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

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Maturity Is for Sissies

2015-03-08 Psalm 150 and Ephesians 4:11-13 Maturity IS for Sissies


I love being Presbyterian, but sometimes we're just so orderly. The Bible's not orderly. It jumps around like a Pentecostal on Red Bull. A lot of the people in the Bible are just MESSED up. That's good. It helps us identify. Because we're all messed up in our own special ways. So today I've got this idea that we should all just strip down and get disorderly (spiritually, of course). I know you can do it. I've seen your Facebook pages.


Psalm 150. Says, "Praise God in his sanctuary."

It's not, "Praise god in his sanctuary. But don't let anyone know."



Don't tell me; tell your neighbor. Turn and tell them.


Stand up.

This time, pretend you're at Neyland Stadium with a big, orange foam finger.


That's your line today. Be ready to say it again, with an exclamation point.


We've got so many reasons to praise God in his sanctuary today.

Carla Parker is back. "PRAISE GOD IN HIS SANCTUARY!"

Can I get an, "Amen"? Can I get a, "Thank you, Jesus!"?

Today, we're commissioning our Stephen Ministers. They have completed 50 hours of training. Our Leadership Team has completed 100 hours of training. That's a combined 750 hours of training. We have TEN Stephen Ministers in our inaugural class. For a church of this size – or any size, really – that is astounding. And they're ready to deploy.

You wonderful, compassionate people already know how to care for each other. But with the Stephen Ministry, we're kicking it up a notch, all the way to 11. Doing what Jesus told all his followers to do, to care for the sick, to visit the lonely, to comfort the hurting. We should praise God for that.



But wait, there's more. We have a Confirmation Class of SEVEN middle-schoolers who are going to take the vows of baptism and join the church on Palm Sunday. SEVEN kids. That's the largest Confirmation Class we've had in 20 years – maybe ever. Ava, Sarah, Bella (those are the girls), and the boys: Lander, Hayden, Hayden, and Hayden. (It's like being at George Foreman's house.) And as good Presbyterians, we've collaborated with Graystone and Lake Forest churches to gather the masses together as one body of Christ.


Last weekend our High Schoolers went to Youth Summit in Gatlinburg with 100 more kids from the churches in our presbytery. Cheryl Child, whose superpower is – well – pretty much everything, was the event planner, director, and fire extinguisher. Steven and Heather and Logan took care of the kids as chaperones. Yes, they had fun. Yes, they learned about God. Yes, they grew closer in Christ.


We're going to have breakfast food for supper tonight. We're going to have live bluegrass music. (Can I get a "Yee Haw!"?)

In the coming weeks, we're getting ready to build another house with Habitat for Humanity. Organizing meeting is next Sunday.

We're prepping for another mission trip to Camp John Knox. We're planning Vacation Bible School.

Lemme hear it one more time: "PRAISE GOD IN HIS SANCTUARY!"


Stephen Ministry program has as its mission statement the scripture we read. Stephen Ministry exists, and we as the church of Jesus Christ exist:

"To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12–13).


Worship is wonderful. But worship is never, ever an end in itself. If we treat worship like it's the be-all and end-all, we insult God. Worship is holy rest. Worship is time out. Worship is time to huddle up and talk over the game plan so we can get back out there and make a difference.

Each and every one of us is called, commanded to get together and praise God in his sanctuary. Not because God needs it. (God doesn't say, "Bobby wasn't into worship today. Maybe I'm not good at my job. Maybe I should smite him.") God doesn't need our worship. God knows he's "awesome". We praise God in his sanctuary because WE need it. We need it badly. Because, truth be told, we're all messed up in our own special ways.

Second, we praise God in his sanctuary because THE WORLD needs it. The world's messed up. (Can I get an "Amen?")

Third, we praise God in his sanctuary because all us saints and all us sinners (hard to tell the difference) need to be equipped for the work of ministry. All us saints and all us sinners need to hear the good news that we are beloved, BELOVED by our creator, no matter who we are or how we look or whether we fit in with other people's idea of orderly or normal. God did not create normal people. Some of us are just higher-functioning.

Each and every one of us has a purpose. Each and every one of us has a ministry. Our ministry is to work to praise God in word and in deed (and occasionally in standing up and shouting). We don't do it for earthly reward. It's nice to be told you're nice by nice people, but that's not the point. We do the work of ministry because we believe God cares, CARES, so deeply about each and every one, not just each and every one of us, but about each person and every saintly, sinnerly, messed-up person on the face of this earth.

So, praise God in his sanctuary!


"To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12–13).

Maturity. The AARP calls a lot of us "mature". How many of you are mature? How many of you are immature? It's kinda fun, until somebody gets hurt or arrested. Maturity is a journey, not a destination.

How many of you are completely grown up? Some of us are so grown up we're starting to shrink. Maturity is not for sissies. Scripture says we're called to "equip the saints" (and sinners), that we will grow "to the measure of the full stature of Christ." We're here "for building up the body of Christ."

Building up. I picture us as kids with Legos, building up that body. Making it tall and strong and righteously awesome. But here's something we forget. That body of Christ? The one that the Bible tells us about? That resurrected body of Christ? It has holes. It has nail holes in the hands. That beautiful, re-created body? It has scars. It's already broken. It has legs broken by power. It bears the marks of thorns on its head. It weeps for immature, messed up people who know not what they do. Actually, maturity IS for sissies, and weaklings, and the broken.

The body of Christ… the body of Christ into which we are built up is not perfect. The body of Christ – especially the body that has us as its building blocks – the body of Christ brings with it all its wounds.


The Psalmist calls us to praise God in his sanctuary. OK. But how does that sound to God? When we praise God in his sanctuary, we do it with voices that are, let's just say, unique.

Some of us (like myself) sound like cymbals, like loud, clashing cymbals.

Like loud, clashing cymbals that couldn't keep a beat if the teacher from Whiplash was smacking us in the face.

Some of us sound like beautiful stringed instruments. You are graceful and angelic in your voice, in the work of your hands, in your laughter, in your kindness.

Some of us grind like the sub-woofer bass pedals on the pipe organ. You don't say a lot, but when you speak, people feel it.

Some of you dance. I mean, really dance for God's praise, like on Youth Sunday. Some of us have a way of dancing around a kitchen to create delicious meals to take people who are sick. Some of us can dance around the obstacles of health care, or a courtroom, or public school classroom, or lunchroom, or bus duty (God bless you).

Some of us are just finding our voices. Some of you are experimenting with personalities. Your voices physically crack. Or you're afraid to raise your voice because of what people might say. As a "mature" person, I can tell you that it's OK to take your time because more often the right time will find you before you find it.

"Unity of the faith" doesn't mean perfect agreement. It surely doesn't mean a choir where every voice sounds exactly the same. Scott and Carla will tell you, it's NOT all about the bass, even if the basses sometimes think so. It's not all about the tenor, soprano, alto, or no-go. The unity comes from blending all the voices together, however they sound. Unity comes from mixing together the mixed up. The Holy Spirit blends us into something better, something more fulfilling than any one of us could possibly ever be on our own. The unity of faith of Christ's beautiful, broken body is that somehow God takes all the broken parts and puts them together – for God's purposes, for the world.


"To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12–13).

Two thousand years later, we're still a church working on that. We're still on that twisty road to maturity. Taking two steps forward and one step back on the journey to the full stature of Christ. How will we know when we get there? Let me take that burden off your shoulders. We aren't going to get there.

But on the way, we can praise God. And we can do so with joy. Joining with the sinners and saints of all generations saying:

"Praise God in his sanctuary!"