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Jerusalem Council in which the two great churches–Antioch and Jerusalem hashed out how the Jewish laws, which were outdated in light of Christ, would be enforced in the lives of Gentile Christians.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:

  1. When was the last time you consulted an actual paper phone book?  (for me it has been about 5 years) 
  2. When was the last time you used the services of a cobbler? (at least 20 years for me)
  3.  How often do you have the T.V. Repair man come  fix your television? (I think when I was about 6)
  4. Do you ever tape programs with VHS tapes (or songs on the radio with audio cassettes)? (No)
  5. 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)

8 Comments

  1. Much better, I read the first one and thought: What happened to the bottom? Now to answer the questions:

    1. A few weeks ago.
    2. Last year (He is a nice Jewish man and repaired a strap on a pair of shoes that still have a little life in them)
    3. About three years ago when I still had my Beast CRT screen. It was huge and heavy and there wasn’t any way I was going to tote it anywhere without a crane to help pick it up. It was declared unfixable and was replaced by a lighter version.
    4.Not in awhile due to compatibility issues with cable delivery. It would be cumbersome now that analog is gone and replaced by digital technology. It still would work should I choose to.
    5. We have an electric stove here, though at work we do have gas and when the electric igniters are “on the fritz” (often) we do use matches. I always use them for the fireplace, grill and candles and lanterns.
    Yes I am a dinosaur. But I like to listen to Coldplay (Every Teardrop is a Waterfall), Train (Marry Me) and even a little Mutemouth (Blood Pressure), so I am trying to keep up with the youngsters too. 😉

    Oh Yeah . . .vinyl is making a comeback. Dust off your record machine there my friend.

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  2. Very true. But we do need to be very careful what we let go of. Our forms of worship can and should change. But the heart of the gospel and the God we serve does not. Some people, in their enthusiasm to change toss out way to much and become something else all together.

    And, BTW, is that not what happened in Acts 15? Out with the requirements of the law and in with grace. It wasn’t just a change is style; it was a change in substance.

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    1. ed–yes, you are right to add a word of caution. as i wrote, i was not thinking of forms of worship. i was thinking of items of nomenclature, procedures for getting things done, and what it means to make disciples. so much of the method of church life, not so much worship, is what is antiquated.
      but, wisdom is needed, like those fine feels from issachar.

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