Vantage Point Week 3: Story Within a Story
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Vantage Point” over the last couple of weeks. I like to bring everybody back up to speed. Maybe you’ve been to every service, but maybe you’ve missed one. Maybe this is your first time here. I want everybody to feel like they know what’s going on. We’ve been looking at the Christmas story through the lens of other people’s eyes. In other words, what I decided to do was to take characters or people in the Christmas story and sort of look at what happened through their eyes, thus the idea of “Vantage Point;” that we all see things differently depending upon where we stand or where we sit.
So, a couple weeks ago, we looked at Christmas through the eyes of the shepherds and what that would’ve meant to them. Last week, we looked at Christmas through the eyes of Herod and what he might’ve seen at Christmas time. And I was planning on talking to you all about Mary this weekend, and I just could not get away from the fact that I just felt like God was steering me in a completely different direction. So, the beautiful thing about that is you’re either going to hear a great word from God, or I had a bad burrito the night before. So, hopefully it’s the former and not the latter.
But, what I want to do is I want you to work through this with me, sort of how this happened for me. All jokes aside, I really believe that this is a word in-season for our church. I mean, you all who have been with me for a number of years know that I very rarely do one of those, “Hey, I really feel strongly that God’s in this message.”
This is one of those weekends where I really feel like this is a word for our church at the appropriate time, at the appropriate season, in the appropriate venue and all of those things. So, here’s sort of what happened. When I put a message together, I start working on stuff. This stuff is done well in advance, because we have to do the bumper videos and put stuff together. We’ve got to create the little artwork for all the stuff. So, these things are usually multiple weeks in advance. So, I knew that I was going to be speaking on Mary and I’d done some work. But, over the last seven to ten days, as I continued to sort of hone in on what I was going to do, I just felt like God was moving me in a different direction. And I want to show you how this worked for me. I think it’ll speak to you.
I started off going back and looking at Luke 1 and Luke 2, which is the story that Luke tells us about Jesus’ birth. I always find Luke compelling. For those of you all who really enjoy your studying of the Bible, you may know this. But, Luke wrote what we call a “diptych” in the literary world. That is a two-volume set or two-volume compendium. That is both Luke and Acts. He wrote both of those books, and they are very tied together. They’re so cool the way they’re tied together. Like a lot of the miracles that Jesus does in Luke, Paul does in Acts. All of the miracles that Peter does at the beginning of Acts, Paul does at the end of Acts. And Luke is telling us a lot of theological things that I don’t have time to get into, but he is a really, really, really good writer. I think it bespeaks of something behind what’s going on of divine authorship in these books.
But, Luke starts off in the temple after he’s told us he’s writing an orderly account to a gentleman named Theophilus, and he’s gathered a bunch of material together to write his Gospel. He tells us that in Luke 1:1-4. He starts off in the temple where an older man named Zechariah is in the temple, and it’s his time to lead prayer meeting, for lack of better terms and to make it sort of in our day and age.
So, he’s in there burning the incense like they would do in the temple. Everybody’s outside praying. It’s like prayer time. And of all the times you would think that people would be believing God, it would be at prayer time. You know? I mean, you’re praying. Hopefully you’re not just using words. You’re praying. So, God shows up in angelic form and he’s shocked. You know, it’s sort of funny if you’re reading this the way it’s supposed to be. It’s funny. This guy is praying, but he doesn’t really believe. God shows up and he’s like, “Whoa!”
So, the angel shows up and says, “Hey, greetings to you. Fear not. Your wife, Elizabeth, who’s been barren and is old in age, is going to have a child.”
Well, he doesn’t believe. So, Luke sort of sets that setting there. Here’s an older man in Jerusalem, in the temple at the time of prayer, who doesn’t believe. And then he contrasts that with this young little girl, Mary, that’s in Galilee, who’s a peasant. And the angle comes and same thing. “Greeting. Fear not. You’re going to have a child.”
And what does she do? She believes. So, I’m going through that and I’m looking at all those things and I’m trying to gauge how Mary would’ve seen these things. And then I get to Luke 1:39. As I read from Luke 1:39-45, I’m just affixed to these passages of Scripture. I can’t let them go. It’s like I keep trying to go back, but I can’t let them go at all. They just keep coming back. And then I start thinking, “Why are they here? What is this here for?”
It doesn’t really fit, necessarily, in the story, but I know it’s supposed to be in here because I’m committed to the fact that I think the Bible is God’s Word to us. And I’m going, “What is it there for?”
So, I want to read that to you, and just make a few comments because it’s a cool couple of verses. But then I’m going to tell you sort of what happened where I had this lightbulb thing and I felt like, “Oh, man. This is definitely for our church.”
So, starting here, it says in Luke 1:39, “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,”
Now, what Luke is telling us here is right after Mary has been visited by the angel and she’s going to have a child, and the angel says that she believes, what does she do? Well, she takes off with haste into the hill country to a town in Judah. Now, for you and me that may not be a big deal, but that’s a 90 to 100-mile journey. That’s a long trek for a young, teenage girl. And we’re not even told that she went with anybody. Maybe she went alone. Who knows? But, she goes into this hill country into Judah to see her older cousin Elizabeth.
And it says here, “And she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”
Now, you might assume that when she walked in she would’ve greeted Zechariah. She probably did, but Luke wants to tell us that she greeted Elizabeth. He’s going to use this word “greeting” three times. He’s making sure that he makes us aware that this greeting was important. So, she walks in and she greets Elizabeth. Here’s an older lady that is being honored by a younger lady, and she greets her.
What’s interesting is what Luke tell us happens here. It says, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.”
This is John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb. The baby leaps. The angel had told Zechariah that the child would be filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born, and we can deduce that this is what’s going on here by what we read next.
It says, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,”
Now, this is cool because young Mary goes and visits older Elizabeth, honors her (greets her), and all of a sudden, she’s filled with the Holy Spirit, the baby leaps in her womb — and that’s not like some little, small leap. Like we have 47 kids at our house, so I’ve felt a baby leap in the womb, but not like that.
Christmas around my house is always crazy. The kids were up one night in the loft, and I heard them. One of them is like, “This is Christmas time. Mary carried Jesus.”
My little girl, Esther, is like, “No, she didn’t. Mary had a little lamb.”
It was great. Kids, man. They’re crazy. They take after their mom. Anyway, she’s filled with the Holy Spirit. What’s cool here is that Elizabeth and Zechariah were not told that Mary was pregnant. They were only told that they were in their barren age, things that they had prayed for, God was going to do a miracle for them and they would have a child through normal ways, but it would be crazy that they’d have it at such an old age. But, she’s not told that Mary is pregnant.
Now, Mary, when she’s told she’s going to be pregnant, she’s told, also, that Elizabeth is going to have a child. But, notice here: Mary walks in and greets the older lady, honors her, she’s filled with the Spirit, the baby is filled with the Spirit, and now all of a sudden Elizabeth is given some revelation that she didn’t know.
“And she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’”
Now, she didn’t know that. She didn’t know Mary was pregnant. And, all of a sudden, now she knows that Mary’s pregnant. She’s filled with the Spirit. And what’s cool here — think about this for a second. Think about the fact that she is blessing Mary. Put yourself in Elizabeth’s shoes. You wanted a baby your whole life. Your whole life, you wanted a baby. And now you have a baby. And, all of a sudden, you’re honoring someone else’s baby more than you’re honoring your own baby.
So, she says, “‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me...’”
What a note of humility.
“‘Why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.’”
This is an incredible moment here. This is an aside, but it’s a pastoral aside. It’s something that I feel I need to say because it’s here in the text and we don’t want to run from anything. God could’ve chosen to say anything He wanted to say in this text. He could’ve chosen to tell us whatever He wanted to tell us, and I just want to make a pastoral note that as far as Luke is concerned, who was a doctor, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that what is in the womb is a baby. I’ll just leave that there. It leaped for joy. Okay?
“‘And Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.’”
So, I don’t know about you all, but I have an iPad. I know some of you all like Android and things like that. Godly people use Apple products. I just want to throw that out there. Just a joke. Just a joke. You can use Windows, Blackberry and all of that. God loves all of us. Okay?
