Gimme That Old Time Religion
Old Testament Reading- 1 Chronicles 16:8-11, 25-29, 34-36
New Testament Reading- Romans 12:9-21
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -October 9, 2022
Jim and George were in the local diner talking over cups of coffee. Jim says to George, “Hey, I saw Ralph Jones the other day.” “Yeah,” said George, “How’s he doing?” “I don’t rightly know,” said Jim, “I said hello to him, then he asked me if I attended church every week?” “I thought, that’s an odd reply to a simple hello.” “Well, no I don’t attend every week, in fact, I’m lucky if it’s quarterly,” I told him. “To which he turned his nose in the air, spun on his heel, and walked away from me without a word.” “Now, what do you make of that George?” “I can remember the days when Ralph wouldn’t have darkened the doors of a church for love or money, now it sounds like he found religion and he’s too good for the rest of us,” said George. “That’s exactly what I thought,” said Jim. “It’s no wonder I don’t go to church much, George, if that’s what church turns you into, then I don’t want any part of it.”
What a comedy of errors we have here, but how Jim and George react to Ralph’s actions, who would blame them? Religion has become almost a dirty word. Most say you shouldn’t talk about it, it’s too divisive for most polite conversation anymore. You can’t teach it in schools, unless it is a church funded school, and I wonder sometimes how much longer even that will last. Let’s face it, in this society, religious is out, and spiritual is in.
What exactly is religion? The dictionary says it is, ‘the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.’ Ok, that seems right in a very straightforward kind of way. The dictionary also says that it is, ‘a particular system of faith and worship,’ again, sounds right. Thirdly, it says religion is, ‘a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.’ This last one is a little more secular, but I get where it can work. I have heard many people who claim to be Christian that say they don’t like the religious parts of church, so they don’t attend, that their faith is the most important thing, and they can practice that anywhere. Others will say, I don’t like all the corporate denominational religious ceremonial parts of worship, they don’t seem genuine, that’s why I don’t go to church. Still, many have had bad experiences with church and that is why they are put off of it.
Religion has become almost a dirty word.
I hate to admit it but, the Christian Church has done a great job at giving itself a black eye, and a whole lot of work must be done to regain the trust of people. Some have said, and not without good reason, ‘I like your Christ, but not your Christians.’ One thing that I want to point out is that people, men and women, have given the Christian Church a black eye, not God. This is important to understand on the side of the person struggling with coming to church because they may be involving God in the problems that the people of the Church have caused, God is not the problem, don’t give up on Him, but remember this, the Church is not full of perfect people, but sinners who make mistakes. Those of us who are involved in the Church must realize that it is a great responsibility to be a representative of the Church, and this goes not only for paid employees, but anyone who comes through the door, especially on a regular basis. We are all representatives of Christ and His Church and are watched by the world with a magnifying glass.
The next thing we must remember is that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, we are the body, get that relationship right. It is crucial that you understand that you are not the head, not you, not me, not anyone, but Christ alone. Jesus is who sets the agenda, and it is He, who we must turn to for guidance, we pray to God, not each other. The body can do nothing without the head.
When Jesus was here in His earthly ministry, only three years were spent in teaching others the Gospel. In that time, He taught His disciples and thousands who came to listen to Him, but it was only three years. Let’s imagine being in on that process of deciding how long Jesus would be here on earth in His teaching role. What would you say if God told you, it would only be three years? I know I would probably say, “That’s all?” “Wouldn’t sixty or seventy years be better?” When you read the Bible though, you find that God does everything perfectly, so who can argue with the Almighty? God must have thought three years an adequate time to teach others the message of the Gospel, and let’s not forget that Jesus said, once He was gone the Spirit would be sent to live within us and to guide us, and the Spirit is the key.
Let’s take Eastminster for example. You might think that between the pastor, the session, and the deacons, they are who run the church, but you would only be partially right. The members of the session, the deacons, and myself, the pastor all have one thing in common, we are all filled with the Holy Spirit. This is crucial, because as we pray before every meeting, or before every event, we ask Christ to be present with us, to guide us, to teach us, to give us discernment and wisdom that we would not otherwise have of our own accord. Yes, we have some very talented, intelligent, and wise people, but it takes more than that to run God’s Church. We should, and I believe we do, check our personal agendas at the door and don’t allow them the stage. We must do what Christ guides us to do first and foremost.
