Why Marry in Tumultuous Times?

September 5, 2020 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Eschatology, Glorification, Judgment, King Jesus, Marriage, Politics, Postmillennialism, Sovereignty of God

Isaiah 62:4–5 (NKJV)

4You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah [My Delight is in her], and your land Beulah [Married]; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married. 5For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.

This is a splendid evening for a glorious occasion. For years now I have known both of you and have appreciated your strong convictions, your willingness to work hard, and your love for Christ and His people. It brings me great joy to unite you in the covenant of marriage today confident that, by the grace of God, your home will be a beacon of Christ’s presence in the world.

You are getting married at a tumultuous time in our republic’s history. There is increased polarization and racial tension in our country. Protests and riots have gripped many of our major cities. Many of our citizens are looking skeptically at those in law enforcement and the military. And so some may wonder if it is worth getting married at such a time. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until things calm down? Or perhaps not to get married at all? After all, with marriage often come children and who wants to bring children into such a fractured, unstable world?

But Isaiah teaches us never to underestimate the power of a good marriage to display the light of Christ in a broken world. Israel was in crisis in Isaiah’s day. The Assyrians were ransacking the country. Jerusalem was besieged. It appeared that perhaps God had abandoned Israel. In the midst of this turmoil, Isaiah turned to a man and woman getting married and held out their love, their union, as a message of hope for all Israel. Even as that man longed for that woman and gave himself to her, so, Isaiah tells us, the Lord longs for His people and will give Himself for her. Isaiah insisted that the future was hopeful not bleak; light not darkness; for God is Lord of the future and God loves His people and loves His creation.

A good marriage points to the central message of the Gospel – a message of hope, of peace, of harmony, of love, of commitment, a message that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to rescue the world, to marry His bride. Even as Justus delights in you, Stacey, rejoicing over you and longing to marry you, so God rejoices over His people and over His entire creation, and He shall deliver us from all turmoil, causing the glory of His Son to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. America – like other republics and nations – shall be a glorious place, full of the knowledge of the Lord, singing the glories of the Lord, prospering under the hand of the Lord. Want proof? Just look in Justus’ eyes.

So let me urge you both to remember that you do not marry just for yourselves this day. Obviously, we know that you marry for yourselves – your smiles and joy and delight tell us; the longing that each of you has had to find a spouse and the pleas that you have each raised to the Lord in that regard tell us that you marry for yourselves. We know that. But you do not marry just for yourselves; you also marry for all those assembled here: you remind us of the Lord’s love for His people and His determination to save and bless His own. You give us hope. You marry for all those you shall meet in the course of your married life: to draw them into the circle of love in your home and so to point them to the source of that love, God Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the first and foundational community of love. You marry for the life of the world: to display God’s glory from generation to generation on those who love Him and keep His commandments and to remind everyone that the future is hopeful. Today you say to us all:

4You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah [My Delight is in her], and your land Beulah [Married]; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married. 5For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.

But this hope isn’t automatic. Justus, if there were not in Stacey’s eyes also the light of love, a longing to know you and be known by you, then today would not be a joyful day, would it? So Stacey’s longing for you summons us to turn from other loves and to give our hearts wholly and completely to God Himself, our Creator and Redeemer.

So Justus and Stacey, may your home, both now and in years to come, be a beacon of light to point friends and foes to the One who is the Light of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. For He alone is the foundation of life, of peace, of joy, and of hope. Amen.

 

The Revelation of Christ

January 12, 2020 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Tradition, Word of God

Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)

6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Though Epiphany proper fell earlier this week on January 6th, today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday. As we have emphasized each year, Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the coming of the Magi which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ life. The Magi were a powerful ruling class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. While Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Magi, Gentile rulers, sought out the new-born Jesus and worshiped Him, acknowledging Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles. So Epiphany celebrates that, through the Magi, God the Father revealed that Jesus is His King, come to rule over all the nations of the earth.

Consider, second, the baptism of Jesus which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry and revealed the purpose of His kingship. He was washed in water to identify with us in our sin and to prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, through Jesus’ baptism, God the Father revealed that Jesus was His Son, come to rescue us from our sin.

