Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A late Pentecost: the heart of the Church-love for the sinner

Writing about Pentecost, Michael Adee speaks of being the Church of the heart. That could mean many things but, at the end of his article, using some negatives to show what it is not, he writes, “Imagine if we became a church of the heart, rather than the church of polity, doctrinal statements or litmus tests for correct belief and practice? As Presbyterians, we do not have to be like we have been for the last 218 years. We can learn to trust God, to trust God's work in each others' lives, to trust each other to work out our salvation, calls to ministry, discipleship and intimate lives.” (Bold authors)

But isn’t there a hardness of heart among us when we do not care for the sinner both bodily and spiritually? A hardened heart does not hear the word of God. A hardened heart does not melt before the holiness of God nor care for brothers or sisters who are walking too close to the worldly culture of our day.

Yes, a church of the heart will share; reaching out to the poor and needy, but there is something more. There is a complete picture of the early beginnings of the church of Acts.[1] “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

So these four things comprise a complete picture of those four areas important to the first Christians:

1. The apostle’s teaching
2. Fellowship
3. The Lord’s Supper but probably meals together also
4. Prayer

And the apostle’s teaching, which is doctrine, would have included this verse which undoubtedly was an ancient hymn of the Church:

“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:

He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations
Believed on in the world
Taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

And this, "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting, save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh." (Jude 20-23)

[1] With Calvin we must agree that God’s Church is not limited to the New Testament it is also found in the Old Testament.


Dave Moody said...


Clay Allard said...

Mr. Adee's comments are the reason why I think we fear using love as our main discipline-- love must be defined as GOD'S love, not our own. God's love is holy and pure, focused on the other, while ours is focused on the self, and like all things human is not close to holy or pure. To love as God loves requires a radical transformation.
It is this "born-again" transformation of the self that Christ accomplishes through the power of the Holy Spirit that sets love as the great disciplining power.
We cannot make Mr. Adee shut up, or go away-- but if we love the God revealed in Jesus Christ with all our heart, mind, body, and strength, that God will not go away either-- and neither will His beloved.
So let us love Mr. Adee as Jesus Christ loves him, speaking the Truth we know has been revealed, not fearing what Mr. Adee can or cannot do-- confident in what the God of history shall do.

John McNeese said...

Sanctimony anyone? Are the Elder Larson and the Reverend Allard intoxicated? By their own piety? Possibly?

Viola, nice touch, the scriptures from Timothy and Jude along with the hymn and video! However, I’m leery of one quoting those passages from Timothy and Jude, for they are usually getting ready to point out someone else’s’ sin, the last refuge of the self-righteous?

“In spite of all this “ let us love Elder Larson and the Reverend Allard as Jesus Christ loves them, speaking the Truth we know has been revealed, not fearing what Elder Larson and the Reverend Allard can or cannot do-- confident in what the God of history shall do.”

John McNeese
Ponca city, OK

Clay Allard said...

That works for me, Reverend McNeese. Peace.

Clay Allard
Dallas, TX

John McNeese said...

Thank you. However, I’m just a lowly member of the laity. Peace.

John McNeese
Ponca City, OK

Viola Larson said...

All of us should love, care for, pray for and admonish each other as sinners yet those who Jesus Christ has claimed. But part of that prayer and admonition must include those who refuse to repent of their sin.

Pastor Bob said...

Sounds like Michael is on his way toward John Lennon's idea

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Bob Campbell
Sharon Hill, PA

Viola Larson said...

Bob, I have probably told this story before, after all I am getting old!

But once my husband wanted me to experience a tunnel under the Thames in London-it is close to what was the Docks area. I am sure it was the old antique gears of the elevator that took us down that fascinated him. But anyway-the tunnel goes all the way across and is lined in white tile. Very sterile. When we returned walking back-someone was sitting playing John Lennon's song. His singing and his guitar could be heard throughout the whole tunnel. The ambiance was just right. That sterile enclosed place fitted the song to a tea.

In some sense it reminded me of Sartre's No Exit.

There is no love in that kind of world; only egos. Like C.S. Lewis’s Great Divorce.

Anonymous said...

But part of that prayer and admonition must include those who refuse to repent of their sin.

So that prayer only includes other people? You have perfectly repented of every sin you've ever committed, Viola? Clay? Bob? John? Dave?

Viola Larson said...

Remember the movie "Dead man walking?" There were several levels of redemption in the movie. One was to the public that they have some understanding of what the death penalty was about. But there was a greater story happening. That was the story of a man locked into his guilt and without redemption because he not only would not repent, he would not, could not, admit his guilt. With that acknowledgement he found redemption. We are all like that. And even after being given redemption we still need to be open to the Holy Spirit's promptings that yes that is sin.

But being told by the word of God that something is sin and refusing to acknowledge it, that is like Dead man walking.

Please leave your name next time.