So, what I do is when I’m putting messages together, I have my iPad. It has a pencil. So, I write notes like this. Some people say when they read my writing that it’s in tongues and you need a gift of interpretation. But, anyway, I was in this passage and I just felt like God was speaking to me about this passage. I started writing. I put, “Number one: Neither Mary or Elizabeth brought about what was happening. It was a work of God.”
I was thinking, “That’s pretty cool.”
You know? I mean, they’re joining up. It’s not like they’re denying what God’s doing in their life, but God’s the one that’s birthing this into their life. I’m like, “Hey, I could go there.”
I also saw, you know Esau and Jacob, “The elder will serve the younger,” and how they sort of were holding onto each other’s dream? We have another elder serving the younger. Two kids in the womb. A prenatal message here, but it’s not the same deal. I was like, “I could really preach on that.”
I was thinking, “One child’s closing out one age. The other child’s bringing in a new age.”
I thought I could go there. And then I thought, “Well, I could also talk about the fact that it would be appropriate for Mary to honor Elizabeth, but it would not have been expected for Elizabeth to bless Mary the way she did.”
So, I’m sitting around just having this moment and thinking, “How am I going to go here? What am I going to do? I just can’t get away from Luke 1:39-45.”
I’m like, “God, what are You trying to say? What are You trying to say?”
Well, as I’m doing that in my mind, I get an email on my computer. It’s from a guy named Dr. Thom Rainer. He’s considered by most as one of the great church leaders in our world today, especially in terms of church growth and all of that. And I love it, so anything I can get on church growth I read. Because I want the church to grow. I want every church to grow. I don’t want just our church to grow. I pray for other churches in the area. I want them to grow, too. I want God’s Kingdom to just explode in Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota. So, I want to see God’s Church grow.
So, as a theologian, I live in tension. What I mean by that is people go, “Is the Bible the Word of God or was it written by people?”
I go, “Both!”
And they go, “Well, yeah. But, we want to know...”
And they say, “Was Jesus fully God or was Jesus fully man?”
“Well, yeah. But, wait. Okay. So, is it God who builds His Church?”
“Yes, it is. Absolutely. 100%. Matthew 16. ‘I will build my Church.’ But yet, He uses people to do that. Both.”
What happens is, historically, when you go to one end or the other, if you go to “it’s all about what we do,” then it’s methods, madness and all of this stuff, and it usually leads to pride and ego and usually some sort of denial of something in the Gospel since you can get more people in. And that’s not a good place to go. And if you do the “it’s all God, it’s all God, it’s all God, it’s all God,” then nobody does anything. They don’t work, and they don’t get involved in anything.
The two go together. So, here I am reading this, and the article was saying some things about the Church in America is in decline, that if you look, there’s churches closing on a regular basis. So, I’m having this moment. I’m like, “What in the world is Luke 1:39-45? What is going on in this passage? Why is it here?”
And then I get this email in and I’m reading the email and it says that cultural Christianity has left the building. I’m like, “Okay. That makes sense.”
I mean, many of you all know if you went to church 40 years ago that most of society went to church. Because, if you didn’t go to church, people were like, “What’s wrong with you?”
That’s the way it was back then. Today, it’s not that way. So, in all sincerity, a lot of the numbers in the churches that have gone away were just people that probably went there for whatever reason, but they weren’t there for the right reasons, necessarily. So, some of the attrition isn’t necessarily — I mean, it’s not good. We want people to be in church. But, we can understand that.
So, cultural Christianity has left the building. It also made a note here of the church hop. You may not know what the church hop is, but that’s a new, cool thing. Not really cool. I’m just saying that. It’s an uncool thing, but they think it’s cool. If you don’t like what’s going on, if the pastor wears a yellow vest or an orange vest, you just say, “I’m out. The seats aren’t well. I don’t like Perrier. I’m not an Apple guy. You offended me, so I’m going down to the church where they use Androids.”
There’s just this deal of if I don’t like what’s going on, I’m just out. And it’s sad because in many ways I get it. People don’t like certain things that are going on and they want to move on. But, in many ways, it’s sad. In fact, in the article that I was reading, this was a young lady. This is what she said. She was asked why she had left her church, and she said, “I stuck with my parent’s church as long as I could, but when we had a big blow-up over a projection screen in the worship center, I’d had enough. I wanted to go to a church where matters of minutia were not issues to fight over.”
We could talk about the good, the bad, the ugly and all of that, but there is a church hop going on. And, unfortunately, the churches that lose are the smaller churches, because most people are going to the larger churches when they hop. And that’s not necessarily good because I do believe there’s a place for smaller churches. So, this is going on.
You also have the exit of the Builder Generation. You may not know this, but if you were born before 1946, you’re part of what’s called the Builder Generation. Those people are incredibly loyal to the things that they’re loyal to. So, you see around you, you might look around and see churches all across America where they could not exist with the amount of people that are there, but they have a couple of these older people in their church that are willing to fund the enterprise because they really, genuinely believe in what’s gone on. And they’ve been there their whole, entire life.
Well, that generation is going away. You might not know this, but 13,000 Builder Generation people pass away every week in the United States. So, with them going and their resources going, it’s effecting churches.
Slow response to accelerated change. A lot of times, really, as a church, we’re behind the times. Church, historically, has been about 10 years behind the times. Today, many churches in America are 20-30 years behind the times. So, there’s been a real slow response to the massive accelerated change. And then, the one that’s the saddest of all, is the division between the older and the younger Christians. And, in all sincerity, we live in a place where you can see it probably more than any other place that you would live. There are churches lined throughout our community where they seat 6, 7, 8 or 900 people, and in those churches are 80 people or 100 people, and most of them are 65 and older. They’re doing their thing.
And then you see churches where there’s younger people and there’s like 200 people there, the music is at 130 decibels and everybody wears skinny jeans and there’s all the stuff that goes on. And you go, “How in the world? That’s not going to happen.”
And we go, “It should, but it doesn’t.”
And I’m reading through all of this stuff. I’m reading that. I’m over here in my Bible. Luke 1:39-45. I’m thinking, “Okay. This is the story of Jesus. This is the story of when Jesus was birthed to the world. This is when Mary was carrying Jesus, and she birthed Jesus to the world. You know, we’re called to be Marys. I mean, we carry Jesus. We’re to birth Jesus to the world. We’re to birth Jesus to our generation. Hmm. I wonder if there’s something in that.”
So, I started going back again. I was like, “Oh, man. Lightbulb moment.”
God, of all the things He could recorded in Scripture, recorded us some verses here. It was like, “This is so great.”
At the coming of Jesus, this is what He did. And every subsequent generation, as we carry Jesus and birth Jesus, this is part of the way He did it and it’s part of what we need to be doing. The lightbulb went off. Implicit in the story is that God is at work through both the young and the old in the birth of Jesus. Then my mind just went crazy. You don’t want to live up there. It’s a terrible place. Anyway, it went crazy. And I started thinking about Mary. I’m like, first of all, she goes to see Elizabeth with haste.
I’m thinking, “Man, how many younger people in the church really, with haste, want to go hang out with some of the older people in the church?”
I was like, “Ah, man. This is rich, man.”
She seeks relatable maturity. She’s not going to see Elizabeth because she wants to see if Elizabeth’s pregnant. She believes that. She wants to go talk to Elizabeth because she knows Elizabeth’s got a baby like her and she can relate to her. But, she has also got maturity. She wants to talk through some things, spend some time with her and whatever else. On top of that, she honors Elizabeth. It’s why Luke says, three times, “greeting.”
When Mary goes and visits, when the younger generation goes and hangs out with the older generation, what happens? God fills Elizabeth with the Spirit. There’s a renewed since of purpose. And then Elizabeth blesses Mary. I’m going, “Man, this is so rich.”
Because of this honoring, because of this going and spending time, because of this “with haste,” all of a sudden, Elizabeth and Mary are both blessed. There’s a tie in. I’m like, “Ah, this is great. I’ve got to grab Elizabeth now. What goes on with Elizabeth?”
