“Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” – Hebrews 10:19-25
Some of us may reach a point in our lives where we are exhausted at the end of a chapter, and are not ready for a new one to begin. Retirement is the end of a chapter that we celebrate; how long does it take for you to fill retirement with something else? Someone says to you, “Great, you’ve retired! You can spend more time volunteering at church since you have all this extra time! Can you watch my kids while I work? Could you join this community board; we could really use your insights.” You respond, “Can you give me a minute? Maybe in a couple months, but let me enjoy not having anything to do for just a bit.” When I graduated high school, it was a great accomplishment and I celebrated that, but I knew in two months it would be a new start in college; the pressure would keep mounting and I would just have more to do. Then it was on to seminary. And then the call that I had been working toward for so long. Now, I have realized there is still something more, the day is always packed, the to-do list never ends. Sports teams prepare for one series, and then when they are done playing one team they begin studying the next team. After each round of the playoffs, they celebrate, and then turn around the next day to get themselves ready for the next opponent. Even if the team makes it all the way to the World Series or their sport’s equivalent, they enjoy it for a week and then begin their off-season workouts to keep them in shape for the next year. When David slew Goliath, that was the beginning of his story. It was not even close to his greatest accomplishment. When we slay our Goliaths, our uphill battle that we may have been fighting for years or even decades, we can celebrate, but our journey does not end there. We are called to something new. We are called to something better. We needed to journey the path we trod to stand where we are today, and we have gained the confidence that we need.
We may have asked ourselves, “Can these bones live?” With the prophet Ezekiel, we have our doubts that anything new can come from our exhausted bodies. Then, we witness the miracle of God renew these bones and lead us into something new. We believe in God’s power to make things new. With Isaiah, we may believe that we are unworthy, and then witness God grant us forgiveness from our humility. The Lord calls us as part of the team, telling us to take the ball and pitch, even if we did not think we were good enough to fight the battle against the opposing team. First, as Isaiah recognizes, God is so holy that he yields no comparison. We need this humility in the face of God, knowing that we rely on God. When we become more proud for who we are and what we have done than we are to be a child of God, (as many kings of Israel did), we have fallen short. Second, Isaiah is cleansed of his guilt and sin so that he is prepared to follow God’s call. Finally, Isaiah is confident enough to answer God’s call, saying, “Here I am, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). Would he have been confident if he had not been cleansed first? Perhaps he would have remained focused on how he considered himself lost and unclean, especially compared to the holiness of God (Isaiah 6:5). Yet, God cleanses us to prepare us for our mission. We do not have to be disappointed in ourselves before God, because God makes us new. God gives us grace when we make mistakes. God tells us that we are clean and that therefore, we are able to know God and work with God. How can we not join in singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!” when we have witnessed this? Isaiah tells us, “My eyes have seen the glory!” (“My eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”) (Isaiah 6:5). Wherever we find ourselves today, God is giving us a fresh start. Now we can say, “God, I am here. Send me!”
Yet if we want our bones to keep living, we need to stand united. Jesus told us, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24-25). We stand united as one house of God, together with all Christians, seeking the same mission in this world. We want to glorify the name of God to the ends of the earth. Jesus knows that we do not belong to the world, and prays for us, that the Holy Spirit might give us strength, protected from the evil one and sanctified in truth (John 17:14-18). The world will try to break us, but it will not succeed if we draw on what we gain from the Holy Spirit: Jesus promised as he was leaving the disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). John 16:13 tells us, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” We need to ask God to help remind us that we are not in the world. We live to help others prioritize God over the world. We live so that we all might eventually prioritize God over the world. We live with this one mission, given to us by Jesus, and we have the strength to carry it out in a difficult world through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are all unified in the Holy Spirit, seeking one truth, and seeking to be close to one God. If we are doing God’s work, we are not sowing division, but we are teaching those in our church and those in our family to love one another despite our differences. We can agree to disagree on some things, but the greatest commandment, after all, is to love one another. We love by not turning a blind eye. We love by including our neighbors who are different than us. We love by wanting the best for our neighbor as we would for ourselves. The power of the Spirit gives you the power to stand up and be on God’s side; we do not find our salvation anywhere else. We are united under one God. We may not see where we are going, but we know that we are going with God. We trust that God will see us through, and we give our seeds over to God, studying the word, praying, and building up one another. This is the journey that we are on. This is the journey to which we are called. As we end this sermon series on gaining confidence in the Spirit in the early stages of Pentecost, do you feel confident in the power that has been given to you? Do you feel ready to lean on God above all else, no matter what the world might do to you? Do you feel confident that God has built you for this moment? This is where we build one another up in Christ; we help each other not to falter. We help each other to grow.