Consider, finally, the wedding in Cana of Galilee which occurs as the beginning of Jesus’ miraculous signs. When the wine at the wedding feast ran out, Jesus turned water into wine and, in John’s words, “revealed His glory” (Jn 2:11). He revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation, that He might make glad the hearts of men through His rule and reign. Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, at the wedding of Cana, Jesus revealed Himself to be God’s Festal King.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God reveals how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and rebelling against His lawful and joyful rule. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us kneel as we are able, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

Jesus the Only Savior

November 10, 2019 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church History, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology, Glorification, Lord's Day, Meditations, Worship

On November 9th I had the privilege of participating in the ordination and installation of Adam Harris as the new pastor of Trinity Covenant Church (CREC) in Fort St. John, British Columbia. The next day, I was also privileged to participate in the worship service by giving the following exhortation:

Isaiah 45:22–25 (NKJV)

22 “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath. 24 He shall say, ‘Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, And all shall be ashamed Who are incensed against Him. 25 In the LORD all the descendants of Israel Shall be justified, and shall glory.’ ”

It is an auspicious and glorious occasion that has brought us together today. We have arrived here from our residences in and around Fort St. John; we have flown here from our houses in Oregon and Idaho; we have driven here from our homes in Ontario and Alberta. We have gathered with one accord to perform one of our central joys and duties as the people of God.

So what is it that has brought us together? It is to worship the Lord of glory. Now perhaps you thought I was going to say that it is the ordination and installation of Pastor Harris to Gospel ministry that has drawn us together. But it is not. For as significant as his ordination and installation to pastoral ministry is, his call to ministry is itself a means to an end – and that end is the worship and praise of the Lord of glory throughout the world. Pastor Harris is not the one whom Trinity Covenant Church and Fort St. John need. Jesus is the one you need. So we have gathered together to glory in Him; gathered together to worship Him; gathered together to kneel before Him; gathered together to take oaths in His Name and to claim the righteousness of Jesus Christ as our own.

Peter reminds us that “there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved” than that of Jesus Christ our Lord. He is our Savior; He is our Deliverer; in Him do we trust. As glorious as Pastor Harris’ ordination is, he himself will tell you that it is nothing to the exaltation of Jesus Christ as the Lord of all the earth. But we often turn from our Lord to other gods; turn from the Living God to put our confidence in princes or people or pastors or pagan gods. We forsake the fountain of living waters and build for ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Our Scripture today reminds us that the goal of God’s work in the world through His Church, through His ministers, and through His Providential governance is to ween us away from the worship of other gods and to instill within us an unswerving loyalty to Him. Jesus is the only Savior.

So reminded this morning that we are to seek the Lord alone to be saved, let us confess that we are routinely tempted to place our hope for salvation in our man-made idols rather than in the Lord of glory.

Epiphany as Revelation

January 7, 2019 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Christmas, Church Calendar, Church History, King Jesus, Meditations, Missions

Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)

6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the baptism of Jesus, the coming of the Magi, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the baptism of Jesus. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry; He was washed in water to identify with His people and prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. God revealed His Son to the watching world. Epiphany celebrates that Jesus is God’s Messiah, God’s Anointed One.

Anointed as what? It is this question that Jesus’ revelation to the Magi answers. The Magi were a powerful ruling class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. So while Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Magi, Gentile rulers, sought Jesus out and bowed before Him, acknowledging Him as God’s King. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles. So Epiphany celebrates that Jesus has been anointed by God as King of all nations.

So what kind of King is Jesus? It is this question that is answered at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Recall that this was the first sign that Jesus performed after His baptism and temptation in the wilderness. As He entered upon His earthly ministry, Jesus turned water into wine and, in the words of the Apostle John, revealed His glory. He revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation, that He might make glad the hearts of men. Epiphany celebrates that Jesus is the festal King.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God demonstrates how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and rebelling against His lawful and joyful rule. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us kneel as we are able, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

Today the Bridegroom Claims His Bride

January 7, 2018 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church Calendar, Liturgy, Meditations

Isaiah 49:6 – Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the coming of the Magi. The Magi were a powerful class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. What is perhaps most significant is that while Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Gentile rulers sought Him out and bowed before Him, acknowledging Him as God’s King. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles.