Well, I said, “Man, you know what? She doesn’t see Mary as a rival at all.”
In fact, she sees God’s plan for her son. Check that out. The son that she had been praying for her whole life — I mean, everything was all there — she gave up the focus of it being about her for it to be about being the next generation. She’s willing to let her son, the older, serve the younger. The older serve the younger. She all of a sudden doesn’t see Mary as a rival at all. And because she’s filled with the Holy Spirit, she doesn’t judge her. See, it would’ve been real easy for Elizabeth to go, “I wasn’t at your wedding. How’d you get pregnant? And those tattoos and pants, I mean...”
But, see, that wasn’t the case. Well, what happened was, like Justo Gonzalez, a great church historian says, “Because she (Elizabeth) is so filled, she’s able to recognize the work of God in what, by traditional human standards, would merit only criticism and judgment.”
Can I say something to you? Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not God. Did somebody say that’ll preach? It will. It will preach. Not only that, but there’s a humility in Elizabeth. Look at what she says. She says, “‘Why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’”
It just hit me. I was like, “Man, here’s the young and the old. Look at the way they responded. God is using both to birth Jesus into the world.”
And in this story, we can see here the older generation is not neglected. They’re included. And if you look around — listen. I’m not saying this to boast or whatever. I’m just being honest. This church does a pretty good job of integrating young and old, but I want to do better. Because I think the more that we can resemble things that don’t go on naturally in the world, the more we say that God is at work in our midst. When people who would not normally get together come together and love on each other, whether it’s from backgrounds or race or whatever it may be, that’s when you know God is at work. And what I want to say is — that’s okay. You can clap. It’s good.
When I talk to people who are older, they’re like, “You know what? I want to be a part of something. I want to be involved.”
I want to say to you that the Christmas story is all about the older generation being included. It’s about you being a part of what’s going on. And here’s the way it works: Elizabeth is a forerunner, or she’s foundational, of what God is doing. She understands that what God is doing in her, what God is birthing in her, is going to serve the younger generation to birth Christ. And she’s okay with that. Not only that, but she’s open-minded. There’s an open-mindedness here. She could’ve easily said, “Hold on. You’re pregnant? And there was no guy in the room? That doesn’t work that way. I know how it works because I’ve lived life a long time. And that’s not the way it works. God has it go this way.”
Except when God goes another way. And there was an open-mindedness here. And not only that, there was a blessed even at age. Who in the twilight and autumn of their life doesn’t want to still be a part of what God is doing? And the Christmas story says, “It’s available for all of us.”
It’s available for every single one of us. We can be a part of what God is doing. And the way He birthed Jesus into the world in our generation as we carry Jesus and birth Him to our generation, the older generation is included. They’re not excluded. Now, the younger generation, there’s something it says about them. What I call it here is that they both honor and they heavy-lift. Now, what I mean by that is there’s an honoring, but there’s also the fact that the younger generation takes on the brunt of doing the work.
When Zechariah hears that Elizabeth is going to be pregnant, what does he do? He goes home. When Elizabeth hears that she’s pregnant, what does she do? She goes up into the mountains and rests. So, as God’s working in them, there’s not all of that youthful vigor that used to be there. What does Mary do? Mary goes. She travels 90-100 miles because she’s younger and she’s got the legs and she’s got the ability and the endurance to make that trek.
And it’s beautiful. It’s really the first Gospel story. Think about it. She has Jesus on the inside and she wants to go share Jesus on the inside with somebody else. And when you get Jesus on the inside, who’s the first people you usually go to? Your family. Where does she go? To her family. There’s this sense that Mary taking this trek is going to heavy-lift. Not only that, but she honors Elizabeth. That’s why there’s the three-fold greeting. And that honoring unleashes, in Elizabeth, God’s Word.
So, I want to say this to you if you’re younger in here. Listen to me. I know culture and I know society says, “Don’t listen to anybody, at all, above you. Don’t listen to leadership. Don’t listen to those that have gone before you, because they don’t know anything.”
