arilyn looked up from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution yesterday and asked, "What do you think about that two year revival going on at that church in Florida? Thats correct, for over two years now, every night the old time protracted meeting continues. Much like Methodist revivals that I have seen in the past, except none lasted that long, and the Brownsville Assembly of God of Pensacola has added its own Pentecostal flair; however, it does seem, from not only the AJC, but from other articles and from folks who have been there, that it is a genuine movement of the Holy Spirit. As with The Promise Keepers phenomenon, there are usually some fine points about which we can disagree, but as long as the main thing is true, the fine points can be put on the back burner.
Our text makes clear what the main thing is: "...we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus." (v.19, NRSV). The central point of what has been called "orthodox theology" is found in the fact that it is by the merits, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, believers are brought into grace by faith. This has been the unifying one thing that we denominationalists have agreed on--- the keystone that has held us together.
We, of course, find this truth expressed in the Brownsville Revival and in the Promise Keepers. Asked by the press how many were in attendance after their recent Washington Mall all day rally, Coach McCartney, founder of The Promise Keepers, gave a wonderful answer, "The only person present that was important to us was Jesus Christ." I liked that!
Who can deny that the world needs a fresh wind of the Spirit in the midst of a spiritual drought where all kinds of cultic groups are growing in numbers and many traditional Christian denominations seem to be adrift in a sea of non-meaning. In the midst of the great Methodist revival that swept England and the world 200 years ago, John Wesley said that his great fear was not that the movement would one day cease to exist, but that it would become just another "dead sect."
Perhaps the anonymous author of our letter to the Hebrew/Jewish believers of the first century was afraid that the burgeoning Church was in danger of losing its focus on the main thing, and is herein telling us how we need to operate in order to persevere together.
The word "together" seems to be the motif of this text. This "new and living way" has provided a symbolic entry into the once foreboding Altar of God through faith in Jesus sacrifice. As individuals experience this life changing grace, we then collectively form a new community of faith, the Church. Within the body of believers we are encouraged to "provoke", or enable each other to flesh out the faith by living a life of love and good deeds. We also "encourage" one another, especially as we know that "the Day" of our death, and possibly in our life time, the return of Christ could occur. The true Church has always been able to persevere amidst the certain knowledge of individual death because of its hope in the resurrection. All of this happens as we worship and live "together."
The use of the Greek word "episunagoge," both here and in II Thessalonians 2:1, is describing a gathering together of like minded believers in a community of: fellowship, service, education, missions, and most of all worship. This model is presented as the right way for the Church to function and the clear implication is that Together we can fulfill the vision of what Jesus expected his Church to become. Weak individuals bonded together have indeed become a mighty army that is the hope of humanity.
Transposed into our local situation at 360 Peachtree Street, all of this means that we must live our life together as the concrete manifestation of this ideal. As I have come to know and love this church it is my humble opinion that this very thing has been our strength for these first 150 years. This little railroad terminus has survived a great civil war fought on our streets. We have had our church burned, but our surviving great bell still tolls the beginning of worship every Sunday. We survived prosperity which has perhaps been our greatest challenge. Some of you remember vividly the glory years under the 25 year ministry of Dr. Pierce Harris, one of the great souls of our lifetime. Those were days of unity and togetherness for sure All one has to do is listen to the audio tapes of that glorious congregational singing to experience something of the revival that lasted so long at this place.
Our future will not be an exact duplication of the past, but one thing is for sure and certain, "Together We Can!" If we can recapture the image of the first century church to which this letter to the Hebrews was addressed, we can experience revival right here again!
And to a great extent we already are. So much love is expressed among you at the passing of a fellow brother or sister in Christ. I see you encouraging each other, and perhaps even "provoking" one another to grow in the faith and to live life with the certain hope. We persevere together, leaning on each others shoulders, and leaning of the everlasting arms of our Savior.
This is why I am
certain that we will continue to fund our financial obligations in the
future. Sure, we have lost some faithful stewards this year, but because
of your mutual relationship with the Lord, you are
In just a few minutes, as we sing our hymn of invitation, we will witness one of the most beautiful sights any pastor can see: Faithful saints together bringing their pledge cards to be committed at the Altar Rail. In light of our text, is this pageant not something of a foretaste of that glorious reunion we will one day experience together as the Church Victorious. I want Dr. Harris to preach on that day, and I hope to join with all of your other pastors in having a small part. You too will sing again as you once did in this beautiful Sanctuary. In fact, we can sing together right now one of the old songs that we still sing in this place; "I Am Thine, O Lord," as we bring our commitment cards down together.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor