Why is it we have so much trouble with that word? Before 9:00 worship began yesterday, people in our Praise Chorus were fussing that Obedience was the sermon title. Our Tech Crew person running the PowerPoint decided to delete the word from the title slide (until I noticed and asked him to change it back!) I’m not a big fan of the word either and somehow managed to preach an entire sermon titled Obedience without using the actual word until the last paragraph.
The text for the sermon was not easy either. The story of Jesus turning the tables in the Temple. It’s a scene depicted throughout the centuries in paintings with images of angry, seemingly out of control Jesus with a whip of cords wreaking havoc among Temple worshippers. It’s seems out of character from our more gentle Jesus images. But it’s a story that’s told in all four gospels, so it warrants our attention.
What I saw this week in the telling of the story according to the gospel writer of John was this. Jesus was adamant in his message that it was no longer business as usual in the Temple. With Jesus’ coming, the Word was in him. The Word was flesh and dwelt among us. It was no longer required that we look to the Temple for God’s presence. Jesus said the community of Christ could be found anywhere where his believers were. Jesus said even where two or three were gathered, he was there in their midst. And when Jesus no longer walked among us, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in each of us. God is now who we are and where we are.
This means our Christian lives are not contained in or limited by our time spent in church. Church is not the ultimate place. Church is the training ground preparing us to go out to find those ultimate places. Being here at church is not our mission. Church is the way station where we find rest and nourishment before going back out to the mission field. Church is not the place where our vocations are lived out. Church is the vocational counseling center that helps us discern where and how and to what and for whom.
What does this have to do with obedience? About all the obedience we can manage sometimes is being here on a Sunday morning for an hour or two. We’re not breaking any of the commandments, and we do pretty well with loving our neighbor in the pew behind us. But to step that up a notch and take it out into the rest of our lives? Not sure we’re ready for that. Understandable. That’s alot of obedience!
But then, Jesus asks a lot of us. He who gave us everything including his life is a very demanding savior. He expects us to turn over our lives 24/7 to him.
Take me as I am, Lord
and summon out what I shall be
Obedient. Faithful. And working to be as fully Christian on a Monday afternoon as I am on a Sunday morning. This is our prayer.