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Sun, Oct 01, 2017

To God Alone be the Glory

Duration:14 mins 46 secs

This morning we continue with our fall theme, “Treasures of Grace: Living the Reformation,” as we mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Each Sunday during this commemoration I will be lifting up a theme or theological ideal which grows from our Reformation roots as we remember that we are a people of grace, completely dependent upon God’s love for us. This grace is a treasure known in our history which inspires us, for we know that God is not finished with us, with the church, or with this world yet, so we earnestly seek to live the Reformation.

Drawing from that Reformation theme, we also have reached Celebration and Commitment Sunday with our annual Stewardship Campaign. The sermons in this campaign are drawn from four of the solas of the Reformation. We began with “Grace alone” remembering that all we have is by God’s grace and all the ministry we do is a response of gratitude. Then we continued with “Faith Alone” and set out a vision for 2018 if we are willing to live and give in faith. Last Sunday we lifted up “Christ Alone” for our vision does not matter one bit if we do not have the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. So today we celebrate with “To God Alone be the Glory” as we hear Paul’s words to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 5-11. Listen in this Word of God for the good news of the gospel.

5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8     he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Author J.R.R. Tolkien, of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fame, once said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Yes, all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

You and I have decided to spend this time together this morning at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church. Now, despite the fact that we offered a free catered breakfast this morning, as your pastor I know that you could have made another choice. You could have chosen to run along the canal on this beautiful, finally slightly cooler, fall morning. There are coffee shops who serve, we must admit, better coffee than you will find in the fellowship hall after worship today. There are newspapers to read or morning news shows to watch. I know the morning shows are a draw for several years ago I had a congregation member tell me that he wished he could come to worship but if he did he would miss Meet the Press. I wasn’t quite sure what to say about that … except that I had heard it was possible to record a television show and watch it later.

That is not all. There are soccer games being played that you could watch. There are waves breaking on beaches; there are porches on mountain homes where you could sitting. Or even after a long week, you could still be in bed sleeping. Yes, there are a multitude of other options available to you this morning and yet you decided to spend the time that was given to you here in worship.

Some might question the wisdom of such a choice. After all, according to the standards and measures of the world, we will not produce anything you can sell or make anything you might invest during this time together. Our use of technology admittedly is pretty minimal. We just read from an ancient book; from a letter which was written a long time ago to a different church in a different part of the world. Plus, you are going to sit and listen to me talk to you for almost 20 minutes with no commercial breaks. When else in your life do you do that? And to top it all off, in a few minutes we are going to give our money away and eat just a little bread and drink just a little grape juice. Yes, in the eyes of the world, deciding to spend our time here in worship is, in the words of theologian Marva Dawn, “a royal and splendiferous waste of time.”

And yet, perhaps that is exactly the point. For to decide to spend time in worship, to participate in the life of a church, is to be reminded that we are not the center of the universe, that the point of life is not all about me. Those raised many years ago in the Presbyterian Church might remember the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of man (and we should add woman)?” Yes, what is the highest purpose, the goal for which we should all strive, the reason and the meaning of life? What is the chief end of humanity? The answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” To glorify God and to enjoy God forever!

Yes in the end it’s not about free breakfasts or runs along the canal, better coffee or newspapers or morning news shows. It’s not about soccer games or beaches or mountains or sleeping in. It’s not about making money or investing it well. It’s not about the latest and greatest technology or eloquent speeches. It’s not about holding on tight to what we have or feasting on the finest bread and wine. No, the chief end of human life is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever. Are you beginning to see that our stewardship theme, “To God be the Glory,” is about so much more than just raising money for a budget.

Deciding to spend time in worship reminds us of what life is really all about. For nowhere else in this crazy world of ours are you going to hear:

5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8     he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Nowhere else are you going to hear that the one who conquers death, the one upon whom we model our life, the one who saves, us does so through humility. Through obedience to the point of a gruesome, painful death on a cross.

And because of that obedience, God raised him up. As Paul continues,

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Do you see, it is not about you and me. It’s about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. Because God has raised him up so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. That is why we are here.

I saw a post on the Celtic Christian Tradition Facebook page which expresses this well:

When ministry becomes a performance, then the sanctuary becomes the theatre, the congregation becomes an audience, worship becomes entertainment, and applause and approval become the measure of success. But when ministry is for the glory of God, his presence moves into the sanctuary. Even the unsaved visitor will fall down on his face, worship God, and confess that God is among us.

Throughout this Stewardship Campaign, you have heard several confess that God is among us, that Jesus Christ is Lord, and their reasons to give glory to God.

For Kate Daggett it was the love of Christ she saw and experienced as members of the Young Women of Faith Bible Study and their spouses gathered around the Bowers family after Bennett’s car accident three weeks ago. Love just overflowed. To God be the Glory!

For Donna Steiner it was being given the permission to ask questions that drew her deeper into a relationship with Jesus Christ so that she was no longer just a cultural Christian. Faith grew until it overflowed. To God be the Glory!

For Brannon Sell it was this congregation’s support for and commitment to the health and education of our neighbors in Harrisburg. Christ is literally drawing us out of these four walls as we overflow into our community. We saw that on display so powerfully yesterday with our Inasmuch Day of Service. Yes, to God be the Glory!

So, my friends, let me share with you one more testimony. People ask me from time to time why in world I would come to be the pastor of Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church. Most of the time those asking remember the mess this church was in when you looked for your next pastor. And the short answer I always give is that I was called by God to come to Augusta. And that is the truth.

Yet, part of how I heard that call was through talking with a pastor who is one of my mentors and a good friend. I had been in conversation with the Pastor Nominating Committee and knew the challenges that awaited us here. I was praying about whether I might be up to serving in this place. So I shared all that one day with that mentor. He also knew something about this church and all it had been through. And after listening patiently, he finally told me, “Matt, if you really believe in the resurrection you just might have a chance to see it at Reid Memorial.” It wasn’t a choice after that.

Yes, that is why I am here. That’s why we are all here. Because the resurrection is popping up all over the place – in the midst of the regular, ordinary moments of life; in the extraordinary moments that take our breath away, in the vision that God is setting out before us because there is no doubt about it: God is not finished with us and with this church yet.

God is among us! To God be the Glory now and forever!

Amen and Amen!

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