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Evan Earwicker: Ground Zero, Matthew 13:44

January 31, 2022

Audio Recording

Church History
Church History
Evan Earwicker: Ground Zero, Matthew 13:44
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from west side church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us, everybody. Welcome to west side church. I'm Evan. I'm one of your senior pastors and it really is a joy to be able to speak with you today. As we launched a new series called church history. And I know some of you are probably thinking what's next church, algebra church biology. Come on, man. This is going to be fun. I promise we're going to have a good time. I want to begin today's message though, with just a little exercise to see about some positive and negative associations with different words. Okay. So low pressure. But what I want us to do is respond to the words that I put up on the screen. They're going to be a random words. And if it is a positive association for you, I want a thumbs up and you don't have to show me this can be very discreet. Don't want to expose anybody's views on things, but thumbs up for positive. And then you can just do a closed fist, whether it's neutral or negative. Okay. All right, thumbs. Ready? Here we go. First word coffee,

01:04 Little soft ball. You know, just get things rolling. Airports. Yeah. Canada. Any Canadians in the room today. Okay. Is it a positive negative for you? Okay. All right. Good, good. You're here. So I didn't know, you know whether okay. Jesus. Okay. All right. How about this one? Christians. Oh, you hear that? Did you hear that? Okay. And here's the point? I've put these up here because we get to the end and for many it's the same response between Jesus and Christians, right? Thumbs up. Let's go. Let's do this. Maybe for some of you it's thumbs down on both, but for, I think a large portion of us, it's a difference between the reaction we see when we say the name of Jesus, versus when we say the name of Christians, that somehow there has been, especially culturally a divergence in how Jesus is viewed and how we as Christians are viewed.

02:04 And I can't say that it's not undeserved all the time. You know what I'm saying? Like if every Christian perfectly modeled the compassion and the love of God, like Jesus did, we would deserve to have that same reputation of mercy and love that Jesus enjoys, but that's not always the case, is it? And so when we look out at, I think the state of culture and how they view Christians and churches, we have some problems, but these aren't new problems. If you go all the way back to the beginning of the church, the foundation of what we do today in this tradition, you'll find that Christians were actually labeled Christians before we took on the label. As people who follow Jesus, it was used as an insult or a slur towards the followers of Jesus. And so maybe not so different from today when, when many would view Christians in a really negative light, and I've had these conversations, and maybe you have to, especially with millennials, this idea that I love Jesus, but I really, really don't want to be labeled as Christians.

03:12 And it's possible that what we have come to conclude is that the Christians that make the news and the Christians that we see in front of us are the whole story I grew up in the Unitarian church. And he Nazarenes former Nazarenes, maybe future Nazarenes after today, who knows. We'll see, I grew up the Nazarene church. And to be honest, that was my whole view of Christianity. You know, it was, it was potlucks and cakewalks, and I thought, this is, this is church. And only in my later years as an adult that I realized my goodness, the scope of the church is much larger than what I have personally experienced. I want to ask you this. Do you recognize this view? Anybody know what this is? Say it. If you know it, mirror pond Nearpod made famous by the chutes brewery. Of course, worldwide. This is mirror upon.

04:04 This is the view from Drake park on that hill, overlooking the water. It's what probably no more than a mile and a half away from where I'm standing right here today. And if you were new to band or you're just visiting and you go to Drake park and you see the little sign that says this is called mere ponds, you might think a that it's a pond. It's a fair assumption. What you might not know is that actually it's part of a river. This is the Deschutes river and several miles away up in the slopes of the cascades. A little Creek forms out of little lava lake. And it begins to run down the slope east slopes of the cascades and other streams and other rivers and creeks join that river until it gets to bend where it is the Deschutes river. And this is Euro flows through downtown Ben and they've, they've created, taken over some of the marshland and the swampy areas and created mirror pond.

