Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Putting Pastor Humpty-Dumpty Back Together Again

“ me up again by Your Word...everything's falling apart on me, God; put me together again with Your Word...I wait for Your Word to renew me...following Your guidelines, revive me...rescue me on the terms of Your promise” (Psalm 119, the Message).

Sunday I woke up inexplicably heavy-hearted for, as I put it then, "the gathered Church and the un-gathered un-church." I worried throughout my coffee and devotional reading of the Psalms and Proverbs, then headed outside to watch the sunrise. I looked over our little garden, which at the moment has a handful of cucumbers and a single squash coming up. The small patches of green in the midst of the brown garden was a perfect illustration of my concerns and anxiety for the Lord's people under my watch. I considered these Scriptures:

  • “And He was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows - how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come'’” (Mark 4:26-29).
  • “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God Who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

"Lord," I prayed, "help me out of this. I feel like my heart's broken into pieces this morning. Put me back together again according to Your Word so that I can effectively minister to Your people. I only get one hour a week with some of them...that hour is so important! Please, Lord, please." Then I went in to help my bride get our household ready for the gathering.

Every Sunday I have two of our men alternate calling us to worship by reading one of the Psalms (I am convinced the Psalms should have a high place in the worship life of the Church - 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). This morning Dr. Don called us to worship by reading from Psalm 107. The Spirit spoke through Don powerfully to my soul, starting His process of putting me back together according to His Word: “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters; they have seen the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people...” (107:23-32). May those who have experienced Him calming the storm find their way to the gathered Church to proclaim it!
Don calls us to worship with Psalm 107.

During the offertory my beautiful bride played and sang one of my favorite modern songs, "Let It Be Said of Us" (Steve Fry). She knew the weight on my heart, and knew how strongly I feel about these lyrics. I wept.

Let it be said of us that the Lord was our passion, that with gladness we bore every cross we were given; that we fought the good fight, and we finished the course; knowing within us the power of the risen Lord.
Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song! By mercy made holy, by the Spirit made strong. Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song! Till the likeness of Jesus be through us made known. Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song.
Let it be said of us, we were marked by forgiveness; we were known by our love and delighted in mercy; we were ruled by His peace, heeding unity’s call, joined as one body that Christ would be seen by all.

Our time of singing was sweet, as usual. We sang “Day by Day” (Karolina W. Sandell-Berg, 1865, translated from Swedish to English by Andrew L. Skoog) and I again found myself being ministered to by the songs of the gathered Church:
Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find, to meet my trials here; trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best— lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.
Every day, the Lord Himself is near me with a special mercy for each hour; all my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He Whose Name is Counselor and Power; the protection of His child and treasure is a charge that on Himself He laid; “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,” this the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation so to trust Thy promises, O Lord, that I lose not faith’s sweet consolation offered me within Thy holy Word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, ever to take, as from a father’s hand, one by one, the days, the moments fleeting, till I reach the promised land.
Were it not for the "faith's sweet consolation offered me within [His] holy Word," I would be without hope. But the Spirit answers the prayer of the one broken into pieces by putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again according to His Word.

At the Lord's Supper I was moved watching the elements being spread throughout the congregation. I love these people, I thought, in their youth, their age, their strength, their weakness (because I have it on good authority - Matthew 7:1-5 - that their weaknesses are smaller than the blind spots I have toward my own weaknesses...which means they're being graceful in loving me at all!), their different personalities and backgrounds. We are named to be one in Christ, His gathered congregation, and He is doing His will through His Spirit in our gathering. I am blessed to be at the Table with this imperfect-yet-saved people - my family in Christ.

We have been observing a weekly (Sunday morning) Lord's Supper for four years now in our congregation. I am a strong believer that it is vital to the life of the gathered Church. I cannot tell you how many times the Lord has used the Church's unified proclamation of the Gospel, "of the Lord's death until He returns" (1 Corinthians 11:26), at the Lord's Supper Table to prepare me by His grace to proclaim His Gospel from the Word at the pulpit (to my Reformed friends - I know that you guys usually observe the Supper after the sermon - there's a method behind my madness). I am blessed beyond measure to share this meal with this people at this Table.

I love preaching and teaching the Word, and an important part of that is because I also love the Word of God above all things in this world and because I love this people. I know them. God has given me fellowship with some of them in horrible tragedy. With some I have spent hours in deep discussion and study. With others there has been ministry and mission. For others there has been much prayer (we had many present this day who had been absent for some time). The sermon is worship in the Word by God's people to the Word's present Writer. The sermon is fellowship in the Word by the Spirit Who is its Author. The sermon is the heart of who we are as the gathered Church (1 Timothy 3:15), for the Word is the breathing-forth of the Spirit without which we do not truly live. God heals in His Word by re-creation in its reading and application to His meeting people. And, even as I preached His Word to His beloved people, I felt the healing.

I still give an invitation, though I've moved away from calling it that. The Lord never "invited" people to repent and believe. He, as Lord and King, commanded it - as is His right. We have a time of response. It's still a good practice because - just as the Table brought us to the Gospel before the message - this time of response is also a time to re-visit the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, Who is King of kings and Lord of lords. It's not that I ignore the Gospel during the sermon between Table and Response, but any opportunity to integrate that "as of first importance" (1 Corinthians 15:3) into our liturgy, I'm going to observe it. The Gospel saves. The Gospel heals - it especially heals Pastor Humpty-Dumpty, who kept hearing this phrase in his head all morning before the gathering: "I feel like I am broken into so many pieces..."

I don't know much about the King's horses, but all the King's men, women, and children - my family in the Lord Jesus Christ - couldn't in themselves put Pastor Humpty-Dumpty back together again, but the Father used them by the power of the Spirit in the fellowship of His Word to do it. Don't neglect the assembly of the saints in the Beloved, dearest soul!

“ me up again by Your Word...everything's falling apart on me, God; put me together again with Your Word...I wait for Your Word to renew me...following Your guidelines, revive me...rescue me on the terms of Your promise” (Psalm 119, the Message).

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