Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Main Thing is To Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing (Hebrews 12:1-3)

So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

Think about the one who endured such opposition from sinners so that you won’t be discouraged and you won’t give up.

In sports, the adage is to “keep your eye on the ball.”  In driving, it’s “keep your eyes on the road.”  In working on some difficult task, it’s “keep your eyes on the prize,” remembering the goal and reward that awaits you at the end of this hard work.

Maybe you’ve had the experience of driving down the road, and you look at something over on the side of the road, and without even realizing it, you’re starting to steer the car in that direction.  Why? Because our vision informs our direction.  The most common mistake I make in my golf game is that I tend to pick my head up before I swing through the ball.  Every time I lift my head and my eyes a little bit, the rest of me lifts up a little bit, as well, and I don’t make the clean contact needed for a good shot.

Our vision informs our direction.  What you see is very much what you get.  Anybody here drive or have driven a motorcycle?  I’m told that part of the training for learning how to ride a motorcycle involves very clear instruction on where to look as you ride.  Cyclists are told to look for the openings, not the obstacles, because where they look is where they will go, and you obviously want to gravitate toward the openings, not the obstacles.

Whether we are keeping our eye on the ball, the road, or the prize, these are simple reminders to stay focused on what is most important and what matters most, to not lose sight of what is central and essential, not only so that we see it, but that we align our movements toward it.

Someone once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  And friends, for Christians, the main thing is Jesus, for he is what matters most, he is most important, he is central and essential to our faith.  We keep our eyes on Jesus, not just for the sake of seeing him, but so we can constantly move our lives toward him.

On my last Sunday as your pastor, as we close out this chapter of the story and you and God prepare to write a new chapter, that is my prayer and encouragement for you as you move forward.  Morehead Church: keep your eyes on Jesus.  He’s the main thing.

Today’s Scripture reading from the book of Hebrews makes the same plea.  Let’s run the race set out before us, with a great cloud of witnesses from throughout all times and places in the stands cheering us on.  Let’s put aside sin – anything that separates us from God, anything that tangles us up, anything that distracts us, anything that takes our eyes off Jesus – let’s put all of that off to the side and focus with pinpoint-laser-vision on Jesus.  Keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing is Jesus.

We stumble and get tangled up when we focus our attention on other things, when we allow ourselves to get sidetracked by people and things that aren’t even on track, when we major in the minors.

I know you already know this, so indulge me in this little public service announcement.  The main thing is not the building.  The main thing is not the worship service time, or style, or format, or location.  The main thing is not the music – it is not organ or piano or praise band or whatever else.  The main thing is not whether the choir or director or pastor wears a robe or street clothes.  The main thing is not the leadership or the committees or the staff.  The main thing is not the budget.  The main thing is not pride in the past, it is not productivity in the present, it is not possibility for a promising future.  The main thing is not people’s personal preferences.  The main thing is not the plans or programs or preaching.  The main thing is neither the pastor in the pulpit, nor the person in the pew next to you.  The main thing is Jesus.  Who’s the main thing?

How many times have we seen a church build itself around, or define itself by, one of these other things?  You ever just want to say, “How’s that working out for you?”

When we bring these other things from the periphery to center stage, Jesus gets crowded out.  You can’t focus on two things at the same time, and when we obsess over these other things, we lose our focus on Jesus.  Jesus himself warned us against doing this, he likened it to building our house upon unstable and shifting sand, rather than solid bedrock.  The old hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

So, keep the main thing the main thing.  And the main thing is Jesus.  Keep your eyes so fixed on him that he remains the center, the focal point, and allow all those things and issues that ought to remain on the periphery to stay exactly where they belong.  Do that persistently, faithfully, regardless of whatever opposition you face, regardless of how other people respond, what they think of you, say about you, keep your eyes on Jesus, who has been there and done that, who has run the same race ahead of you, and is calling you to follow after him.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who told us the greatest command is to love God and our neighbor.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who has called you in your baptism, and commissions you to serve in ministry in his name.  Don’t leave the tasks of ministry to someone else.  Ministry is the work of ALL the people of God, laity and clergy alike.  We get in the bad habit sometimes of referring to the pastor as the minister, and often implied in that is that he or she is THE minister.  The paid professional who performs all the ministry tasks for and on behalf of the congregation.