Let me tell you something: That is patently false. That is just a lie of this age. That is a lie of the devil. Let me tell you something: You honor people that are in authority. You honor people that God has put above you. You honor people. Listen: Even if they’re at fault, you’re honoring God by honoring them. And when you honor God by honoring others, He will unleash in your life things that you have no idea.
In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say the reason we have such a problem in the young adult and the youth of our generation is because we have lost the ability to honor those that are above us and have gone before us. I also say this to those that are young in the congregation: Eventually, you become older. You do. And I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes here, but can I tell you something? You do reap what you sew. And if you sew into the older generation a bunch of “get out of my life, I don’t want to have anything to do with you and I don’t understand why you wear sweaters in summer” type of thing, what’ll happen is you’ll end up in not a great situation when you get older yourself.
So, what are the take-homes? What can we take home here as a church? Because this is a word we need to hear. This is a word that every church in America needs to hear, but we need to hear it at Grace Community Church. These are the take-homes: First of all, we can’t become territorial. We simply can’t, folks. It’s so easy to become territorial in a church.
“You know, we don’t do it that way. We don’t like that. We don’t like this.”
Let me just take a moment, as a pastor, just to speak pastorally to every single one of us. This is for all of us. Every single one of us. Paul says, “If there’s any encouragement in Christ,” — In other words, if you’ve ever been encouraged because of your relationship with Jesus — “if there’s any comfort from love,” — if you’ve ever been comforted by the love of God — “if there’s any participation in the Spirit,” — if the Spirit’s even remotely a part of what’s going on in the congregation — “if there’s any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love and being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others much more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
If we could get together as a congregation and put down all of our stuff at the foot of the cross and serve one another no matter where people have come from, no matter what their age is, no matter what the color of their skin is, no matter what kind of car they drive or the jeans that they wear, if we can do that, we will unleash some things not only in our church, but in the community that people are dying to see. I am tired of the territorialism. I’m tired of seeing churches that are older and younger. I’m tired of seeing black church, white church, Spanish church and all this. Listen: God reaches everybody. When everybody can put down the agenda and come in here and worship Jesus, we’re doing what God has called us to do.
Second thing: What God births in us is always next-gen. It’s always next-generational. I want you to hear me. This is important. I grew up in church and everybody’s like, “We’re the generation. God’s going to pour out His Spirit. We’re the generation that God’s going to do all of it.”
There’s a selfishness in there. It’s implied. It’s selfish. Like, “We’re the ones.”
No, no. Go read your Bible. When God pours out His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, He doesn’t pour it out so that Peter and the disciples can have a goose bump. He doesn’t do it so that they can get a dose of the Ghost and have Holy Ghost hoedown on the stairs of the temple. That’s not what He’s doing. When He fills them with the Spirit, He says, “I’m filling you with the Spirit so that you will go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world. I’m filling you with my Spirit to go reach the next generation.”
It’s so important that we get this. If God is at work in our lives, it’s to reach the next generation. In reaching the next generation, in doing what God’s called us to do, in putting His Kingdom first, He’ll take care of all the needs that you and I have. So, when we’re filled, when He births in us things, it’s to reach that next generation. That’s why we’re unapologetic here. We want to reach the unchurched. We want to reach the next generation. For us to do that, though, it’s going to require all of us to work together and use the gifts and the talents that we have. And that’s in every way, shape or form if we really want to see God move in a powerful way.
And the last thing I want to say is this: We cannot let our culture polarize us. We live in a culture that is so polarizing. I mean, it’s just everything. I mean, every little thing is argued. Every little minutia is fragmented. What we can’t do is we just can’t let that get in here. We cannot. We just can’t, at Grace Community Church, sell out to 40 and younger or to 70 and older. It’s everybody in the pool together, all of us working together, all of us pulling from the same end of the rope to do something great for the Kingdom of God.
And I wrote down a few things here that I think will help us out. If you’re young in here today, here’s what I want you to do: I want you to seek out some of your elders in this church and gain some wisdom and experience from them. There are couples in here that can help you in your marriage. There are couples in here that can help you steward your finances. There are couples in here that could teach you how to pray.
