The sermon from March 3rd, 2013 comes on the heels of Presbytery Meeting for Mission Presbytery. It was wonderful to hear of all the incredible ministries that are going on in this community. The text for that Sunday’s sermon is Isaiah 55:1-9. Have a great week!
Come and See
Larry Coulter, the pastor of Shepherd of the Hills Church, gave the sermon this past Friday for the worship service that begins the Presbytery meeting. And he talked about how Christ invites us into increasing levels of discipleship. He explained this in terms of four calls that Jesus gives in the Gospels. And his first step, this first call, of Christ, comes from the book of John.
Jesus says, “Come and See.” These are literally the first words that come out of Jesus’ mouth in the Gospel of John: “Come and See.” The context is this, John the Baptist is with a couple of disciples, and when Jesus passes by, he says, “Look, the Lamb of God.” And these two disciples are curious, and they ask Jesus where he’s staying, and he says, “Come and See.” That’s it. That’s the first step to discipleship. And Larry told us, the elders, that a lot of times we skip that step in the church. Someone shows interest in the church, and the moment they walk through the door you can see the committee memberships flash in our eyes. We don’t give any room to people who are at that stage of their commitment. The moment they walk in the door we want to know, “Can you help out with the Sunday School, would you like to be on session?” But Jesus just begins with come and see.
And you know what, I read a little further in the gospel of John, and the next day, Philip goes to Nathanael and tells him about Jesus and he expresses a little bit of healthy skepticism: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asks. And what does Philip say? Come and See. The first step to becoming a disciple of Christ, is to come and see.
Now what happens when we come and see? When we come and see, we find what we need. Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture said, out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).
Now I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that now is a particularly thirsty time. Our lives are incredibly stressful, every day we wake up with a list of things to do and at the day’s end it feels like we’ve only made it longer. We are overworked, underpaid, and almost universally underappreciated. Every day we hear about another tragedy, another story that breaks our hearts. We’re thirsty for some good news, something that replenishes us, that proclaims that we can be something greater than what we are alone, that gives us hope for the future.
We need living water so badly, and for a lot of folks, we’re so far gone that we don’t even know what we’re looking for anymore. There are whole industries that promise us fulfillment, but leave us dry. Americans spend billions of dollars a year trying to fill that vacuum in our lives. Advertisers bait their hooks with promises, if you buy this you won’t have to worry as much, if you buy this people will respect you, if you buy this you will feel like you did when you were younger (even though chances are you spent your whole youth waiting to be older). And we bite every single time. Isaiah talks about this: “Why do you spend your money on that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
The first, is that living water, at the time of Jesus, actually had a very specific meaning at that time. Living water was necessary for a type of ritual purification, bathing and washing were very important parts of Jewish faith at the time of Jesus. And living water referred to water that came from a well or that came from an underground spring, as opposed to rainwater, which of course, is unpredictable. So living water came from a source that would not run dry.
The other thing that I want to tell you is that the word for living water, in the Hebrew its mikveh, has the same root, as the word for hope. So Jeremiah talks about living waters this way: He says, “O Hope of Israel,” (O Mikveh of Israel), all who forsake you will be put to shame…for they have forsaken the fountain of living water (of mikveh), the Lord.” In other words, the living waters, which we have been promised, will never run dry. And the source of living waters is the source of all hope.
What we need is that hope that does not run dry. It’s good news. It’s resurrection. And at Presbytery meeting, we were invited to come and see what Mission Presbytery is doing, what we are doing, and I can tell you that as dry and as parched as it can seem here in the church sometimes, . There is a lot of good news in our church, where people and communities are engaged in the life-giving ministry of Jesus Christ. I know its Lent, and in Lent our minds are supposed to be on the ashes, but I guess what I’m saying is that there are things that are springing up from the ashes. In some cases, literally.
Y’all remember the wildfires down in the Bastrop area a year and a half or so ago? Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been down there, and one of the special things about Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is that we don’t just rush in and then leave, we set up and we work to rebuild for the long haul. Volunteer groups have been coming in from all over the country to help out. The first groups, all they could do was clear away the ashes, but now where there were once ashes there are now new homes that they’ve built, but they still have a long way to go. You’ll see in your insert about the One Great Hour of Sharing offering, which we collect on Palm Sunday in a few weeks, what work the Presbyterian Church has been doing there, through that offering. Mention Randall and how we’re going to go down there.
Another thing that people in our Presbytery are engaged in is mission work in the Congo. You know, in 1891, a couple of Presbyterian missionaries went to the Congo and founded a bunch of hospitals there. Recently a group from Northwoods Presbyterian Church (a few of you may remember that place from my final examination on the floor of Presbytery) went down there and visited one of those communities, and discovered that this Presbyterian hospital did not have any mattresses for their beds. After an ebola outbreak a few years ago they had to burn all the mattresses, and now the beds are just springs, sometimes with a board on top. Can you imagine? And so the got together with some churches and other organizations and raised money, and gathered supplies and this last year they delivered 375 mattresses to several different hospitals and orphanages across the country.
And this isn’t the half of it. The First Presbyterian Church of Robstown, down near Corpus Christi. Do y’all know about Robstown? I didn’t. They said it was the heroin capital of Texas. Well, that First Presbyterian Church, they were an aging congregation, and they were dealing with changing demographics in their neighborhood, they had a whole upstairs that they didn’t even use. And their pastor, who was working with people in recovery from addiction in treatment centers and in the prison, realized that when they get out people were falling back into drug addiction because they didn’t have a place where they could live and get support and community. So they opened up that upstairs and they started housing people. And then they went ahead and converted some rooms in the downstairs, too. And then the pastor opened up her manse, and a couple of people stay there. You talk about a church resurrection, they were struggling with becoming increasingly irrelevant to their community, and they completely turned themselves around. And now, they facilitate resurrection every single day, as they help people who have fallen apart put themselves back together.
What I’m trying to tell you with these stories, is that God is doing incredible things through the church. The resurrected Christ is alive and well in Mission Presbytery, and his body stretches from here to the border, and all the way from Korea to the Congo. And what he provides, is that living water. That hope that does not run dry. Resurrection. You just have to come and see.
Hey, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. You that have no money, come, buy and eat. Why spend your money for that which is not bread, and your work for what doesn’t satisfy? For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Resurrection is happening all over this place. We just have to come and see.