When our Community Care Team was up and running, one member of the team told me that another member of the church objected to the word, “Minister” on her name badge.  “You’re not a minister!” this person insisted.  What emerged is that recognizing the person in the pew next to us as a minister brings us face-to-face with our own call to be in ministry.

Friends, when it comes to ministry, you are not a spectator.  You are not a consumer.  You are not a passive recipient of ministry goods and services.  You ARE a minister.  Don’t fall into the conspiracy of thinking you pay the pastor to do all the ministry, or thinking that the pastor’s role is to be Christian on your behalf.  Some pastors will be co-conspirators in that lie with you, preferring to do it all and decide it all themselves, rather than training up others and releasing them out into the fields.  One way the Bible describes the role of the pastor is to “equip and empower the saints – that’s you – for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4).  Everyone, including you, including the person sitting next to you, is called to be a minister.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who calls his followers to serve rather than be served.  When a crowd of 5000 gathered on the lakeshore and mealtime came around, his disciples said, “Jesus, these people are hungry!”  And how did Jesus respond?  Did he say, “Thank you for telling me that!  You sit back, and I’ll take care of everything!”  No, he said, “Then YOU give them something to eat!” (Mark 6, Matthew 14, Luke 9)

Following Jesus means that we’re the ones serving, not the ones being served.  If you want to be served, go join a country club.  Take a cruise.  Book a day at the spa.  When you follow Jesus, get ready to serve.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who welcomed little children to come to him, and rebuked those who tried to stop them.  He commended imaginative, boundary-pushing child-like faith, and told us adults, who often take ourselves way too seriously, to become more like these, and thus inherit the kingdom of God.

One measure of the health and vitality of a church is in what it does for children.  I’m encouraged when I see our best people, our most dedicated, our most faithful, step forward to work with children.  For all who teach Sunday School and keep the nursery and work in Vacation Bible School and children’s choir, and every other opportunity we have to care for and nurture children in their faith, I am grateful.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who commissioned the church for the purpose of making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey Jesus in everything.  As I leave, I’ll remember those I was privileged to baptize in this place over three years:

·        Jonathan Dixon

·        Jennifer Dixon

·        Parker Dixon

·        Reymonda Turner

·        Chad Hatch

·        Skylar Hatch

·        Melissa Lewis

·        Valorie Lewis

·        Jake Lewis

·        Zack Hurley

·        Sylvia LeClair

I’ll remember those of you who have come to faith for the first time, those who have come back to faith, and those who have grown deeper and wider in your faith.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who is full of grace and love, and who said that we would be known as his disciples in how well we love others.  Love is one of those things that, if you have it, you just share it. And friends, there’s a lot of love here.  Look for it.  Nurture it.  Multiply it.

Thank you for all the ways you have been loving and gracious to me and my family for the last three years.

We came in July, 2013.  Ashley’s Grandma Alice passed away in August of that year, my Papa Bill less than a month later.  Ashley’s Papa Buddy died 8 months after that in May of 2014.  Four months later, my Dad received the kidney transplant for which he had been waiting for five and a half years, but during the wait, it turned out his health had declined to the point that he was simply too weak to recover from the transplant surgery.  Between September 2014 and April 2015, he spent 94 days in Wake Forest Medical Center, which meant we spent 94 days in Wake Forest Medical Center.  He eventually chose to go into Hospice care in April 2015, where he died a week later.

Friends, I wouldn’t wish losing three grandparents and a parent in less than two years on anyone, but you never forget how people respond during a time.  The depth of love and grace practiced by the people of Morehead during that time is something I will always remember.

And so, as you move forward, I encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus.  That shouldn’t be a new concept.  It’s what I hope to have helped you do over the last three years.  If somehow that’s happened for you, then praise God and to God be the glory.  And if I’ve somehow let you down in that, I ask for your forgiveness.

Just remember, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.  And who’s the main thing?  Jesus.  Who’s it all about?  Who’s at the center?  The focus?  Keep your eyes on who?  Jesus.

What you see is what you get.  So keep your eyes on Jesus. Let his love surround you and fill you and shine through you.  I’ll be cheering you on.

1 comment:

  1. These are wonderful sermons. Thank you and may God richly bless you and your ministry. In Jesus Name. Amen.