Even as God revealed His Son to the Magi, He also revealed His Son to the world in His baptism. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry; He was washed in water to identify with His people and prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. God revealed His Son to the watching world.

Finally, God revealed the identity of His Son at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. This was the first sign that Jesus performed after His temptation in the wilderness. As Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry, He turned water into wine and, in the words of the Apostle John, revealed His glory – revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation and celebration.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God demonstrates how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and refusing His love. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us bow before our Christ, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

Why and how to use creeds in worship

January 30, 2017 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Creeds, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Tradition, Worship
Isaiah 29:13–14 (NKJV)
13 Therefore the LORD said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, 14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work Among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”
Every Lord’s Day we have opportunity to confess our common faith with one of the ancient creeds. Currently, we are reciting the Apostles’ Creed but we use others at different times of year. In churches like ours that use the creeds – as well as other written responses and prayers – there is an ever-present danger – the danger of mindless repetition, of drawing near to God with our lips while our hearts remain far from him. As our passage in Isaiah illustrates, the prophets were stern in their rebukes of the people of God for this sin, the sin of failing to draw near to God in our hearts and substituting external ritual for an inward love for Him. So if common confession entails this danger why even do it? There are numerous reasons that we recite the creeds – consider just a few.
First, reciting the creeds enables us to declare boldly and clearly whom we worship. Amid a pluralistic society in which a variety of gods are honored, we declare our trust in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We do not worship Vishnu, nor Zeus, nor Allah, nor the Mormon deity; neither do we worship America’s idol, some general theistic deity. We worship the Triune God; in Him is our trust.
Second, by reciting the creeds immediately after the reading of God’s Word, we declare our trust in the Sovereign Lord who has revealed Himself in sacred Scripture. As God’s Word continues to be spurned in our culture and even in many churches, we confess openly, “We trust in God and His Word. He is God; we are not. We shall do what He says and follow Him.” With the creeds, we express our faith–we trust the One who has spoken to us in His Word.

Third, reciting the creeds reminds us to preserve the faith which has been handed down to us. Jude commands us to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). When we confess the creeds, we acknowledge our indebtedness to the saints who have gone before. We confess the faith because they preserved it; and this now is our duty for future generations. The God we worship is the God of Abraham and Isaac, Peter and Paul, Ambrose and Augustine, Luther and Calvin, Edwards and Whitefield, J. Gresham Machen and Francis Schaeffer. They lived, breathed, suffered, and died to preserve this faith for us and we are called to hand it down in turn.
While remembering why we recite the creeds, it is also important to emphasize how we are to do it. And this brings us back to our opening danger – the danger of mindless repetition. As we recite the creed each Lord’s Day we declare, “We believe…”It is important to ask, believe it or not, what we mean by the word “believe”? James reminds us: “You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe and shudder!” There is a certain type of belief that will not deliver in the day of judgment. So when we confess the creed, the belief that we should be confessing is not a mere admission of intellectual assent, “Oh, yeah, this is what I think,” but rather an expression of heartfelt commitment, “This is the One I love, I trust, I cherish, I adore.”
And so, how are we doing? Children, how are you doing? Are you embracing and cherishing the One who has called you His own in the waters of baptism? Are you approaching worship in faith, hungering to hear the voice of Christ, to be changed and transformed by His SpiritHHHeH? Adults, how are you doing? Is worship growing ever more sweet and lovely? Are you reciting the creeds intelligently and faithfully or merely by rote? Our confession should be robust, lively, and full of faith. Beware lipping the words and losing your heart.

