(Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25; Ps 113; Mark 13:1-8) – J G White
11 am, Sun, Nov 18, 2018 – St. Paul’s United – Maitland Bridge, Zion United – Liverpool
Driving across this part of the province today I easily think back to childhood, and my mother driving us three kids along the number 10 highway on a summer’s day, to Grampie’s cottage on Zwicker Lake. It was only a 25 minute trip, but every time Mom had to pull the car over and stop, part way, to break up a fight and calm us down.
What is it about kids that we loved to provoke one another? Especially when excited, on the way to a special destination. My brother and sister and I were good at bugging each other. We’re better behaved now!
The opposite of this is possible. We can provoke someone to love and good deeds, as Hebrews 10:24 says. Sometimes this is translated in to English, spur one another on. Moment by moment we have the choice, to help prompt someone to do good, or ill.
I’ve been wondering about this, and the ways we get better at helping those we meet do well. Help others do better. For instance, we spur one another on when we believe in them. When we are on someone’s side, we naturally encourage.
In today’s chapter from Hebrews, the writer speaks at length about how Jesus’ actions reconnect humans with God. 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. We have this New Testament teaching, over and over, that what’s good about Jesus is given to people. What’s right about Christ is shared with us. What’s holy about the Son gets infused into us.
In so many ways, the New Testament proclaims that we people are accepted by God, loved by God, believed in by God. God’s on our side. Shall we see others around us with the same vision?
Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, has written, “To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value, to say to them through your attitude: ‘You are beautiful. You are important. I trust you. You can trust yourself.’
We all know well that we can do things for others and in the process crush them, making them feel that they are incapable of doing things by themselves. To love someone is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.” (Shane Claiborne, et al, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, 2010, p. 58)
Pay attention to how the Creator truly believes in people. And be of the same mind.
We spur one another on when we ‘remember’ their sins and deeds no more.
The author of Hebrews tells us the Holy Spirit said, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (H 10:17) Can we be like this? What do we remember about someone, if it is not their faults and failures?
A large Canadian survey of young adults who left church – or stayed in churches – gives quite a few personal examples. Examples of the spiritual experience of the oncoming generations. Here are some quotations. (Penner et al, Hemorrhaging Faith, 2011, p. 65)
“Now that I’ve left church I don’t feel that burden of guilt every time I slip up and make mistakes.” Anna
“There was no specific negative experience, I guess, but it was just the feeling – that feeling all the time of never being good enough.” Carol
“All these demands were made of me, of what I needed to do and how I needed to perform, and I said, ‘Forget it!’” Sandy
On the other hand, when someone experiences accepting forgiveness, there’s great power & healing.
In the midst of the brokenness and the things that were happening, God put people into my life to speak words of truth, and restoration, & healing.” Jasmine
“That’s what I like, there was no judgment on us in our situation thought they knew that (my girlfriend) hasn’t known God for as long, but we still wanted to get married when we had the means and I never felt any judgement from them because of that. And that’s why I really appreciate this church.” Samuel (p. 54)
We spur one another on when we approach God with confidence and hold fast to our hope. When we are spiritually grounded. Hebrews 10:23 says Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.
I know I can give more when I am not trying to get. When I am not so needy. When I am resting in God, and trusting the life I have been given.
All our church language at this time of year about the Kingdom of God points to the bigger picture. The reality that goodness and grace are big in this life, and don’t depend upon me. Jesus’ words in Mark 13 are pointing, with a future look, to the end of everything wrong and the realm of everything right.
Sister M. T. Winter wrote this lyric 30 years ago:
O for a world preparing for
God’s glorious reign of peace,
where time and tears will be no more,
and all but love will cease.
There is a confidence we can have, in the kingdom of peace to which we march together.
We spur one another on when we believe in our mission to them. This mission to encourage others, to provoke them to love and to do good deeds. Is your calling in life to be a person who builds others up, instead of tearing them down? For there is so much tearing down of others in our world today. Life is hard enough without attacking our neighbours.
Twenty five years ago, when I was at college, and Carol Smith was at college, there was an Amy Grant song popular at big youth events in the Annapolis Valley. The clear honesty of the song rang true.
We believe in God And we all need Jesus
‘Cause life is hard And it might not get easier
But don’t be afraid
To know who you are
Don’t be afraid to show it
The twenty-year olds who sang it thought they knew then that Life is hard, and it might not get easier. Since then, we have learned more about this.
So I can believe in the simple mission, the purpose in my life, to encourage other people. To build them up. To spur them on to love and good deeds. Back when I headed off to be trained as a minister, a retired pastor, wise and very down-to- earth, told me, “You will need to encourage church people.” He saw it; he knew it; he was right.
It takes some attention and work on our part to be positive, not negative. As it says in Hebrews 10: 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds… Consider how to do this. Take time to review how you are spurring people on for good, how you are encouraging others.
Of course, we spur one another on when we spend time together. When we are humanly connected. 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another...
A preacher like me could easily take this verse and harp on about coming to services on Sundays. “Don’t neglect to meet together!” 🙂 But I must admit it’s not necessarily about that. In the midst of all this ‘encouraging one another’ stuff, it is a matter of meeting together in every way. Our one-on-one relationships are part of being church and our mission.
The church is wherever God’s people are helping,
caring for neighbours in sickness and need.
Even our thank-you cards, little notes, and emails of substance, are part of our connection and building one another up. Consider the ways you meet others.
Let me end by quoting a note sent by a wonderful woman in my congregation a few years ago, who has since died. Maureen. She had a way with words on paper, and many of the notes she gave, to many people, have been kept, I’m sure. Such as this one, sent to a couple other people in the congregation, one of whom was in the midst of cancer treatments.
Dear ____ & ____,
It was so good to see you in church yesterday, although I didn’t quite make it across the “crowded room” to speak with you. But I’ve been Thinking of you ever since… praying that God’s love and will may guide you in peace.
In friendship —
And then she wrote out in the card, at length, a prayer by John Henry Newman. Here is part:
God has created me to do him some definite service… I have my mission; I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next… Therefore I will trust him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him; in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him.
…He may take away my friends, he may throw me among strangers, he may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me — still he knows what he is about.
Let’s you and me also know what God is about, and always speak the encouraging word.