Gathering Preparation 03.13.16

Brothers and Sisters, 

Last week, for the third time in two years, my Father lost his job unexpectedly. The shock and devastation felt by my family has been unimaginable. I am certain that every sort of emotion, from fear, to anger, to despair has been felt. I find myself also filled with sorrow for them, questioning how such a thing could happen, filled with anger at the situations that the circumstances of life have piled on my father, mother, and brother. 

In what can only be called grief, I am so tempted to angrily accuse God of once again stripping them of their security. But when I turn to the Scriptures I am reminded that they have not been stripped of their security: feast or fallow, joy or sorrow, work or no work: the security of my family is in God and nowhere else. 

Hebrews 11 tells the history of God's people in a few short verses. Each starting with the phrase "By Faith...". 

By Faith Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice
By Faith Enoch walked with God
By Faith Noah and his household were saved
By Faith Abraham went
By Faith Sarah conceived
By Faith Gideon, Samson, David, and Samuel Conquered Kingdoms and Upheld Justice

At first it seems that their faith brought joy, that in their faith they were able to accomplish great and powerful things. But the story is not only full of good things, these journeys of Faith were fraught with peril and death.

It might also say:

By Faith Abel was murdered for his worship
By Faith Abraham prepared to sacrifice his only son
By Faith Sarah trusted God when her own husband gave her over to be a concubine
By Faith Sampson died blind and enslaved
and so on...

In fact Hebrews even says:

"Others suffered mocking and flogging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawn in two. They were killed with the sword. They went about in the skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated - of whom the world was not worthy - wandering about in deserts and mountains and in the dens and caves of the earth" - Hebrews 11:36-38

And in all of that God's followers still did not see the promised inheritance until their deaths. 

The faithful life of a Christian brings no promise of comfort and earthly security. But it does bring the promise of eternal joy and security. Hebrews doesn't end there, it continues: 

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus: the founder and protector of our faith."  - Hebrews 12:1-2a

We gather this week as people who have been called to God's promised inheritance. Many of us may be in a place of happiness and goodness, but others may be in a place of sorrow and weeping. Thankfully, we can gather unanimously with Joy and Hope as we look to Christ who has shared in our sufferings and who guards our faith: To sing His praises and to hear the word of truth. 

To prepare for our Sunday Gathering, please read this weeks sermon text: Ezra 6:13-22, think deeply about our liturgies which will be taken from Hebrews 11:8, 13 & 12:1-2, and finally spend some time listening to the following songs: 

Come People of the Risen King
Come Ye Sinners
Absent From Flesh
Satisfied in You
Shine Into Our Night
Man of Sorrows

- Alex