Reminded of our propensity to draw near to God with our lips and fail to draw near Him with our hearts, let us seek His face and ask Him to forgive us and make the fruit of our lips a pleasing sacrifice in His sight. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Epiphany – God’s Revelation of Himself

January 9, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church Calendar, Evangelism, Meditations, Postmillennialism
Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)
6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
This last Friday was Epiphany. Since we don’t yet celebrate the day of Epiphany as a congregation, we delay our celebration to the Sunday following. Epiphany means “revelation.” On Epiphany Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Wise Men, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.
Consider, first, the coming of the Magi. The Magi were a powerful class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. What is perhaps most significant is that while Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Gentile rulers sought Him out and bowed before Him, acknowledging Him as God’s King. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles.
Even as God revealed His Son to the Magi, He also revealed His Son to the world in His baptism. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry and was washed in water to prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. God revealed His Son to the watching world.
Finally, God revealed the identity of His Son at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. This was the first sign that Jesus performed after His temptation in the wilderness. As Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry, He turned water into wine and, in the words of the Apostle John, revealed His glory – revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation and celebration.
Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God demonstrates how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and refusing His love. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”
So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us bow before our Christ, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

Building a Cathedral

May 23, 2016 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Ecclesiology, King Jesus, Meditations, Prayer

The following exhortation was written for the installation of Kenton Spratt to serve as the lead pastor at Christ Church in Spokane, Washington. Kenton has been serving as a co-pastor in Spokane for the last couple years alongside Joost Nixon. Joost is now leaving to pursue mission work with Training Leaders International and Kenton will be staying to pastor the church by himself.

————-

Isaiah 61:4 (NKJV)
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Once upon a time there were two skilled stonecutters working diligently at their craft. A young man walked by admiring their skill and industry. The care they took with the stone, the intricacy of their work, and the nature of their tools enchanted him. But most he was struck by their intensity; they were absorbed in their task. The young man couldn’t resist the urge to learn more.
“Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the first stonecutter. “What are you doing there?”The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a quizzical look. “Well, lad, as you can see I’m cutting stone.” And with that, the man went back to his work, chisel and mallet in hand, focused and intent.
The young man moved on to the second stonecutter. He watched the stonecutter for a few minutes; noted the calluses on his hands; the dust and dirt on his apron; the blood trickling down the knuckle that he had just caught on a piece of stone. “Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the second stonecutter. “What are you doing there?” The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a smile. “Well, lad, I’m building a cathedral.” And with that, the man pointed behind him to the plot of ground that had been cleared for the new church.
Today is a momentous day. Today is a day of transition; a day of new beginnings; a day when the old things have passed away and, behold, new things have come! We are commissioning Kenton to serve as the lead pastor here at Christ Church and calling you, as the people of God, to support him and pray for him in this calling. For many years Joost has faithfully served this congregation; for the past couple years Kenton has been faithfully serving this congregation; now each is assuming a new role, embracing a new vocation.
As we inaugurate this transition, no doubt some young man is going to come up and ask us, “Excuse me, Sir, what are you doing?” So what are we doing? Are we merely cutting stone? Merely commissioning a new lead pastor? Merely making sure things run smoothly here at Christ Church? Or are we building a cathedral? Laying another stone in the construction of the Kingdom of God here in Spokane? Battering against the gates of hell?
Isaiah reminds us that the work to which God has called us is not merely cutting stone, not merely running organizations, not merely filling vacancies. The work to which God has called us is to rebuild the old ruins, and raise up the former desolations. Our task is glorious – it is to reverse the effects of the Fall by laboring for the expansion of God’s kingdom; to repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. This is what we’re doing.
Do you see that? Do you see that today in what we are doing and do you see that daily in the work that you are doing? Have you remembered the end for which you are laboring? Or are you, like the first stonecutter, just cutting stone? When someone asks you – be you student, plumber, nurse, teacher, homemaker, soldier, administrator – when someone asks you, “Excuse me, Sir,” or, “Excuse me, Ma’am, what are you doing there,” how will you respond? Will you say, “Can’t you see I’m cutting stone?” or will you remember the end of your labor, the purpose of your labor, the goal of your labor, and declare with joy, “I’m building a cathedral? I’m laboring that God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Reminded that we often fail to remember our true vocation, that we lose sight of God’s noble and glorious calling in our lives – to rebuild the ruins and raise up the former desolations – let us confess our lack of faith and vision. And as we confess, let us kneel together.
Our Father,
We confess that we often lose sight of our calling in this world. We become so focused upon our particular task that we lose sight of that for which we weekly pray – Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and grant us grace to keep before our eyes the vision of Your kingdom, that we would be your instruments in the world rebuilding the ruins and restoring the devastation that our sin and others’ sin brings to the world. 
Amen.

