Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Equipment Room

My daughter Naomi, a junior at Bethel University, made my day yesterday! She said she used last week's order of worship that I posted here with her "RA staff" and asked if I could share tonight's too. I'm sure she'll be disappointed, because there's not as much to it as on Ash Wednesday. You can download the pdf here.

In Lent this year we're having laypeople share "What the Cross Means to Me." It's our hope and prayer that those who worship tonight would see how "ordinary people" can "tell the love of Jesus, and say he died for all" (see the song There Is a Balm in Gilead). If we get permission, and if the technology works well, we might be able to share these testimonies on line. See "Touched By God's Grace" for that.

I am always encouraged when non-church-employees share their faith. As a pastor, I do have a role tonight--but it's mostly in the background. For the past few weeks I've been praying, encouraging and guiding these front-line Christians as they considered the opportunity, started to prepare, and as they are now in their last hour before they speak.

My hope is that we'll find out it's good to be bold with our faith and that we'll discover that the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus works through many--not just pastors. It's a risk, but that's not something I'm usually afraid of.

One of our laypeople will share an anecdote from The Hammer of God, a book by Bo Giertz. He called me this morning and told me about it. It's about how Christians sometimes struggle against sin, but ends up discovering "the sinful corruption of our human nature." Comparing battling sin with "clearing stones" from the heart's field, Pastor Giertz says:
"...One day, when a man is battling sin and trying to clear the stones from the heart's field, sweating at the task yet hoping finally to get ride of the last ones so that he may really see the garden grow, his spade strikes solid rock. He digs and scrapes on every side; he tries again and again to budge the rock. Then the terrible realization dawns: It is stony ground through and through. ...He has laid bare a ledge of granite... the sinful depravity that remains even after a man has separated himself from all his conscious sins. It is this stony ground that explains why a man is just as great a sinner before God after he has offered God the best he is able to give of obedience and commitment."
The pastor's role is to help people remember that we never "make it" with God, that we are always in need of God's grace. As I put together tonight's worship, I hymns that swing the emphasis to the Cross of Jesus instead of our own righteousness. As it says in the old hymn "Beneath the Cross of Jesus," which ends tonight's worship:
Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.
Yes, Jesus did rise from the dead, and yes he does bless us and help us grow in faith, hope and love, but we never outgrow our need to humble ourselves at the cross.

Time to get ready for worship! Time to get out of the Equipment Room (my office) and out among the people. We'll have supper together and then worship. I hope you worship regularly all year long, and in this Lenten season, wherever you are.

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