05:00 And if you know the sides of this, it's actually becoming swamp land again and reclaiming kind of the original path of the river. In fact, in high school, a friend of mine, and I went down to Drake park to shoot a video for one of our classes. And we thought it'd be a good idea to jump into the river right about here. But we didn't know is that there's duck poop and sludge that goes back about right up to here. When you jump in. So families, little fun activity after church today, have your kids jump into mere pond and see what happens. They might not come out, but this is a river. And if you were to look at mere ponds, you might not notice that the water's moving. You might think that this is a closed body of water. You might think that it's getting stagnant in some places, but the thing is whether you could see it or not, that water is traveling north, and it's going to find its way eventually up through warm Springs and mattress.

05:58 And it's going to go up through mopping. And it's eventually at the mouth of that issue is going to enter into the Columbia, go under that bridge and Astoria and into the Pacific ocean. There's no changing the destination of this water, no matter what it looks like. And here's the thing about when we consider the future of the church, our hope is tied to what we can see in front of us. And sometimes what we see in front of us when it comes to what church and Christians are today is caused for us to lose hope. But what I want to do and what we want to do over the next few weeks is to look backwards, to understand the issues we face today are not the first time we face these issues and it all throughout history through the mess ups and screw ups and difficulties of the church and its history.

06:42 We find that the holy spirit is pushing along like a current under the water. And when we can't see things moving and we think things have gotten stale and stagnant and that we don't have a future. I want to tell you this, the holy spirit is on the move in such a way that our future is a tshirt. Our destination is secure if God is pushing us forward. So here's what this looks like. sometimes I think that we have this view that maybe the church, as we know it is, is primarily how Christianity works. And you know, the church didn't actually start when Billy Graham got us first Bible. I don't know if you knew that it didn't start. When the Mayflower landed and put down anchor, the church is an ancient river. And if you feel like we've lost our way, I have this great confidence that we're not in a place where we need to find it on our own.

07:41 That Jesus is with us. His story goes like this, that once upon a time, a father took his son into a city and near the city gates, there was a stone Mason cutting stones. The boy asked his father what the man was doing. And the father turned to his son and said, well, he's cutting stones. And just squares. The stone. Mason looked up from his work at the boy and he replied, no, I am building a cathedral. Jesus sat with his disciples and he turned to Peter. One of his disciples. He says, Peter, your name is going to be Peter from now, which means rock. And on this rock, I'm going to build my church and the gates of hell itself. Won't prevail against it. I Jesus. Today we thank you that we are sitting and standing and watching, even in remote places, we are watching, the gathering of followers of Jesus that has been happening in an unbroken chain that goes back thousands of years.

08:35 And today we stand with that great tradition and those practices as our history and the roots that go down deep. And so Jesus today, as we begin to look back and open the door on the history of where you've brought us, we pray that we would have a hope and a confidence stirred in where we're going in our future, because we know you're with us as you've been with us for centuries. Jesus, we love you. And I pray that you speak through me today, even in Jesus name, we pray. Amen. So here's what we're going to do. We're going to look through the entire timeline many times. I think we have here's us today and 2022 and here's Jesus, death and resurrection. And then there's the new Testament. And a lot of times this is just a big blank space because week after week, we come into church and we hear people preach about what happened in the church, in the new Testament.

09:25 And then we talk about today. But the thing is, there are a couple of thousand years and a couple thousand years worth of stories in between that where we can learn a lot. We can learn a lot of the warning signs that people had to go through. We can learn a lot of the things that happen when the church becomes corrupt. And when it gets too, too tied in with financial power and political power and all these things that turn us away from the mission that Jesus gave us. And so we want to fill in the blanks a little bit, both to find the warning signs and also to find the good stuff and learn from both of them. Where did all this begin? Well, it begins with Jesus, of course. And you know, the story, a young Jewish girl in a obscure corner of the Roman empire, in a town called Nazareth in Galilee, she becomes pregnant and her and her fiance, Joseph traveled to Bethlehem, their regional seat of government, where they need to be for a census.