When I was putting this together, I thought of a couple — I didn’t tell them I was going to do this, so they’ll probably be mad at me — in this church. Very invested. Barbara and Larry Lomana. Every time you take communion in this church, they have filled those communion cups with grape juice and that God-awful gluten wafer. I love all of you all that are gluten free, but I have to eat it four times every weekend. It’s like dog food. I love you. Seriously. I love you. We’re going to keep doing it. But I just want you to know for me it’s like, “I want some gluten.”
Anyway, I think of Barb and Larry, the fact that they’re so happy to put that in the communion cup, and every week almost they want to know how many people were here, because they’re invested. You know, Barb and Larry teach you how to pray. They have a prayer thing that they do. You ought to go talk to them about it. I know next year, when we do small groups again, that’ll get launched again, maybe they’ll teach you how to pray. But, what I’m saying is that there are elders in this church that could help you in your life.
If you’re an older person in our church, can I ask you a favor? Will you believe in the young people in this church even if they do it differently than you do it? Believe in them. Look, I don’t understand how you can worship God with your pants tied around your kneecap. I don’t. That’s like half in-between David taking off and stripping down to his linen ephod or something. I don’t know. But, my point is, you know what? When you believe in the next generation, when you believed in your children and you told them they could do whatever God called them to do, speak that into the young generation. They’re going to do it differently than you, but believe in them.
For both young and old in our church, I want you to go out of your way every time we meet to go find somebody who’s younger or older than you. Go out of your way and introduce yourself. Last night, we prayed a prayer. At the end of it we prayed for the young and old. I was out in the hub and an older couple came up to me. They go, “You won’t believe this.”
I said, “Sure. What’s up?”
They said, “You know, you told us to go out and talk to young people. We did. I’m having surgery on my shoulder Tuesday, and I told them I was having surgery on my shoulder. Do you know what they did?”
I said, “What?”
They said, “They stopped what they were doing, and they prayed for me right there.”
And I’m like, “Well, of course. Not every young person in our church is going to hell. You know what I’m talking about?”
You know? Some of them are pretty good people. You know? So, go out of your way. And then I’m going to tell you to stretch here. Both young and old. Stretch. Take a gamble. Once a quarter, ask somebody that’s younger or older than you out to lunch and just pour into their life and bless them. I’m telling you what, we do some of that stuff and God is going to do some incredible things in our church. And what’s so cool is part of the Christmas message is the old and the young coming together to see God birthed into our world. Let’s be that church.
Here’s what I want to do as we close. Those who are watching via the internet and the mobile app, you as well. I want you to think of somebody that you know that’s younger, or someone that you know that’s older, or just look around the sanctuary and put your eyes on someone who’s younger or older. What I want you to do is I want you to pray. I want you to pray out of your own self. If you’re older, I want you to pray for the young. If you’re young, I want you to pray for the old. I want us to develop a heart of doing ministry together in ways where everybody can be included, and everybody can be a part, and everybody can have God birthing something in them so that we can move God’s Church forward, that He passionately wants to build.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for Your Word. I thank You, Lord, for the simple, practical things that are found there as we just hang out in these Gospels. Lord, I pray for the older generation. I pray, Lord, that they would realize that there’s no neglect here at Grace; that there’s inclusion. We genuinely want them to be a part. Lord, desperately. Lord, we need the wisdom, the experience, the insight. Lord, I pray that You would fill them anew and afresh with Your Spirit, Lord, with renewed vigor to accomplish things, Lord, that they never thought were accomplished. Like Elizabeth, barren and older in age, not thinking that she would ever have any childbirth.
Lord, I pray that You would birth in them a new work of God. Lord, for our younger generation here, I pray, Lord, that not only would You give them the strength to go and give them the strength to heavy-lift, but, Lord, I pray that You would give them the humility to honor. Lord, I believe with all of my heart, as I looked at Luke 1:39-45 and asked why is it there, it’s there to remind us that in this greatest story of Jesus being birthed, it took both young and old to see that come to fruition. Lord, let that be reality in our church for Your glory and for Your honor.
So, Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us, and I pray that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, I pray that You would continue to help us to become the church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We thank You for it in Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
God bless everybody. Have a great day. Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him.