Ordinary Church: Front Row Seats

18 Then Jesus[a] told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”[b] 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

This is our last sermon on the book by Joseph Beach entitled “Ordinary Church: A Long and Loving Look”. Interesting enough this is not the final chapter in his book, it is the second to last because he ends the book with 10 theses that we have already discussed most of. It is basically a re-cap. I really liked this chapter and wanted to end with it because it puts the together a sort of framework where to go from here.

Beach writes, “Most of us get to stand up and talk for a half an hour every week while a room full of people listen politely to our every word (or at least try to appear so). I often wonder how many times a man or woman in the congregation, during or after a sermon, has a profound thought or question burning within them – which never gets expressed. Yet a preacher gets to share every single thought that enters his or her mind – however profound or inane. We often are treated with honor and respect – usually much more than we deserve. We are usually no more sacrificial or faithful than many dedicated brothers and sisters in our church – and often less so – but we are often treated with great respect. We are given extra time to study, to read, to attend conferences, to interact with other pastors and leaders, with renowned teachers, writers, and scholars – resulting in us being revered as the local “Bible Answer Man” (or woman). Sadly (I’m guilty of this one), we often repay this privilege by wondering why everyone doesn’t understand the Bible as well as we do! On top of all that, all of this extra study time comes after we were afforded, several years ago, the rare privilege of studying Scripture and theology with great teachers at a seminary. One of the best perks, though, is having a front row seat to many of life’s most important moments: birth, death, marriage, baptism, conversion, healing, reconciliation, and other such special and sacred moments. Pastors, of course, do far more than simply deal with birth, marriage, and death – or as they say, “hatch, match, and dispatch.” I must admit, however, that few other vocations allow us to experience that sacred moment of holding an infant in one’s arms and lifting them up to the Lord in a prayer of dedication or in an act of baptism. Few people have the privilege to be close enough to see the tears forming in the eyes of the bride as her groom repeats his vows or the almost imperceptible shaking of the groom’s hand as he attempts to hold the ring on her finger. Few others are there to see the wide-eyed wonder on the face of the baptismal candidate as she ascends out of the baptismal waters.”

I do feel truly blessed to do what I do as well. Having a front row seat to life’s greatest moments are truly amazing. The thing is though is that I should not be the one to have these moments we should have them together. We all have the ability to have front row seats. When we go to events we like to be close to the action. Seats on the floor or in the lower section is what we strive for. Being able to sit on the glass at a hockey game is amazing because it all happens right in our faces. Yet in church we fill the back rows which is indicative of how we view our role in church.

It is like in church we don’t want to get too close to the action for fear that we might get something on us. I know the parable where we are so supposed to sit in the back and not be too brass to expect to be in front. Yet Jesus tells another parable to us in our lesson today. He begins by saying, this is how we need to pray and never stop praying. He tells of the judge who was really pretty mean and didn’t care about anyone but himself. Yet a woman comes and asks for justice against her opponent. She comes over and over to the judge who finally throws up his hands and grants the justice because he does not want to be worn out by her anymore.

Then Jesus says how much more does want to do for you than the judge did for the woman because God does not get worn out.” And yet, when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” (v.8) The Son of Man will not find faith if we keep sitting in the back row. If we continue to be passive in our commitment to God and to the church then we are not living our lives in a way that we are called to do so. Seeking justice for our friends and neighbors is what we are called to do. There is a fine line between what the preacher is supposed to get done and what the rest are to get done. It all cannot be hired out. It takes sweat equity to be a part of a congregation and to be involved. It takes getting our hands a little dirty and seeking to serve alongside each other. These are the things that make and ordinary church extra-ordinary. We can all make our churches extra-ordinary.

Craft fair and hanging the Greens

Serving as an elder or deacon?

Helping with mission or Sunday school?

Financial commitments? Being good stewards of what we have?

Supporting one another in the life of their events in FM and Brush

Creating space to allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives is how we move to the front row. Coming to church is a part of being a Christian but what do we do with the coming to church the rest of the week? There are 168 hours in a week, what are we doing with the other 167 hours? If we sleep for 8 hours a day that knocks off another 56. We are down to 111. If you eat for an hour at each meal that knocks of another 21 we’re down to 90 hours. If you have a job for eight hours a day that’s another 56 we are down to 34 hours. We have 34 hours left to decide what to do with? Some of that is taking care of kids and playing with grand kids. Some is recreation and some is just life’s happenings. Yet, can we find a little extra to share in our church?

Are we like the widow who is seeking justice and wearing the judge out or are we sitting in the back row allowing social media and TV to take up our 34 hours? For years churches have had those who do and those who don’t and the institutions have survived. I imagine God will find a way to keep the church going as well. Yet God calls us over and over to be in the front row. Those who are doing are growing older and there are the younger ones who are busier and yet maybe can spare an hour or two a month. There is no prior instruction that is needed. God will and does provide by working together.

I truly feel like our church is an extra ordinary church. I am blessed to serve as the pastor. I love to serve with all of you and hope you feel the same. We have a calling to serve God. In the process of serving we get to experience the ups and the downs of the human condition. We get to serve one another. By serving we are the agents of God’s love. There is nothing better than seeing it all from the front row. Amen.

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