10:26 The baby is born out, back behind an Inn, and this baby grows up back in his hometown of Nazareth. Following the trait of his father, Joseph, as a carpenter, when he becomes of age, he turns to teaching. He becomes a traveling teacher, a Jewish rabbi. He goes from town to town preaching. And I gotta be honest as I read through the teachings of Jesus and what he was preaching on and see what traveled from town to town, teaching and synagogues. If Jesus was our preacher here, if all of us that make up your speaking team, we were replaced by Jesus. You might get bored. I know that sounds blasphemous, but hear me out. He only had really one message. The kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of heaven. After a few months, you'd be like, okay, we get it. The kingdom of heaven, what else?

11:13 And Jesus' response would be, this is the whole enchilada friends, the kingdom of heaven that heaven would come to earth. That heaven has come to earth because Jesus is on the scene. This is Jesus' message over and over again. And so in one of these teachings, here's what Jesus said about this idea. This kingdom of heaven, heaven coming to earth, God's presence and his rule and his redemption happening here among us in Matthew 13, Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like treasure. It's buried in a field and a man finds it and he repairs it. And then in his joy, he goes and he sells everything he has. And he buys that field. He wants that treasure. And the question is, of course, if you're listening to Jesus, tell us farewell, why wouldn't he just buy the treasure? Because you don't get the treasure unless you buy the dirt that comes with it. The treasure is, is buried and hidden inside the dirt. And we will find this over and over again with Jesus that when it comes to Jesus' view of the kingdom of God and what he's doing buried treasure comes with a lot of dirt.

12:25 And when Jesus launches his church, he does. So knowing that the treasure that he sees, the beautiful things that the church will do, they also come with a lot of dirt and a lot of field. And I don't know about you, but when I look at my own life, I think man, God is doing a lot of good things in me. God is using me in some really beautiful ways, but you know what? There's a lot of dirt. There's a lot of dirt that comes along with it. And we might get discouraged if we look around at, at Christianity in our time, in our day, in this cultural moment, and we start to think, my goodness we've really missed the boat. If we could just get back to the early days of Christianity, how Jesus had intended it, we would find that everything was, was great.

13:10 No issues, no problems back before all this dirt came along. That's not the, that's not the case because from the very beginning, Jesus knows that buried treasure comes with a lot of dirt. Jesus goes on after his, his teaching and preaching and healing ministry, he ends up in Jerusalem. he storms into the temple and they're buying and selling. And they've turned that the house of prayer and worship of God into a place of commerce and trade. And it's so frustrates and enrages Jesus that he overturns tables. And he, he kicks the merchants out. And this act of aggression in the temple is, is so appalling to the religious leaders. This is the final straw that causes them to go after Jesus, arrest him, and crucify him on a Roman cross after he dies, he's buried. And the rumor has it that three days later, the tomb has been emptied and his followers are going around saying that he's been resurrected and that he's appeared to them.

14:15 this is really is the beginning of the church when Jesus walks out of the tube is the resurrected Jesus. That is the, the motivation and the current, if you will, that drives these ragtag group of followers of Jesus to give everything for this thing called the church, almost all of the followers of Jesus with a few exceptions would give their lives in service of Jesus and his church. but it's not without its issues. There's this guy named Saul. He starts out as a killer of Christians, has a miraculous encounter with Jesus, through a vision on the road to Damascus. And he becomes the very first missionary planting churches all over the empire, as he moves out, planting these churches, no sooner has he planted these churches that issues spring up inside of them and check out some of these, these issues that we find in the new Testament as Paul is writing letters to these churches to bring correction, there's racial tensions, who's in, who's out Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, a lot of issues there, conflict over circumcision, disagreements over who should be leading the churches fights over the legitimate legitimacy of government.

15:32 I can imagine those happening in church, but they do arguments over food, the rise of false teachers, sexual immorality, and of course, lawsuits between believers, all this is happening. And this is just in the first couple years.

15:49 I've heard this before that if we, if we could just do what the early church did, that would solve our problems, I'm thinking, well, yeah, if you enjoy lawsuits, like, do you want to Sue me? Is that what you're saying? You know, because from the very beginning, there's dirt with the gold folks. And so there's never a point in the history of the church where we haven't had both dirt and treasure. And why does this matter to us? It matters to us because depending on your viewpoint, you might think of church and church people and Christians as absolutely the worst thing around that, the effect that, that, that church and Christian people have on society is all bad. Or you might be on the other side of it and think that Christians are the only ones who have it. All right. And we are seeing in real time in culture today, when we have that binary view, either, either church and Christianity and our religious side and our religious thought, that's all right.