As we pray together as a group and as a congregation, we patiently wait for God’s perfect timing for all things. As I said before, Christ is the head and we are the body of the Church, and that the body can do nothing without the head, but the body is important. We are the seed planters, the laborers in God’s field. We plant the seeds that Christ has given us, but God is who makes it grow. We must provide all the right elements for the germination of the seeds. We cultivate the soil, we weed it, we water it, we do all that God requires of us, but there is nothing we can do to make the seed sprout beyond that. As a Church, we spread God’s Word, we provide a space and opportunity for worship as a community of believers, we help those who are in need, the sick, the marginalized, the elderly, the poor, and we welcome and treat others with dignity, respect, and love. This is our form of cultivate, weed, and water.
James 1:26-27 tells us,
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James is trying to teach us a very important lesson, that we need to understand that religion is not about you or about me, but about what we all do together in the name and service of Jesus Christ, the perfecter of our faith. Spirituality is great, but alone it will never be able to do what a group can do together, and we were not created to be alone. God didn’t just create Adam, or just create Eve, but created them both and told them to be fruitful and multiply.
Jesus said in Matthew 18:20,
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
He did not say just be alone and don’t worry about living and working with others. Our mission as the Church of Christ is to treat others as ourselves, and to spread the good news of the Gospel so that as many may be saved as possible.
We have looked at what we are to do as the Church, now what are we not to do. For this we will look at Proverbs 6:16-19,
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
How many of us are guilty of these? If you have ever acted arrogantly towards others, told lies, murdered, been a schemer, blamed others unrighteously, or gossiped as a stirrer of trouble, then you are guilty. Many of us at one time or another, I am sure are guilty, so what do we do about it?
First, we recognize that we are sick, and if we are sick, then we need someone who can help us. That person is Jesus Christ and His representative here on earth is His Church. I do not give you this information based on no knowledge, but firsthand knowledge. I was once sick and in need of help, so I turned to God’s Word, the Bible. I thought that this alone would cure me, I didn’t need Church, but I was wrong. When I found God’s Church and allowed it to become a part of my life, to let it become important, it was then that I began to truly heal. God called me to His Church because He knew I needed it. I never realized the full importance of the Church until I allowed it into my life, and by the Church, I mean the people of the Church. Can people in the Church hurt you? Absolutely, they are human and have faults the same as everyone else, but if the Church is doing what it is supposed to be doing, then you will feel lighter in your soul, more at peace, able to better endure life’s struggles, and to know that you are never alone. The Church becomes just as much a part of your family as your real family, maybe even better.
Sunday Worship becomes something you look forward too. Your Church family are people you look forward to being with and talking with, and be on your guard, as you may even be hugged a time or two while there. We come together in Christ to become His Church. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians 2:19-22,
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
That is something that spirituality alone cannot achieve; we were meant to be in communion with each other not to be alone.
"First, we recognize that we are sick, and if we are sick, then we need someone who can help us. That person is Jesus Christ and His representative here on earth is His Church," ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
This is the main reason why we wanted to install all our live stream cameras with internet capabilities. We know the importance of the Church and its interactions together, but we know that some people are not able to attend. Some have limitations due to aging, some because of work, others because of travel, we wanted to be able to allow these members of our family access to worship and the life of the Church. If you are not able to watch live at 10:30 am, then you can reach our YouTube channel via eastminstererie.com and watch each Sunday’s worship recorded. We have tried our best to reach people where they are at, and we will continue to get better all the time. We also know that there are many who don’t quite trust the Church yet, and we understand. That is another important reason for those folks to be able to watch and listen with a degree of anonymity. This way, they may learn to trust and someday, maybe attend in person, and just to let you in on something, it is a lot like a football game, it’s always better when you are there in person.
So, in America, where we are known for our rebellious natures, give religion a chance. Do something that is rebellious against society, do something that is different. Spirituality is good, but it is just the first step to what religion is truly all about, love of the Church, love of others, and love of God. Share it with all you meet. All praise and honor be to the head of the Church, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.