The End of Education

May 22, 2016 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Ecclesiology, Education, Work

This was a commencement address for the graduations of some students at our Trinity Home Educators Cooperative. What a privilege to be invited to speak! May the Lord’s blessings rest on these youth! (The thoughts here are similar to those in my exhortation at Christ Church for Kenton Spratt’s installation. And the central image of the two stonecutters was borrowed from James K.A. Smith’s thought provoking book You Are What You Love.)

———-

Isaiah 61:4 (NKJV)
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Once upon a time there were two skilled stonecutters working diligently at their craft. A young man walked by admiring their skill and industry. The care they took with the stone, the intricacy of their work, and the nature of their tools enchanted him. But most he was struck by their intensity; they were absorbed in their task. The young man couldn’t resist the urge to learn more.
“Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the first stonecutter. “What are you doing there?”The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a quizzical look. “Well, lad, as you can see I’m cutting stone.” And with that, the man went back to his work, chisel and mallet in hand, focused and intent.
The young man moved on to the second stonecutter. He watched the stonecutter for a few minutes; noted the calluses on his hands; the dust and dirt on his apron; the blood trickling down the knuckle that he had just caught on a piece of stone. “Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the second stonecutter. “What are you doing there?” The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a smile. “Well, lad, I’m building a cathedral.” And with that, the man pointed behind him to the plot of ground that had been cleared for the new church.
Today is a momentous day. Today is a day of transition; a day of new beginnings; a day when the old things have passed away and, behold, new things have come! You are graduating, entering into a new phase of your life. As you make this transition, I would like you to think about what you have been doing thus far and what you will be doing in the future.
Many young people are directionless and listless. They think that the purpose of education is to enable them to get a job; accomplish a task; fulfill a chore. But the education you have received and the tasks you shall yet pursue – whether that is further education or vocational training – is about far more than a job. It is about a vocation – a calling, a summons from God to use your gifts and talents for the glory of His Name and the growth of His Kingdom.
John Milton, the great Puritan author of Paradise Lost, wrote in an essay on education: “The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.”Milton reminds us that education isn’t just about the transfer of information but the process of formation – changing not just our thoughts but also our habits, our loves, our desires, our goals. Rooting out the ruins we’ve inherited from our father Adam and that we’ve created ourselves. The Spirit of God has been poured out upon us to shape us into men and women of virtue – which, when it is joined with faith in the Triune God, makes up the highest perfection, the summit of achievement, the end of education.
And the goal of being men and women of faith and virtue is that we might be instruments in God’s hands to advance the Kingdom of God in the world. God repairs the ruins of our own selves that we might be instruments in repairing the ruins of the world. Listen to Isaiah’s vision for you: And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Isaiah reminds us that the work to which God has called you is not merely cutting stone, not merely getting a degree, not merely doing a job. The work to which God has called you is to rebuild the old ruins, and raise up the former desolations. Your task is glorious – it is to reverse the effects of the Fall by laboring for the expansion of God’s kingdom; to repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. This is what you have been doing and what you are yet called to do. Not merely cutting stones, but building cathedrals.

Do you see that? When someone asks you in days to come – be you plumber, nurse, teacher, homemaker, soldier, administrator – when someone asks you, “Excuse me, Sir,” or, “Excuse me, Ma’am, what are you doing there,” how will you respond? Will you say, “Can’t you see I’m cutting stone?” or will you remember the end of your labor, the purpose of your labor, the goal of your labor, and declare with joy, “I’m building a cathedral! I’m laboring that God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!” That is your calling. That is your vocation. That is the end of your education.