16:50 And that's the only thing that's right. That takes you to a dark place. But also when you think there is nothing good here, we find that we are actually stepping outside of what I believe is God's plan for redemption. And so what do we have here? It's the constant question of, is the church good? Or is the church bad? Well, I don't think the church is all bad, but I think the church has done some really bad things in history. I think the church has acted in evil ways and incorrupt ways and done some horrible murderous things that are shameful. I don't think the church is all good either, but I do see so many moments throughout history where in the face of persecution and great consequence, the church stood up and displayed the love and the compassion and the mercy of God to the world around them at great personal cost.

17:40 So as the church good, or is the church bad? I think that's actually the wrong question. And I want to propose a different question today. I want to propose this is this what Jesus had in mind is this what Jesus had in mind? Is this really what he thought would be the winning idea? Jesus, have you read about what Christians are doing? Jesus is this really the best you got from the beginning? Jesus knew what he was getting into. When he bought the church with his own blood, he knew he was getting a lot of fields with that treasure and he did it anyway. And that gives me a lot of hope for guys like me who are both treasure, but a lot of dirt that there is purpose and a destination that still is in front of us, even in the state that we're in.

18:34 And, Paul probably had this question too, is this, is this, is this how it's supposed to go? As he's writing his seventh letter of the week, talking to people about their sexual immorality and their just disputes about circumcision, like really is this what I want to spend my life doing? But then he writes this beautiful, passage to the church in Corinth who had so many issues, by the way, if you ever feel like we have issues today, just read first and second Corinthians, you be like, oh, okay. All right. And to the, to the Corinthians, Paul writes this, he says, we now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. And this makes it clear that our great power is from God, not ourselves. You're going to find out. As we walk through the pages of history of the church, all these incredible screw-ups being used by the hand of God to do incredible redemptive things on the earth.

19:34 a young writer was touring the monasteries of Greece in the early 20th century. And I read this story, that he spoke to an old monk that he found in one of these monasteries. And he said, father, do you still wrestle with the devil, the old priest side and replied not any longer. My child I've grown old. And he has grown old with me. He doesn't have the strength. I wrestle with God with God. The young man explained in astonishment and you hope to win. I hope to lose my child. The old man replied, my bones remain with me still and they continue to resist. See, there's a lot of dirt in the treasure, even for those who have grown old in their faith.

20:29 And as we look at ourselves and maybe some days we see more light than we see play jar, but some days we see a lot of clay and not a lot of light. We see a lot of fields and not a lot of treasure. We have this invitation from God to return back to the, to the place where we wrestle with him, not to win, but to lose and to say, I feel in my body, I feel in my actions, I feel in the way that I move. And I think, and I, I feel that resistance to you. Jesus. So I hope to lose. And you know, for the early disciples that I, I came across as, again and again, especially in the years, up to 300 a D before the church got involved in the empire, the church held fast, not to an intellectual following of Jesus.

21:24 Although they believe very specific things. Instead, the church held on to a very practice oriented faith that for them, it wasn't enough just to think the right things. They had to follow Jesus with their feet and their bodies and their practices. And so for the early church, following Jesus wasn't, was more than something. They believed it was something they did. And I think in, in our day and in how we practice our faith, sometimes we can err, on the side of intellectual is that we have this, this interaction with our faith, but it's, it's only head deep, but I want to tell you, you're not a brain on a stick. You're not thoughts only. And if you were a man, it would have been real easy for God to just send some good information to enlighten us. But instead he sent Jesus as a person and that person was broken open on a cross and his flesh and his blood was broken for us.

