Sunday I preached the fourth in a series of sermons based on churches in Acts. It was the second time, though, we addressed the church in Jerusalem. The text for the sermon was Acts 15 and the great Jerusalem Council in which the two great churches–Antioch and Jerusalem hashed out how the Jewish laws, which were outdated in light of Christ, would be enforced in the lives of Gentile Christians. James eventually makes the decision and gives his judgment in Acts 15:19:
Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God
In short, Gentiles would no longer have to keep Jewish laws. I suggested in my sermon that when James made this decision, he was deciding that the future was more important than the past. Here is an excerpt from the manuscript:
The second underlying assumption behind James’ decision is that the future is more important than the past. When these people broke with the Judaic laws it was a break with tradition and the past. They were willing to throw it all away to welcome in people who had never known the beautiful taste of grace before. They chose the future, they chose the new thing God was doing over the way of their ancestors.
The application of this concept is that for us as a congregation to model the brave willingness to live for the future instead of in the past requires evaluating what we do and why we do it. As times change, things become obsolete. For example:
- When was the last time you consulted an actual paper phone book? (for me it has been about 5 years)
- When was the last time you used the services of a cobbler? (at least 20 years for me)
- How often do you have the T.V. Repair man come fix your television? (I think when I was about 6)
- Do you ever tape programs with VHS tapes (or songs on the radio with audio cassettes)? (No)
- Do you use a match to light your stove or oven? (Only when camping, so, never)
In church we often hold onto forms much too long. Ecclesiastically we are still lighting our stove with a match, using cassette tapes, and trying to get our old shoes cobbled. It took the Catholic Church about a thousand years to finally stop saying mass in Latin exclusively, and it may take that long before people realize that “a Sunday School Program” is really just an old leisure suit pretending to be the armor of God.
Of course, the real issue is the speed at which things change. Today’s innovation will be tomorrows museum piece. To put it another way, today’s Facebook is tomorrow’s Myspace. This requires that we become more and more like the people who lived in Issachar in the Bible. Do you remember them? Those folks had wisdom. The Bible gives them high praise for it says:
From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take (1 Chronicles 12:32 NLT)