After Saul died, David was grieving for him and for his son Jonathan, with whom he had become close. He lamented, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love was so wonderful, passing the love of women” (quite high praise for a young man!) “How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” (2 Samuel 1:27). He did not want to witness the joy of their enemies, and ordered the people not to tell of Saul dying in those enemy territories, but among Israel, there was mourning. As David mourned and lamented, he is said to have written many of the psalms that are attributed to him. He wrote in Psalm 18, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2). Last week, if you took one of David’s stones to slay your Goliath with the help of God, look on it again to help remind you of God when you need God’s help to get through your grieving, and any trials in your life. The Lord will always be your Rock, never failing in times of trouble. In Psalm 34, he wrote, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). There is always hope wherever you are on life’s journey, and no matter what moment that God finds you in. Paul reassures us of the same hope as he wrote to the Corinthians: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Paul encouraged the church, now that they had a grown faith (the seed had blossomed), it was their responsibility to spread that faith onto another (2 Cor. 8:7). Furthermore, he said this not as a command, but as a test of “the genuineness of love against the earnestness of others” (2 Cor. 8:8). Maybe it is enough for us right now to focus on experiencing God’s love and faith for us in a difficult time. We will each fall into the time when we do not feel the love of God again. But when we seek God, persevering in our faith to find God in these difficult moments again, we will find God, for those who seek God diligently will find God (Proverbs 8:17). Are you confident that you can always find God?
If not, lean on others around you. That is what a Christian community is here for. We help each other grow; we help each other draw closer to God. We participate in Bible Studies, worship, calling each other during the week, reading books together, and going out to enjoy the simplicities of life and of creation together. The church needs you because you have a gift. You need the church because you cannot grow much as a Christian by yourself. Trying to grow closer to God by yourself is like a fish swimming by itself in the open ocean. The school of fish protect each other.
But if you are confident that you can always find God, praise God. You are in a place that many of us dream of reaching. You are able to experience the peace of God – maybe not 24/7, because we all get stressed by this world, but maybe 22/7. It is now your responsibility, as a member of this Christian community, to help others around you to grow. This is one reason why the Israelites mourned openly.
The author of Hebrews asks us to persevere, asking us to “approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). We are called to hold fast to our hope, not to waver, for we know that Jesus has made a faithful promise to us. We have the Advocate with us, who helps us in this difficult world. Together, we “provoke one another to love and good deeds” for it is difficult to find the strength to do this on our own (Hebrews 10:24). And we are reminded of the importance of being together in church, not just to provoke one another, but to encourage one another. We can do more when we are together. We are more likely to be discouraged from action when we keep alone. If Jesus knew that being in the world was difficult, and prayed for us to be strong while we were here, we must know that we cannot tackle it by ourselves. We need each other. We help each other to lean on God in our greatest trials as well as our joys. Our strength is never as strong as our pride, and our tears are never as weak as our envy.
Why do we join a church? We love together, we learn together, and we serve together. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). Jesus also told us, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). A vine by itself shrivels and dies. But together, we grow and flourish. Our seed grows into a large vine, and each supports the other. In our next series, we will talk about this vine, now that our seeds have been growing. We will talk about what we experience together as the church. We will talk about why we are here. What we do know today is that we are confident Christians because the Lord is on our side. We are confident Christians because God has forgiven us. And we are confident Christians because we have a strong support group. Do not fear. Do not laugh. Only believe. All things are possible with God; even a rising from dry bones, and a little girl waking from slumber. Thanks be to God. Amen.
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
1:1 After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.
1:17 David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan.
1:18 (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said:
1:19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen!
1:20 Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.
1:21 You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor bounteous fields! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.
1:22 From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, nor the sword of Saul return empty.
1:23 Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
1:24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
1:25 How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
1:26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
1:27 How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
5:21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea.
5:22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet
5:23 and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”
5:24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.
5:25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.
5:26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.
5:27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,
5:28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”
5:29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
5:30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”
5:31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'”
5:32 He looked all around to see who had done it.
5:33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.
5:34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
5:35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?”
5:36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
5:37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
5:38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
5:39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.”
5:40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.
5:41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”
5:42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement.
5:43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.