Sunday, August 3, 2008

Heaven IN Earth

I grateful that my work at Central Dallas Ministries allows me to fulfill my calling to the preaching ministry. While I no longer give leadership to a local congregation, I love the opportunities I get to preach at other churches.

But I not only love to preach, I love preaching. I've spent my adult life as a preacher, and I have a number of what I refer to as 'preaching heroes': pastors I grew up listening to, who helped shape my view of effective pulpit ministry. And there are a number of current preachers that I love listening to when I get the chance.

One of those preachers is George Mason at Wilshire Baptist Church here in Dallas. Ironically, I heard him on the radio this Sunday morning while I was on my way to preach at another church. I hadn't heard him for quite awhile and I had almost forgotten how helpful his sermons are.

For those like me who, at times, carry on a 'lover's quarrel' with the church, who get irritated with the lack of understanding regarding just how redemptive a voice and presence the church is to be in the world, Mason's preaching - especially this sermon - reminds us why we should keep plugging away.

The sermon is entitled 'Heaven IN Earth' and the Biblical text on which it is based is Matthew 13:31-52.

The message reminded me, among other things, that often God's work in the world is not readily perceptive from a human perspective. Often we only see the results of God's silent activity.
The statistics of our world's trouble ring loud in our ears. We see much more of the pathology of world than signs of hope. I know the staff at CDM has a habit (often they don't know it), of picking up my spirits when they tell me of trainees who have gotten living wage jobs, or neighbors whom we've served in public housing who are moving to home ownership, or youth and adults who have enrolled in or are graduating from college. God was at work and I didn't see it - but I get a chance to see results of that silent, imperceptible work.

Sometimes I don't think the church gets it. The idea that we are a part of this world, a world in which God is working, sometimes through our divisions and almost always in spite of them. There are times when God works through those who don't even claim Him, but He is still working. So our goal should be to claim the whole world in which He works. Not just the Baptist part, the Catholic part, the Church of Christ, or the Church of God in Christ part. Not just the saved part or the unsaved part. God works in all of the world and we should be at work in all of that world with Him.

This morning George said, "...we can't separate the treasure of heaven from the rest of the earth. So we go buy the whole earth. We cherish the whole world and everyone in it for the sake of the presence of God we discern in it. We don't try to buy one square yard of earth and build a shrine over it while condemning the rest of the property.

"The church doesn't pick and choose who can be here and who can't, as if we can own the spirit by getting the godly in and keeping the out. W must buy them all, so to speak. We must welcome the whole world because we have found that God is hidden in a field that we are not allowed to subdivide. So we go to Kenya and to North Africa and to the Delta and to the Valley and to South Dallas and to North Dallas and to lake Highlands and Lakewood and to Highland Park - are you getting the idea? We go everywhere and claim everyone and everything, because no one and nothing anywhere is untouched by the presence and power of God."

Amen George...and thanks!


Leslie said...

PREACH, Preacher!!!!

Ellen said...

"Sometimes I don't think the church gets it..." How true those words in this particular paragraph are!! I thank you for those very pointed comments that many of us have been thinking for many years, but have not had the courage(guts!!) to express out loud, especially IN our churches who have these very narrow, sectarian views of, as Larry says, "who's in & who's out"!! Keep the courage to speak out on this issue. I'm just beginning to find my gutsy voice!!Great post!!

Larry James said...

Gerald, what you are sharing here is so powerful and so helpful! Keep putting it out for our sake!