22:30 And so we find that this, this great tradition of the early church to follow Jesus in this very visceral, this very embodied, this very physical way of discipleship in Jesus. And if there's one takeaway from, from the early church that I want to communicate to you today, is that we have to follow Jesus with more than just our thoughts. It's important, what you believe, but it's in the dirt and the soil of real life in your habits and your practices that discipleship works itself out and you become a follower of Jesus. And so today as the band's going to come back up and we're going to, sing another song and I need a communion cup. If someone could grab one for me, they over there by the door and we're going to take communion together. And for those watching remotely and online, I, I really do want to encourage you.

23:25 I know we always encourage you. Today's is absolutely important that we participate. Thank you so much for you that we participate physically. because faith isn't just intellectual is something we do as if you're watching at home. find a piece of bread to cracker. If you have wine or juice in the house water, if you don't, but let's get something for those watching remotely today as well. we have new cops, these are great. The other ones took so long to open and it was so hard, the little foil on the old ones. And if you're standing on stage in front of hundreds of people, it's even harder to open it. And, and so these are very nice. the one thing I would say, though, you have to take the bread out first.

24:15 You'll find out why, if you want to, if you want to live on the edge, just try the other way. Is it Jesus said in Matthew 22, he said that we're to love the Lord, our God, with all of our heart, soul, and mind, but then Paul goes on and he goes further. And this is what Paul said. He said, therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters in view of God's mercy to offer your, what your bodies as a living sacrifice. And that causes me to pause because I'm, I'm thinking through the stories of these first followers of Jesus who heard Christ say, love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind. And then Paul said, and this is how you do it. You offer your bodies as living sacrifice. And I'm remembering those that loved Jesus so much, that they, that they would walk to their own deaths for him. You don't do that. If it's just up here in your head, if you just thinking the right thoughts and you have this real private internal thing with you and Jesus, that's one thing.

25:26 But when it involves your whole person and you're willing to walk to your own execution for the sake of this man, Jesus, that's something else entirely. And Paul himself would give his life and his body for Jesus. And he says, you have to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship. This is your true and proper worship. Why? Because you can't worship a God who became man, who became flesh and blood and whose body was broken, unless you enter in on the same terms. And the night that Jesus was betrayed, he sat with his disciples and they sat around a table, a real table, and there was loaves of bread, their real bread. And that bread was broken open. And it was prayed for by Jesus as was his custom his habit. And then it was passed out to disciples who took in that bread is Jesus told them this was his body, a sign of what he was about to do. And you know, if those disciples got into a time machine and showed up in our service today, they probably wouldn't recognize much about what we do. They wouldn't know how the coffee machines work out in the atrium. They probably see these screens and thinks some kind of witchcraft is going on in here.

26:55 I got a good laugh on the front row. There would be so much that they wouldn't recognize, but man, when we take the bread and we take the cup, I have to think they would recognize this as the body and the blood of Jesus. And they would see an unbroken line from the days they walked with him until today in 2022. When we, as a church stand to take communion. And so, I'm going to read this. We're going to take communion. We're going to sing a song and then I'm gonna come back and wrap up, but understand that this is a sacred moment. Not just because,

27:37 It's a sacred moment because it is our tradition here. When I was about to say, I was about to say, it's sacred. Not because this is our tradition. No, it's sacred because it is our tradition. This is a switch that in the practice of following Jesus, there are things we do that. If we stopped doing them, we would stop being followers of Jesus. So we got a good communion for the rest of our lives. Why? Because if we stopped doing communion, taking community and sharing the Lord separate together as a church, we've stopped being a church. Are you hearing what I'm saying? Like the practices inform who we are not the other way around. And so while they were eating, Jesus took bread. And when he had given thanks, he broke it and he gave it to his disciples saying, take any, this is my body. Let's take this and receive this together. And then you took the cup. And when he'd given, thanks, he gave it to them saying drink from it. All of you. This is the blood of my covenant, which is poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sense. Let's take this cup together.

29:00 Jesus, we remember Your body broken for us. Your blood poured out for us. And we joined with millions over generations. Who've done this very opt shared in the bread and the cup in remembrance of what you did on that cross Jesus to bring us redemption and rightness with the father. We receive that, not in our minds today, but in our bodies that your holy spirit would enliven us and like breath in our lungs would fill us up with the presence of Jesus.