Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Exodus 3:1-6; 21 September 2014

Scriptures for this week: Exodus 3:1-6

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 and CEB

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 577 – God of Grace and God of Glory

TFWS 2071 – Jesus, Name Above All Names

UMH 436  -The Voice of God is Calling

                      (Use melody UMH 303)

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Our personal commitment to God is what keeps us connected to each other. God is the common denominator in our relationship to each other. Our commitment to God is what translates into action: our common Christian mission, evangelism and outreach. Our commitment to God is what translates into what we believe to be right, true and beautiful. Our commitment to God translates into how we work together with our neighbors. Our commitment to God translates into our willingness to step out and try something that we’ve never done before. Our understanding of and our commitment to God translates into our interactions with the world around us, i.e. making disciples, volunteering, voting, recycling, what we do and do not do. That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, I would like to take time today to talk about the physical space that we worship in.

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Moses, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). The way I understand this verse is, “Moses, you are standing on holy ground; something special is happening; humble yourself and prepare to receive a message from the Lord your God…”

We tend to use certain words and phrases without thinking. These words and phrases roll off our tongues with ease and their sounds reverberate in the space around us. They become platitudes and lose their meaning.

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I think that the phrase “holy ground” is one such phrase. You have heard me use it in sermons and in conversations many times. The phrase “holy ground” is found twice in the Bible:  

  1. In the Hebrew Scriptures (Exodus 3:5) when God commanded Moses to remove his shoes.

  2. In the Early Christian Writings (Acts 7:33) in the testimony that Stephen gave before being stoned to death by the Sanhedrin.

How do we explain what “holy ground” is? What makes a place “holy ground?” How do we know when we are on “holy ground?”

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{Illustration from personal practice of ministry: Hospital Room / Brimstone Hill}

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In both cases I knew that I was standing on holy ground and something meaningful and important was happening. It was not the physical location or place; what made it meaningful and important was the presence of God at that time and in that place.

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What makes our physical churches holy ground TO US:

  1. At some point of time in the past this space was consecrated to God’s service,

  2. As we worshipped in this space we felt God’s touch and presence.

  3. That presence of God inspired us and challenged us to do something that we ordinarily would not do. Jesus’ life gave us an example of what it means to live abundant lives and we espoused that understanding as our own. The Holy Spirit challenges us to become the best versions of what God created us to be, and we strive to do that.

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I am talking about our relationships, shared memories, traditions, common values, shared ministry and understanding of what is right, true and beautiful.

That is what makes this space “holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). That is what makes this space special, that is why we come together for worship, that is why we roll up our sleeves in mission and outreach, that is why we continue our legacy of Christian presence in this corner of God’s Creation.

Notice, I did not say anything about the physical facilities. I did not say anything about our stained glass windows (which are magnificent by any stretch of imagination), or our carpet, or our fellowship hall, or our sound system, or our organ. All of these things are important, but they are not what make this place holy ground.

These physical objects are important because they help us to remember our immediate history. These objects are sacramental in their nature because they remind us how God moved among Christians who worshipped here in the past and we are here today because of how God was active among them yesterday. These objects also challenge us to think about the future of this church. They are given to us in trust and with a lot of prayer by Christians who worshipped here before us.

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In Hebrew 12:1-3 Paul writes:

12: 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Our building, our carpet, our fellowship hall, our stained glass windows are outward, visible and tangible signs of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) that worshiped in this space before us.

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God’s presence is among us wherever we are. As a community we worship God within these walls. How our building looks sends a message. When our building is taken care of, when it is neat and in good repair, the message is, “God is with us and we care and we are active service God by serving the world around us.” Part of our commitment to God’s mission to make disciples for the transformation of the world is to take care of our physical facilities, to create an inviting and welcoming space where God’s presence is self-evident.

{Illustration from the personal practice of ministry/Conclusion}

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