothing comes before His connection to God. His understanding and relationship with our Father in Heaven is His driving force of purpose. Even as a child it is assumed that if there was a way, Jesus would be in His father’s house (The Temple) talking about the ideas of faithwalk, salvation, and the majesty of God with anyone interested.

In the ancient world where life even in Israel was a whole lot more expendable than in our modern-day, Jesus is focused on God, God’s teachings, and God’s teachers. Regardless. Three days later after discovering that He has not been with them, and backtracking to Jerusalem, His parents find him and are a little miffed, and then he answers “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Had to be in His Father’s house is key!

Christ in His incarnated self (meaning God in the flesh) shows how natural it can be for even us to be driven closer in a relationship with our creator. What makes this passage so different from the rest of humanity is that from his dedication in the Temple in the beginning of Luke chapter two, Jesus is not going to the Temple for sin forgiveness (He is literally personally sin free and only exposed to sin through you and me who he saves), no Jesus is at the Temple, to interact with the family of God.

In fact you can make a comparison of Jesus’ family loosing, misplacing, ignoring God the Messiah, only to find Him (the Lord) again within the walls of Jerusalem in the Temple, and the family of Israel in exile during Nehemiah’s time due to their leaving God behind, only to rediscover Him in their worship of Him in the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem.

When we are on the right path we are in relationship with the Lord. When we get lost the Good Sheppard will find us by leading us back to communion in Him, whether it be in the House of the Lord as a family, or individually in the new Temple within our hearts.

I believe we all can identify with Jesus in this passage because for many of us, it reflects exactly what we have been experiencing and missing during this pandemic isolation. Today we rededicate ourselves to something many of us have taken for granted in the past: Sunday Worship. Where we come to praise, glorify, and magnify His Holy Name.

The teaching and interacting with other members of God’s family is yet another very important idea I would like to explore today: … that is;

2). Living and working with others in harmony is expected with God.

       The more I grow in my relationship in the Lord, the fuller and more well-rounded my relationships with others becomes. In other words, I can be a better friend, worker, and husband, through my relationship with a God who stresses that I need to put others first. Take for example, Nehemiah’s prayer life and relationship with the Lord empowers him to intercede for others when in prayer, as instructed in Nehemiah 1:3-7;

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:

Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

And that admission is from a devout believer!

When Nehemiah hears of the sorry state in Jerusalem, he immediately morns for and then prays for others, coupled with a dramatic repentance for sins and missing the mark, not just in his own case but in others as well. Then, Nehemiah is willing to listen to what God has to say, in this case to make the long journey back to Israel from exile. In other words, he is ready to serve God and other people as God directs his life.

When we pray for other people, we bring great joy to God because we are placing our trust in Him. When we learn to live and work in harmony with each other as we serve the Lord, the joy can only grow.

As you read through the rest of chapter 3 of Nehemiah (your reading assignment this week) you will see that everyone committed to worshipping, and serving the Lord worked together as a team, a congregation, and as a family in God to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem.

You will see that no one is too good to get dirty and work on the construction, the Priest and Levites, young and old, people living in and outside Jerusalem from surrounding communities work together to build up the Town and their own individual faithwalks in the Lord. When not working on the gates and walls, they were actively standing guard over each other protecting each other from the enemies outside, and praying for each other as Nehemiah demonstrates for the enemies within ourselves.

Sound familiar? It should. Our little family is in constant prayer for each other, for our community, and for all the people of this world. Not that we would have our way, but that God’s will be done. We are all in active service for those in need in our community, and we believe as we improve on how we serve, God will provide us more to serve more. No one is too good to get dirty in the service of others and everyone has a role.

That is what church is all about, and why this weekend is so important for all of us. Through social distancing we will worship together and even though we be 6 feet apart our proximity will aid in rejuvenating, rededicating our faithwalks with God and each other.

This is the incredible fact about God, He will continually surprise us, leading us on paths we never even contemplated, and open old things as new before our very eyes. Leading us to the third big idea for today’s message, how; …

3). Scripture provides new ways to look at life.

As you read through chapter three of Nehemiah, and after you get past the hard to pronounce names, I think what you will find on top of the incredible teamwork of God’s people, a sense of the layout of the ancient city of Jerusalem. The walls of the city give you an idea of the city, and a deeper, prayerful look at the Gates of the city described in chapter 3, can give you a deeper look at the spiritual life of a follower of God. I invite you to join me on a tour the old city and perhaps your new life.

