Romans 6:12-23;Matthew 10:40-42
Well, this summer we are a community of a number of churches who have come together for worship. Each church has its own little differences. We each have our own style of worship. You may think that we all do it the same way, but believe me, as a worship leader, when you walk into a different church, things are not the same.
One summer I was asked to speak at a Baptist church. When I lived in the vicinity of this church, it was the church we always attended. We had friends there, and found the community very welcoming.
All I had to do during the service was read the Gospel lesson and preach. Believe it or not, I messed that part up. Someone else was in charge of reading a piece of scripture, which then led into the children’s time. When the children were dismissed I stood up and read the Gospel lesson. When I sat down for the anthem the deacon leaned over to me and pointed out in the bulletin that the anthem came before the gospel reading. Oh well, the bulletin is really just a suggestion any way.
Is our service of worship perfect? If not, who has it right? Who does the best job at having a worship service? What is the perfect format?
But by whose definition? Who judges our worship service as being right or wrong? Who judges how ‘good’ it is? By what standard can we base our evaluation? Does God has an expectation of how worship should be done? Not that I can see anywhere.
We gather in our imperfect man-made churches, following our imperfect worship liturgies to worship a perfect God. To come together as a community of believers to learn more about who Jesus Christ is and how we are called to serve the rest of the week. You wonder if maybe we should run worship like a staff meeting. We come in, check in with the boss, God, to see how we’re doing and get our orders for the week before going back to work on Monday morning. But not quite like that.
Nothing we do is perfect. We can strive for perfection, but we will never get there. Only Jesus was a perfect man. But how hard should we strive for perfection? Should we let it completely consume us? Should it be our primary focus, to be perfect? And again, what is perfection?
Paul wrote to the church in Rome about falling short of perfection. He wrote to them about succumbing to sin and the challenges we all have in resisting those temptations. But he also wrote we need to remember we are not living under laws and rules in order to be close to God, we are living in grace. This gets us closer to God.
When we submit ourselves to the love and grace of God offered through Jesus Christ, we are then able to live free from the guilt our sin brings us. We will sin, we will fall short, we cannot live fully up to the expectations we place on ourselves as living examples of Jesus Christ. That’s not the point. The point is, we live for God.
If we submit to the sins of our lives, then that’s where we’ll find ourselves living. If we let sin rule us, then that’s where our hearts lie, and our sin will drag us down. But if we submit ourselves to God, then we can be lifted up and separated from our sins. We won’t be rid of them, but they will not hold us back as people of God because of the grace we have received as children of God.
We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. We just have to accept the love of God poured out for us in ways beyond anything we’ve ever known. It’s like Paul said, “thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
We can become slaves to righteousness. We have been entrusted with the Word of God. We have been gifted with the Spirit to be apostles to the world today, to speak the truth of Jesus Christ and share God’s love with the world around us.
And we ain’t perfect. By no means.
But it’s how we use the gifts we have been given that makes all the difference.
We live in Cape Breton, one of the most hospitable areas in the world. We welcome everyone. I was preaching in Louisburg last year and we had a family from Vancouver come in to the service who were biking across the country together. They were warmly welcomed and joined us for fellowship following the service and shared their wonderful adventure with everyone. It was great! I don’t know that would have happened in other places.
Jesus says whoever welcomes us as his representatives has welcomed him and can receive this amazing gift. We are travellers on this road, as people who have accepted the love of God and carry His message of hope and righteousness within us.
We are invited to share this message. We are to share this message with whoever will welcome us so they may come to know God in their own lives.
We might be not be perfect, but let’s not let is stop us from sharing the perfect love of God with the many other imperfect people we encounter in our days. The people who have become slaves to sin instead of being slaves to righteousness.
Being a slave to righteousness is not the same sort of slavery we might tend to think about. This is what sets us free from sin. We might still sin, in fact I know we will, but in the perfect love of God we are forgiven because we are living in His grace.
There is the perfection in all of this.
Jesus came to set us free. Jesus came to share with us how he can set us free from the sin we have when we fall to the temptations in our lives. The four Gospels in the Bible are full of stories of Jesus meeting with people who can see nothing but their own sin.
There’s the story of the woman caught in adultery, and she is dragged out before the crowds to be stoned to death, and they bring her to Jesus because of her sins. This woman has been humiliated and is facing sure death at the hands of the crowd. Their hands full of rocks, just waiting to be thrown with no other intention but to end her life. Yet Jesus turns it back to the crowd.
“Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”
There is no one without sin. Not one of them is perfect. The crowd realizes this and walks away. Jesus tells her he does not judge her, and tells her to go and sin no more.
Maybe that’s one of the problems with the church today. Well, maybe the whole world. It’s easy to sit in our living rooms, our cars, our pews, and judge other people for their actions. Maybe we need to realize that we are not perfect either, even in our faith, even in our acts of worship, nothing can come close to the perfection of our God.
We don’t have it right. We are no doubt wrong much more often than we wish to admit.
But we don’t let it drag us down. We are a people who live in the grace of God because we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Saviour. We are letting Christ work within us so that all we see is his glory, his love, and his abundant grace as it washes over us to keep us from falling victim to the sin in our lives.
Jesus says, when we welcome the love of Christ into our hearts, the rewards cannot be lost. And Paul tells us we receive the free gift of God, that is life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We ain’t perfect, but we got the love of God, and nuttin’ is better than that!