Building with Burned Stones – Sermon Notes for March 5, 2017

March 4, 2017 1:16 pm

Building with Burned Stones
Nehemiah 4:1-3
March 5, 2017

Background and Review
Nehemiah revealing Jesus: coming to us in our disaster to restore and revive us (Leaving the throne room, coming to our ruins, rising after three days to build).
There is a Jesus-authored building project – the Church (Matthew 16). Peter tells us that you and I are ‘living stones being built together…’ (1 Peter 2)
Does this surrounded by his enemies
Restoration and Revival
Renewed life and faith together with mending and renewal of service

We are aware of the rising numbers who’ve given up on the Church. In some cases, they’ve given up on the Faith: “I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.” – Julian Barnes. In most cases, however, authentic faith in Jesus remains, but presence in his church is just too painful to contemplate anymore.

These people have been burned by the Church. They are burned stones. Let’s Consider the Causes and Cures of this syndrome.

I. The Causes of Burned Stones
Leadership…
That’s Abusive
Legalism…
That Displaces the Gospel
Elitism
“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Lying Culture…
that demands conformity

I admit that I’m at times a reluctant Christian, plagued by doubts and still recovering from bad church encounters. I’m fully aware of all the reasons not to believe. So then, why do I believe? In my own days of skepticism, I wanted a dramatic interruption from above. I wanted proof of an unseen reality, one that could somehow be verified. However, in my days of faith, such supernatural irruptions seem far less important, because I find the materialistic explanations of life inadequate to explain reality. I’ve learned to attend to fainter contacts between the seen and unseen worlds. I sense in romantic love something insufficiently explained by mere biochemical attraction. I sense in beauty and in nature marks of a genius creator for which the natural response is worship. I sense in desire, including sexual desire, marks of a holy yearning for connection. I sense in pain and suffering a terrible disruption that omnipotent love surely cannot abide forever. I sense in compassion, generosity, justice, and forgiveness a quality of grace that speaks to me of another world, especially when I visit places, like Russia, marred by their absence. I sense in Jesus a person who lived those qualities so consistently that the world couldn’t tolerate him and had to silence and dispose of him. I could go on and on. In short, I believe not so much because the invisible world impinges on this one but because the visible world hints, in the ways that move me most, at a lack of completion. – Philip Yancey

II. The Cure of Burned Stones
“The Church is a whore, but she is still my Mother.” – St Augustine

A. The Love of Friends
Relationships are the Grout of the Church
Being known, human, and loved
Listening
“Whatever it means to be a Christian, it at least involves the discovery of friends you did not know you had.” – Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir

B. The Love of Saints
Think you’ve been burned? History!
The Grace of the Ordinary

C. The Love of God
Discovering his commitment to you and to his Church

I began with some episodes and quotes from Peter. Well, Peter knew what he was talking about, and was himself a burned stone: “When you are recovered, strengthen your brothers.” – Jesus, to Peter

Jesus has prayed for you too. If you’ve been burned, welcome to the club. Here’s the good news: Jesus loves burned stones and is building them into his beautiful, amazing city.

You see, Jesus himself is a burned stone. Do you feel rejected and tossed aside by the Church and its sinful failures? Listen to how the Apostles and Prophets spoke of Jesus – “The stone the builders rejected has become the Chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.” The despised and rejected One, the One hated by the institution and who turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple, this One washed the feet of failures and died to turn a harlot into his Bride. He’s promised to build his Church – and that includes joining you to himself and his people. That union is what is strengthened at this Table today. So let us come, both burned and blessed, and be built together into the City of God.

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