As we travel around Jerusalem, we will start in the north east area of the city and go counterclockwise around the town beginning with the; …

  1. The Sheep Gate Neh. 3:1,32, Is the very first gate mentioned is the sheep gate. It was called the sheep gate because this was the gate where the sheep and lambs used in the sacrifice were bought through.

Significance: Here is the realization that Jesus was the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. The sheep gate then speaks to us of the cross and the sacrifice that was made for our sins

  1. The Fish Gate Neh. 3:3 was mentioned next. Fisherman of Galilee would bring their catch in through this gate to be sold.

Significance: For us, it speaks of evangelism as we have been called to be ‘fishers of men’ (Matt 4:19), and is a natural progression in our Christian life. Just look at our ministries to see if we are on track.

  1. The Old Gate Neh. 3:6 is next. Nehemiah is the only book in the Bible where it is called the Old gate and it may have been one of the original gates made.

Significance: A young Christian having experienced the sheep gate, then the fish gate, soon sees the need for experiencing the old gate. This means learning the old ways of truth that never change, instead of the latest fad or what’s popular right now in the Christian world. Jeremiah 6:16

This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.

  1. Next the Valley Gate Neh. 3:13. There were several valleys surround Jerusalem and this gate apparently opened out into the area leading to the valley of Hinnom.

Significance: After our initial conversion there is sometimes a honeymoon of bliss. Sooner or later the valley gate must come. The valley gate speaks to us of the lows, humbling, and trials – valley type experiences used by the Lord for our personal growth. Unpleasant but true, real growth doesn’t come from rocky mountain peak soil, but from the dirt in the valleys of our lives.

  1. The Dung (Refuse) Gate Neh. 3:14 is next with all of Jerusalem’s refuse and trash was taken out through the dung gate, down to the valley of Hinnom, (Gehenna or Hell for the children that were sacrificed there) where it would be burned.

Significance: The Valleys in life experiences clearing away the junk in our lives so faith, refined by the fire, can produce fruit, the new rededicated you. Clearing away the trash, the junk in our lives represents a low point and is never easy but the benefits of this experience can be seen as we start to change direction. On to the next gate.

  1. The Fountain Gate Neh. 3:15 is located near the pool of Siloam, and was often used by the people for cleaning before proceeding on to the temple. (purification)

Significance: The fountain gate is located extremely close to the dung gate. In other words, after a valley type experience where rubbish in our lives is cleared out through the dung gate, then faith comes forth, fountains begin to flow with living waters of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said: ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John 7:38

  1. The Water Gate Neh. 3:26, led down to the Gihon Spring which was located adjacent to the Kidron Valley.

Significance: The water gate is a picture of the word of God and its effect in our life. Psalm 119:9 teaches us that it is only through God’s word that we can be clean. This gate was located next to the fountain gate and often go together. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes the word of God alive to us personally, allowing cleansing, encouragement, and guidance.

  1. The Horse Gate Neh. 3:28 was close to the King’s stables and the men of Jerusalem would ride their horses out of this gate to war.

Significance: Speaks to us of spiritual warfare as horses were used in battle and is the symbol of war. Revelation 19:11 ‘I saw Heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True… We are all in a spiritual battle whether we know it or not. Interesting that the horse (War) gate follows the water (word) gate. The word often proceeds personal spiritual warfare in our lives.

  1. The East Gate Neh. 3:29 is located on the opposite side of and facing the Mount of Olives.

Significance: Ezekiel 44:1-2 ‘… the outer gate of the sanctuary, the one facing east, and it was shut. 2 The Lord said to me, “This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it.

(As a side note: every time I go into scripture it’s like a new read, a new experience. I hope you have the same experience as you tour through chapter 3 if Nehemiah this week.)

  1. Finally, the Inspection Gate Neh. 3:31 is last. Also known as the Miphkad gate. The word in Hebrew has a military connection and according to tradition it was at this gate that David would meet his troops to inspect them.

Significance: At the end, we will meet our Lord and review our life. This can be a joyous time of reflection, not a wait until your Father gets home time of fear.

In our Christian experience we should be living with this in mind. We should live our lives with eternity in view, caring more for the things of eternity than the temporal that we see around us.

In other words, did we Love God with all of our might, and love our neighbour as ourselves? And when we didn’t, did we repent, get up, dust off, apologize to God, and the people we wronged, learn from it and try harder. It’s that simple.

Thankfully we have a God that knows what it’s like to be you! May we all experience that peace and comfort as we seek to rededicate ourselves to the Lord, our church, and each other this weekend.

Benediction; Psalm 118:1, 13-15 and Numbers 6:24-26

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.

15 Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!

And now; 24 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face upon you
and give you His peace.”’

Amen!