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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

That's Not How WE Do It

2017-09-17 Ps 133 and Ro 14 01-12 That's Not How WE Do It


The Lord be with you.

Lake Hills be with you.

Indeed we do be.

We Lake Hillians want to express our great thanks to you Graystoners. Thank you for welcoming us so warmly and so graciously. You, truly are making room for us to live out the words of Psalm 133.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

In the King James that many of us recall, it says, "when Brethren live together." But we know what King David meant, and we forgive his error. It is very good and pleasant when Brethren AND Sisteren live together, and worship together, and sing together in unity.

But if we listen to the words of the Apostle Paul, we know, we know it's not the living together. It's not the worshiping together. It's not even the singing together. The good and pleasant goes beyond the activity. What we do together is not as important, is never as important, as the unity. The unity. And we do not produce said unity. The unity is from the One for whom we do these things.

What we do is never as important as the One for whom we do it. Paul says, "We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves." We do not sing to ourselves. (Well, sometimes we do. Like, at home, in the shower. But that's not important right now.) We surely do not worship to ourselves. And even as totally awesome as we all are, we do not worship ourselves. (Hopefully. At least, not publicly.) As we observe and celebrate this day, we observe and we celebrate not ourselves, not to ourselves, but we observe and celebrate to the Lord. As we worship, we worship to the Lord. As we eat that delicious fried chicken, as we taste those tasty sides, as we drink that sweet, sweet tea - we eat, we taste, we drink - to the Lord. Even those who abstain, even (as Paul says) those who eat only vegetables, you vegetarians, you vegans, you whose evil doctors forbid you from eating anything that tastes good, we do it to the Lord. And the Lord provides. We provide the chicken. The Lord provides the unity.

Our unity comes not from what we do, or where we do it. Our unity is in the One whom we honor. Our unity is through the One to whom we give our thanks.

Because, deep down, we're all the same. As Paul says elsewhere, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).

No matter who we are, no matter where we are, no matter whether we gather on Chapman Highway or gather on what's left of Alcoa Highway. Brothers, sisters, young and old, all of us - all y'all - we are one in Christ Jesus, for it is in Christ Jesus we have unity.


Now. Look around. Not at each other, but look through the walls. Look at the world. Do you see unity? I don't know where you're looking, but when I look at the world, I see a lot of dis-unity.


Barely two weeks after we saw people coming together to rescue one another from Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma, mere days since we witnessed the very best of humanity bringing the salvation of food, clothing, and dry land - already, the news cycle has moved on, reminding us once again of the disunity infecting our supposedly united states.

Climate changers versus climate deniers. Republicans versus Democrats. Dreamers versus regime-ers. We are dis-united over big things and sometimes the silliest things. Recently, I had someone look me in the eye and say - their words just dripping with judgment, "I'll bet you watch CNN." As if that was the worst thing you could ever say about somebody. When our cable news channel determines the fate of our souls, Lord save us all.

(I don't always watch cable news, but I will say that I found it very enjoyable binge-watching CNN anchors being battered by hurricane winds all last weekend. "Anderson, I'm now being pulled upward into the funnel cloud." I know it's wrong, to pull for the hurricane like that. Don't judge me.)

Really. Please. Don't judge. Anybody. Because Paul says it is the judging, it is the judgment we pass on one another, it's the judging that destroys our unity. Judging brings disunity. Judging is the opposite of unity. Judging one another kills unity. Paul says,

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?

We will never have unity as long as we judge each other. Judging crucifies once again the body of Christ.

What we have in common, though, is that "we will all stand before the judgment seat of God." You. Me. Paul. Silas. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Mary and Martha. Lake Hills Church. Graystone Church. We will all stand before God's judgment. We do have that in common. We have judgment in common. Not our own. God's judgment.

Does that make you comfortable? Knowing that we're all under God's judgment? Or do you find yourself wanting to squirm, just a little? God's unity is always just a little uncomfortable. Sometimes it's very uncomfortable. Because it means we have to give up our very precious possession: Our judging. Our judging of others. Our judging of ourselves.

Leave the judgment to God. This is indeed uncomfortable. If we don't have our judging, what does that leave us? If God judges us, who can stand?


Paul says:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God."

Maybe it's just professional curiosity, but I find it fascinating to see how different churches do the same things. When you of Graystone came to Lake Hills last summer, you no doubt looked around. You noticed when we stood up and when we sat down. You may have counted. You saw how we collected the Offering. You saw our rituals and thought, "They don't pass the peace. They just stand around and talk until the music starts." You saw these things and you may have thought, "I like that." Or, "That's just wrong."

No doubt, the Lake Hillers are doing that today. And I promise you, if we see things we like, we're stealing them. Not physical things. Probably. But when you do the same thing every week, it's good to see how other people do it, to catch their unique spin, to maybe copy a little of their style.

So much of what people disagree over really comes down to style. Do we think God really cares whether we collect the Offering in a polished gold plate or in a chicken bucket? Do we think God really cares whether we stand four times or five, whether we dunk or sprinkle, whether we have real wine or Welch's? Whether we have Gibson guitars or a Frobenius pipe organ? WE get all judgy about those things. But do we think GOD really cares?

Sometimes we do. That's why it's so important to get out and see that other people do things differently and yet are not struck by lightning.

God judges. But God - unlike people - God does not give us points for style. God's into substance. The question for us - as people of God - The question for us - as the Church, as the Body of Christ for the world - The question for us is, does what we do make our knees bow? Does it make our tongues give praise? Does what we do unite us in Christ? Or does it unite us in judgment of people who do it wrong? Who do it different? Who aren't. like. Us?


As people, our vision is so limited. We divide into neighborhoods. We divide into identities, into Apple or Android, Volunteers or Gators, Presbyterians or Baptists, Lake Hills or Graystone - as people who decide what's right based on what's closest to us, we limit ourselves and we incur our own judgment. We invoke our own judgment.

God's judgment calls us to widen our views. God's judgment calls us to see beyond style. God's judgment calls us NOT to look down on the weirdos, but to look up to Christ. For in Christ Jesus our Lord, we find the substance of real, lasting unity.

Lord knows, we're not there yet. But God is hopeful. Maybe not today, but someday - every knee shall bow. Someday - every tongue shall give praise to God. So it is written. So it shall be. And God shall see it and God shall say, "Now. That IS how we do it. Amen."