Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bad Day To Be A Chicken, by Pastor Ed Evans

Scripture:  Psalm 51:1-12
51:1  Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
51:2  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
51:3  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
51:4  Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
51:5  Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
51:6  You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
51:7  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
51:8  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
51:9  Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
51:10  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
51:11  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
51:12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

          In 1968, the Sunday after Martin Luther King was assassinated, Pastor Joe McKeever writes in his blog at that he changed his sermon and preached to the congregation at Greenville, Mississippi’s Emmanuel Baptist Church about what our country was going through. In the middle of the message, a lady got up and walked out. He writes that she phoned him that afternoon to let me know she had.
          “What are you going to be preaching on in tonight’s service?” she asked.
          He told her, then asked, ”May I ask why you wanted to know?”
          That’s when she told him she had walked out that morning, saying, “We come to church for some peace and quiet. We get enough of the world situation on the news, and don’t need to hear about it from the pulpit.”
          Pastor McKeever goes on to point out in his blog, entitled "What the Church Forgot," that too often Churches overlook movements and trends they do not understand and cannot appreciate.  And the two-fold solution to that happening is, first, preach the whole word of God, and second, preachers should stay alert to the world around them.
          Pastors already have the first charge from 2nd Timothy 4:1-2, "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” 
          And the second point just seems common sense; make the message timely.  Following the attack of September 11, 2001, or after Hurricane Katrina, who would not have preached about what the people of God were facing?  Hardly the time to preach on the sins of gossiping or how to feel better about yourself.
          But there is such a thing as getting so caught up in the crafting of your message that you miss the point.
          The story is told of the pastor who just couldn't seem to come up with that last illustration to finalize his sermon.  His wife suggested they take a drive in the country to clear his mind, so they did.  Out in the country they came upon a family's house on fire, with neighbors forming a bucket brigade, everyone working together to put out the fire, and off the side the grieving family being comforted in their loss.
          "That's it," he said, and rushed home to put the finishing touches on that sermon.
          But that Sunday, after the sermon, as he and his wife drove home, the Pastor allowed as how he really thought that illustration would have been received better, about everyone working together for the good of that family in need, describing the bucket brigade and all.  But it just didn't seem to work, he said, the congregation just sat there and looked at me.
          His wife smiled at him, and said, "Well, dear, you forgot to tell them the house was on fire."
          All across the nation this past Wednesday, you would have thought something was on fire.  Millions of people crowded into 1,600 fast food chicken restaurants in such numbers that the lines to get in wound around the buildings and the drive-through lines stopped traffic on nearby streets.
          Now, there has been a great deal of heat and smoke about this issue, so let me begin by adding some facts.  First of all, this was mainly a news media-generated event.  You see, a Baptist newspaper, the "Baptist Press" interviewed the CEO of Chick-Fil-A, and they asked him about the claim that his business is operated on traditional Christian values.  He said it was his opinion that we are "inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than You as to what constitutes a marriage."
          CNN TV news then picked that up and misquoted the CEO, claiming he had come out against same-sex marriage.  Is he against it?  He does not support it.  However, he had not just out of the blue decided to attack everyone who is for same-sex marriage.  But you see, the news media in America today seems to have this mindset that conflict sells, so they seem to approach every story with "let's you and him fight."  Then they have news.
          The extremist supporters of same-sex marriage reacted to this in the very way I believe the news media thought they would, and demanded a nationwide boycott of the restaurants.  More news to sell!
          Now understand, there are homosexual people working at these restaurants, because Chick-Fil-A neither discriminates in its hiring of people nor its serving of people.  But the boycott was on.
          Former Presidential candidate and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee then used his TV show to set last Wednesday as Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, and encouraged people of Christian values to take part in a "buycott" on that day, giving the restaurant their business.  And they did, in a big way.  Chick-Fil-A has not released sales figures for that day, saying only that "it was an unprecedented day."
          Five other nationally known companies have now stepped up to say they stand with Chick-Fil-A's traditional family approach.  In North and South Carolina, 75 Wendy's hamburger places posted signs outside saying, "We stand with Chick-Fil-A."
          In the meantime, Chick-Fil-A has issued a statement saying, "Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."  The same-sex organizers however, have vowed the battle isn't over and they claim to be organizing "kiss-ins" at the restaurants.  Other same-sex organizations have refused to participate, calling it a "shallow way" to voice opposition.
          So before I lose my connection to the illustration, let me assure you, the house is on fire.  I say that because sometimes we get so caught up in trying to interpret scripture and what it means to us today, and what the activities of this age mean to us, that we are like the preacher talking about the beauty of the bucket brigade and the depth of emotion of the grieving family -- and we forget to mention, the house is on fire.
          You see, there is a great effort to say this is more about the issue of free speech, and I agree to the extent both the CEO and those who disagree with him have the right to say their piece.  But in this case, the house really is on fire.  I don't want to be like those who fill us with cute stories that tug at our heart in order to motivate people to do all the right things, but without telling them the house is on fire.
          It's in Romans 1:18-32 that we find a wide range of the sins of mankind detailed -- sinful desires of their hearts, sexual impurity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, shameful lusts, gossipers,  slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, boastful, and more. 
          But it is in 1st Corinthians 6:9-11 that scripture is very specific about whom we will not see in heaven: "Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God."  And make no mistake, by "house on fire" I mean hellfire.  At the end of life we have only two choices, heaven with God or hellfire with the Father of Lies.
          Some make the argument, "Oh, that's too harsh!"  I agree.  Harsh.  But your argument is not with me, it is with the Creator of us all, the Living God, who has said time and again He will not put up with unrighteousness.  Our only hope is to put on the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  And He wants us to do that.
          And many will say, oh yes, they know all about Jesus Christ.  But there is much more than a semantic difference in knowing of Christ, and believing in Christ.  To make it more pointed, all we need do is look at the words of John 14:15, where Jesus says, "If you love me, you will do the things I say."  Almighty God has already had His say on this issue.  He does not change.  We can change, and we should.  He love us, but He will not change, for He is truth and He is righteousness.  Walk away from the house on fire.
          This past week was a bad day to be a chicken, or to be a supporter of same-sex marriage.  But it will always be a bad day for those who rebel against God.  There is so much more joy and fulfillment waiting for us, more than anything the flesh, which disappears, can offer.  Accept what Jesus Christ offers through His shed blood on the cross at Calvary -- His righteousness.  Accept the gift of life He offers. 
          Let us repent of our sins so that as the Psalmist says, God will hide His face from our sins, and blot out all our iniquities.  Let us pray with the Psalmist as in verses 10-12, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your holy spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit."  Amen.

Week of Worship
August 5, 2012

Invocation:  Almighty God, create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us, that amid the din and confusion of this noisy world we may always choose the more excellent way.  Through Christ.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 73

Daily Scripture Readings
Monday                Luke 10:38-42
Tuesday               Romans 8:18-25
Wednesday          2nd Corinthians 6:1-13
Thursday              Revelation 19:1-8
Friday                   Hebrews 10:19-39
Saturday               Colossians 3:5-17
Sunday                 2nd Samuel 15b-24; Ephesians 4:1-6; Psalm 34:11-22;
                             John 6:24-35 

Reflection: (silent and written)

Prayers for the church, for others, for yourself.

Hymn: "Dear Jesus, In Whose Life I See"

Benediction:  My Lord, today I will make a thousand choices, bit and small, consequential and trivial.  In the midst of all these decisions, help me to choose the one thing needed for a richer, more vital life in You.  Amen.

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