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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2009-09-13 Sermon

2009-09-13 Rally Day
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

Good morning, most high and holy ones. Thou art looking especially royal today. Might so lowly a creature as I be granted an audience with thee?

Is that the way you're greeted by friends and relatives? Well it should be. Because you are a royal priesthood. It says so in the Bible. It's high time people started treating you with the respect you deserve. A little more deference. A little more kneeling. The occasional grovel.

1 Peter 2:9 says it: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. 

That ought to make you feel a little better about yourself if you weren't feeling so great about yourself to start with. Maybe you already consider yourself royalty (we'll get to that in a minute). But this is good news, pointed directly at the readers and hearers of this scripture. And it's in the Bible. Not in some self-help book where you're supposed to imagine yourself as a royal priesthood and if you do it long enough someday it'll come true. This is a message pointed right at you. Not some theoretical abstraction. Not meant for "them." It's meant for you.

You ARE a royal priesthood.

You ARE. 

Not that you will be someday. You ARE. So when you eat lunch today in the Fellowship Hall, everyone eat with their pinkies out. You ARE.

It doesn't say you USED TO BE, back when you were young and energetic. When you had six-pack abs instead of one pack. Back when you had hair. Back when it didn't hurt so bad to get out of bed in the morning. Not then. Now.

It doesn't say you MIGHT be a royal priesthood when you get yourself fixed. When you get organized. When you get all those things off your to-do list. Not then. Now.

It doesn't say you SHOULD BE and therefore you're bad! Bad! Bad! What's the matter with you, Private?

It says YOU ARE. You ARE a royal priesthood. So get your mind out of your past. Get your brain in the present day, not some imagined future. And for heaven's sake, get out of the SHOULDS. You ARE. You ARE. Live that.

The Bible says you ARE a ROYAL priesthood.

ROYAL. Doesn't that sound good? We went to Toys R Us yesterday. Dangerous place. Rows and rows of princess costumes for Halloween. We went to DisneyWorld a couple of years ago. At the end of the great coronation ceremony at the castle, Cinderella came out and told everyone, "All of you are princes and princesses on the inside." Argh! Disney stole our message. We had it first. We need to see some royalties... on our royalty.

YOU (not them) ARE (not were or will be) ROYAL (as in princes and princesses, kings and queens)

Oh wait. Hold on that last part. Got a little carried away with that princess and king stuff. Take the crown off. Sorry.

You are a royal PRIESTHOOD.

OK. You're still royal. Sort of. But not as in king or queen. You're royal as in you're in service to the king. A royal priesthood. Gotta get those modifiers modifying the right word. You're royal because you belong to the royalty. There's honor in being a royal priesthood. Just like there's honor in being the royal cook (who brings hossenfepper). Or the chambermaid who empties the... never mind. Animal sacrifice? That's a little better. All guys love grilling. And some women can field dress a moose. Um, maybe not the best examples. The point is, you're still royal. Just maybe not royal-TY. 

And you're a priest-HOOD. 

Not a priest or a priestess. A priest-HOOD. Like Brother Hood, in the choir loft. A priest-HOOD. Which takes us back to that YOU at the beginning. That's not a you, singular. That's a you, plural. Y'all. Y'uns as my peeps in Blount County say. One person alone can't be a hood. All y'all together. All y'all are a priesthood to the king. Not one alone. Not divided groups. All y'all together. Are transformed. Into a royal priesthood.

When we ordain elders, we tell them, You're ordained to service, not to status. Not to be the king, but to serve the king. Elders are ordained not even to serve the people, but to serve the King. The King of kings, the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. 

And it's the same with all of us. We're not special: but the one we serve is. We're not royalty, but the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who call us into their service are. We are holy because we belong to God.

So God has called us to be a church. A church within the royal priesthood of all the believers of every time and place. God has called us to be a church because we aren't special, on our own. God has called us to be a church because together we can be transformed, molded like clay in the potter's hand, changed into people who go out into the world to bless what is blessable and to curse what is cursed. God has called us as a priesthood not to be ministered to, but to minister. Where there is sickness, let us wait by the bedside. Where there is sin, let us hear the confessions. Where there is evil or injustice let us say a humble, but heartfelt No!

And let us say a humble and heartfelt Yes. Yes to the goodness and mercy that is Jesus Christ. Yes to the love that forgives and forgets. Yes to the work that promotes the greater good of human beings near and far. 

Royal priesthood, God has put that ability, that faith within you. Otherwise you wouldn't be here, today. Which isn't to say those who aren't here don't have at least or even more faith and ability than we do. But it is to say they aren't yet part of the all y'all that is their divine calling. 

What if. What if this year every one of us made a pledge to bring in one more person, one more family into the seats in this sanctuary? Not to increase membership for membership's sake. Those are worldly goals, and not the point of a royal priesthood. But what if all y'all dedicated yourselves to bringing someone into the house of God in order to show them how they already are part of the royal household of the living God? What if we all lived out our calling to be that priesthood of believers? 

We've got Sunday School to teach us. We've got the choirs to inspire us. But our personal learning and inspiration is only half the story, maybe less than half. Because church isn't about us. It's about God. It's about the people out there who need to be part of a royal priesthood and who need to take their place at God's table. It's about being a priesthood for people who are hurting, people who are needing, people who are lost and shall be found.


When we were doing elder training, we talked about how we got to where we are right now in our journeys of faith. And when I asked, "How did you get here, to this church?" down to a person, everyone said the same thing. It was one person. One person who reached across the pew. One person who extended a hand. One person who showed them around. One person. 

As a royal priesthood we all are called to be that one person, but not to be alone. We all are called to listen, to care, to learn... to lend a hand.

During the service of ordination, we always ask the people who have been ordained as elders in the Presbyterian Church to come forward and lay hands on those being ordained and have a prayer for them. It's very moving. It's especially gratifying to see that here at Lake Hills about half the congregation comes up. At a lot of churches it's the same 15 people who get elected and re-elected over and over until Jesus comes. 

I always wonder, though, what you in the pews who haven't been ordained think. Do you think, "Gee, nobody's ever asked me to be an elder?" Or maybe, "Look at that motley crew." 

I love Charlie Arnhart's story. When he was asked to be an elder the first time, he came home feeling all good about himself. And Dorothy said, "Well. They sure must be scraping the bottom of the barrel if they're asking you." Not quite.

However you serve in the church of Jesus Christ, all -- All Y'all -- are members of that royal priesthood just the same. Some serve more publicly than others. Some serve more quietly. Some stand and are recognized. Some sit and pray. Whatever role you have in the church, you are still a crucial part of the all.

None of us are royalty. But all of us are servants of the royal. None of us is higher than the other; but none of us is lower than anybody else. Right now. In this moment. Choose to dedicate yourself, choose to dedicate your life to service of the One who created all, who blesses all, who forgives all when we are less than we are called to be. You are a royal priesthood. Go and be.