There is a tremendous amount of pressure to be impressive. We are affirmed when we look impressive, sound impressive and act impressive; as it is defined by our culture. Have you ever felt this pressure or created it? I am guessing very few of us have not bumped up against this one way or another.
The examples of this tendency go on and on. We like to be a part of something that is impressive in one way or another. On the other side of the spectrum are people that are an absolute blessing to the people around them. Have you ever met someone that doesn’t feel any need to draw attention their themselves or their experiences? They are in the moment to hear your story or build you up and it is a beautiful thing. Could Oak Hill be made up of a group of these people?
As Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry of Jesus approaches we are reminded again that the followers of Jesus so wanted Him to be impressive. I can’t think of another person who ever lived that was even close to being as impressive as Jesus. But Jesus was most impressive in His amazing humility. No one ever faced as much temptation as Jesus to be impressive. The temptation for Jesus was simply to be who He naturally was and give us all what we naturally deserve – not grace and mercy!
As the “Hosannas” rose from the crowd it was easy for everyone to join in on the impressive proclamation of an impressive new king– in this moment Jesus was acting impressive as humanity naturally defines it! But the part of the story that is really amazing is the fact that Jesus was well aware of the Cross that was to come and He fully comprehended that the praises would continue only if He remained “impressive.” But…
Now, that is really impressive!
Let’s follow our “Always Impressive” King,
We have spent the last seven months considering the “Pillars” of walking, believing, talking and resting as God’s people. The material we processed was basically the same material that we cover in our Confirmation program. I wrote the following article to be included in our bulletins on Confirmation Sundays in the past. The words serve the same reminder in each of our lives today. So, this Sunday as we conclude our Pillars series I hope you celebrate your living faith just as we do for our young confirmands.
What is Confirmation? Good Question. Let me paint a picture to try and give perspective.
I used to think that I knew a great deal about virtually every-thing; at least everything that mattered. This state of mind occurred for me about 35 years ago. Since then I have progressively come to know less and less, at least as a percentage of possible knowledge perspective. In other words, for every piece of additional comprehension I gain I realize six things that I have absolutely no mastery over.
At fifteen, I understood the best possible way to do many things and it just so happened that it was almost always the opposite method my parents felt made the most sense. I knew that virtually nothing in the world was the same as it was 25 years ago, therefore I would need to assist [or correct] my parents if they were going to make it at all in the modern world. Ouch, I need to confess that I really was quite difficult to live with and I am thankful for parents with unparalleled patience.
So, what does this have to do with Confirmation?
Well, there are things that we do know about God; they are absolute and always.
There are other things that fall into mystery and we leave them in God’s hands. In Confirmation we try to find and understand the absolutes of God, knowing that the revelation will grow all through our lives. We also try to know where to trust God and just rest in the fact that He loves us and always knows what is best.
Confirmation is two years of looking at God, understanding more about God and ourselves, and finally confessing to us today that the ultimate answer to life is wrapped up in the life, death and resurrection of JESUS!
Confirmation is not…
Oak Hill Church - You are God’s Beloved! How good is that?
How do you know for sure?
What do you base your confidence on?
At this stage of my life I have come to realize that one of the greatest blessings of my childhood was that I grew up in the context of a rock solid sense of security. As a pastor I have encountered far too many people who have a history that had virtually none of that. I had many friends, teachers and neighbors that I never feared would leave me in the dust. They were interested in caring for me and helping me grow. They were on my side!
I took this for granted at the time and in many ways that is the way the world is supposed to operate. Children shouldn’t need to wonder if people are going to care for them. That is supposed to be the backdrop of life but tragically that is not always the case. As blessed as I was by so many people in my life; the greatest assurance came from my family. There has not been a moment in my life that I wondered if my parents would not follow through in their love for me.
I never wondered if they were just empty words that I couldn’t trust. There wasn’t one time that I considered that my mom and dad were only out for themselves. Because of that reality I have always lived with a sense of assurance that I would never go through life without people committed to journey with me. For nearly fifty years this confidence has grown and this wasn’t something I created. It was created in me by their consistent actions all through my life. My hope is based on a reality and not some wishful thinking. Although my parents are not perfect I cannot imagine any parents that would have given me a greater confidence in their love. I am blessed.
Then there is the assurance that comes from our God. It has no flaws and no limitations. It truly is even better than what I received from my earthly parents. We don’t drum up our security and our assurance about what our God thinks of us. We do not wonder if He is committed to our lives or if his love is nothing more than hollow platitudes. Our assurance and our faith is based on its’ object. God himself is the creator of our faith and our confidence. It is not my responsibility to create faith and hope – God creates it and builds it in me.
If you order a book, a pair of jeans or anything else from Amazon the hope will be that sometime in the very near future you will actually possess the thing for which you paid. Now, depending on what the item is and what your urgency level is for that item you will decide the shipping method or the means by which it will come to you. If you just talk about how you appreciate it and how cool it is but don’t have a delivery method then you will not possess the thing you desire.
I am quite sure the scenario I just spoke of in the previous paragraph is not exciting, groundbreaking or even interesting to you. But what if it was actually happening in your life and you were waiting for the medicine that would heal someone in your family of a life-threatening disease? I think you would be exceedingly interested in the delivery method now. You would look into all the options available to you. You would gather price information, coverage area and read reviews or take recommendations based on expert advice and experiences of others that used your various delivery options.
So after all the analysis, USPS Next Day Air is clearly the top means of delivery for your needs. The reviews are all stellar and the drug company itself tells you that is the only shipping method they recommend for a variety of reasons. With all of this and a great deal more of positive input for USPS you choose to go a different route. You just don’t know if you trust all those airplanes, systems and then a truck with a driver you have never met to bring the medicine to your door. Instead you are going to use your neighbor kid’s bike because you used to ride a ten speed when you were a kid and you know bikes do actual move and the bike has a basket. You understand the gears, brakes and the tires. It is about a 2000 mile round trip but you only use means of delivery that you can fully understand.
What is my point? That it would be absolutely ridiculous to go with the bike method for the delivery of your important drugs. Just because you can’t understand the entire delivery process doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust it. God has always chosen to do things in unique ways and He often uses tangible means to accomplish things that are both spiritual and physical. He does it when He uses people like Abraham and Mary to be a part of building God’s Kingdom. He uses means when He chooses to part the Red Sea with Moses’ Staff. Jesus chose to make wine from regular water and He even healed someone with mud made from spit. Gross! But it worked perfectly. Why doesn’t God do all this stuff in a way that I can fully comprehend and understand? He should use means that make sense to me.
He uses means to deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ to us. He uses the Bible as the primary means of grace and in that very Word of God He tells us that the Gospel comes through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper too. It is the same Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the same grace, mercy and forgiveness. He chooses to bring the infinite power of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus to me in ways that remind me He is God and I am the recipient of His gifts. I don’t fully understand it but I don’t fully understand the Trinity or the Incarnation either. I will just say Thank You!
Trusting God’s Ways and Means,
This Sunday Dan Venberg, Mission Mobilizer and Recruiter for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, will be with us. He will be addressing Oak Hill’s plan for an expansion of our congregational mission or “Going” value in the future. Recently we have committed to a defined vision for Oak Hill of “Connecting Lives in Grace and Truth”. We also decided that there we four primary values we hold for making this happen. Those values are 1] the Truth, 2] Relationships, 3] Transformational Servant Leadership and 4] Going.
We desire that the vision and values of Oak Hill would guide all that we do. These simple words and phrases are summaries of a great deal of biblical content. We desire to consistently live out our vision and values in all that we do. This Sunday will be a special opportunity for building momentum and direction about what God is calling us to be involved specifically in the area of “Going” out with the message of Jesus. Dan will be leading us in that direction this Sunday as well as having a key strategic voice as we expand in the future.
Oak Hill has increased by approximate 230% the amount of money going out of our congregation to ministries “beyond our walls” in the past 5 years. As good as it is to see this increase – we are not satisfied. We want to be a part of a new mission expansion to reach a group of people that currently have no Gospel presence in their community. My hope is that this thrilling opportunity will grip you as it has gripped me.
The following information is to serve as a review of our congregational commitment and call to bring the Gospel to others. This is one key component of what it means to be Oak Hill.
Connecting Lives in Grace and Truth through…GOING!
We are people who desire to make an eternal difference locally and globally.
We believe that God wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. God has called us to this very important work and thus we will seek to equip our people to be effective in connecting people to Jesus Christ.
We believe Oak Hill Church is a local manifestation of the Body of Christ and therefore we commit to be deeply connected to our immediate congregational community. We are also a part of the Universal Church throughout the world therefore we want to be engaged in various chosen ministries that are growing God’s Kingdom throughout the world. We will choose ministries that are the best use of the resources with which God has blessed us.
Pastor Nick Mundis