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In my church is where God’s blessing is

October 28, 2012

21st Sunday after Holy Trinity—“The spiritual armor”

“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile”.

Jeremiah 29:10-14

There was a 100 year old church member who was having his birthday celebration at his church, which he had faithfully attended since he was a young man. At his birthday celebration, after everyone had cake, ice cream, gave him cards and gifts in the fellowship hall, the entire group of family and friends, numbering over 100 people, were asked to come to the church sanctuary. His great grandson, a young man in his early thirties, had him come to the pulpit. Before most of the church congregation, he was asked the question, in a loud voice, “Great Grandpa, we all know that you can bearly hear and you cannot see, so tell us, why do you still go to church every Sunday?” The 100 year old, faithful Christian, answered, “Because I love Jesus with all my heart, He commanded me to be here and I just want to show everybody whose side I’m on.”

We are gathered here today to celebrate this service and the topic for this sunday is: “how to use the weapons or tools that God gives us to face reality.” Our reality, and of course, it is also pertains to the reality of the Christian congregation where we gather.

If we feel that we belong to God, then we also need to feel that we belong to a specific and visible community. We call our community the Pilgrim Church. This is our home. It is impossible to say that one is a Christian without belonging to a community of Christians too. That’s why the Lord tells us: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”. He does not say where you alone are just there, I’m there. He promises to be with each of us, but especially and first and foremost if you live in a community of faith.

If you live in a community or congregation, God promises to help us, visit us, assist us and bless us. This blessing, God’s favor, cannot reach the individual directly. It must first pass through the congregation to get to the person.

And this, dear brothers and sisters, is the core of the message for today: Are you seeking God with all your heart? The first place to go to find God is the church. The communion of saints gathers to hear what God has to say. And the word of God wants to be comforting. For me, this is an encouraging message, knowing that God would fulfill his promises, the promises made to us. God says: “I will come to you and fulfill my good promise.” God is speaking to his people, the people of Israel, but he is also talking to us here today, because we are his people and we are also sheep of his fold.

I heard a comment on TV that said, “People no longer keep promises today.” Maybe, maybe many people do not anymore. This happens because they have lost what is called “the value of the word.” But God continues to fulfill His promises, and these promises begin to be fulfilled in His nation, or in other words, within His church. And, therefore, for all those who belong to his church. Do you want to feel a God who keeps his promises? Then simply come near to any of His churches, approach Your church.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” The world, or rather the media, are constantly bombarding us with news of unrest, disaster and calamities. But now, here we are hearing something revolutionary: God is speaking of wellness, abundance, happiness. We are talking about victories and joys. It is true that most of the things in the world do not work quite right. But I want to believe him, to be closer to God and his word rather than to merely hear the news that comes out of the square box in my living.

There are two very powerful words brought to us from the word of God today: future and hope. Many people are still living in the past. There are many churches that are still living in the past. And that’s not all bad. But it’s bad if you just live in the past and are always looking back and cannot visualize a victorious future like the one of which God is speaking to us today. There are many people who already have no hope because they have lost their faith or have given in to the negative aspects of reality. They have lost faith in God, have stopped reading the Bible and have stopped coming to church. And, although they may not realize it, they are no longer part of God’s people.

God has plans for a prosperous future for this church and for all those who accept to be counted as members of the church. God has plans of good things for all that are counted within His fold. But, as in all things, everything has its conditions.

God’s conditions, however, are not rigorous and soulless, like those of the world in which we live. God just wants us to call on Him, that we can contact him.

God wants us to worship Him. Sometimes I think we lose the sight of what it means to worship God. We often think that God asks specific tasks of us in the church or that we should do this or that or fulfill certain rituals or traditions, as if they were God’s complex magical formulas. But God only says. “I want you to come, to adore me, here, come as you are. I want to see you here more often.” That is what it is to worship God, to show our physical presence, to respect him and be obedient to him. That is what he means when he says, in the Fourth Commandment, ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ It is true; there are many other important things to do in our world and to work for God. But all this is good if so long as we do not forget the dimension of worshiping God, the invocation of God with our presence in the church. Humility is to show God that we are in the church simply because we want to be obedient.

If you did not know this yet, it is good that you know this now, because God might just be waiting for you to change this aspect of your life today.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Seeking God with all your heart is coming to church, the church that we have chosen to belong to in order to show God our obedience. Are there things that are not going as you wanted in your life? Why don’t you put God to the test in this, to see if he is a faithful God and really delivers on his promises in your life?

At the end, the text reads: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me.” After coming, then it’s the part of asking. Other versions of the Bible say ‘supplicate’ or ‘begging,’ instead of praying to him. According to the dictionary, praying means “to ask for something with humility and submission.” Humility happens when we choose to obey God and be part of the church, and submission means that we adopt the attitude that we are at the disposal of God and we trust his paternal care.

Many people find it difficult to come to church. I do not know why. I do not believe that there are many valid excuses why one does not attend church, especially when we do have the opportunity to attend and instead choose to go to other places on Sundays. Perhaps people find it hard to come to church, or they believe it is not so important, or because they may not know precisely that the solution to the problems that they are experiencing begins here in this place we call the communion of saints. On the other hand, others may not come to church because they simply do not want to believe in God and that’s understandable.

But, if on this day, it was the case that you did not know that God wants to fulfill His promises in your life, then I tell you: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” God wants to fulfill his promises to the church: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters in Christ, for the sake of you and the church, to seek God so that we may find Him and so that His promises can be fulfilled in our lives. Amen.

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