There'll Be Some Changes Made from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.
11And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, "he sat down at the right hand of God," 13and since then has been waiting "until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet." 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified 15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
16"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds," 17he also adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more."
18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God
1As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." 3When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4"Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?"
5Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.
9:20 PM local time on Friday, an explosion rocks a Paris soccer stadium.
At 9:25 Gunmen open fire on a pair of restaurants. About 100 spent casings are discovered at the scene.
9:30 A second explosion occurs at the Paris soccer stadium.
9:32 Gunfire at a bar, again 100 spent casings are found at the scene.
9:36 Attackers open fire on a restaurant where people are enjoying the Parisian evening by dining outside. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, gunmen storm a rock concert, killing some and taking others hostage.
9:55 a third blast outside the soccer stadium.
By the end of the night, more than 100 people are dead.
“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.” Mark 13:7
It’s almost 4:00 on a Friday afternoon on the east coast of the United States. Presbyterian Youth Leaders all over Gaston County are preparing for a lock-in. We haven’t given a thought to Paris all day. We are stocking up on shovels and rakes so that we can serve at Webb Street school the next day. We are gathering nerf blasters and darts in anticipation of the games we have planned for that night.
But before the evening ends, we have heard of the attacks, and the rumors of attacks. We are teaching these middle and high schoolers to “Taste and See that the Lord is good.” In the city of lights, investigators are trying to piece together what happened while hospitals are trying to piece together the victims, to stave off a higher death count. In a city reeling from violence and chaos, reporters are trying to file stories with their news organizations, and the news is bad.
In the Presbyterian churches of Gaston county, we have stories too. The Gastonia Area Presbyterians have a story to tell, but how? How do we tell our story amid violence? How do we testify when our neighbors are dying at the hands of madmen? Where is God in the bad news?
God’s heart is breaking as he kneels beside a newly minted widow. God is weeping next to the orphan who’s parents never came home to pick him up from the babysitter. God knows the pain of the parents who have their child.
Immediately, we can all expect so-called “solutions,” and analysis from every opinion. “We will hit them back” says one voice. “More guns would have stopped it!” shouts another. “This is because we have not built peace,” argues a third. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re just groping blindly for some meaning behind the madness. “It’s God’s punishment,” whispered. “God had nothing to do with it,” hissed. They all claim to have the truth, each finding a way to confirm their own bias, and to prop themselves up in the shadow of tragedy. They are priests of their own ideologies.
“And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.” Hebrews 10:11. We all do this to some degree, trying to prove ourselves right. But nothing we say will mend broken bodies, or comfort shattered hearts. In a world full of anger, fear, hate distrust, chaos, violence, our hearts are broken at this breaking news.
Where is the place for a little church like the Presbyterian Church of Lowell to proclaim good news?
We must remember. We must grapple with the Word of God until it wrestles us to the ground and transforms us so that we can point to Jesus the Christ, the Word made flesh. We must remember that we are brought to this community of faith by the crucifixion and resurrection of that one person who was at the same time no more than a man and no less than God. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God,’ and since then has been waiting until his enemies would be made a footstep of his feet.” Hebrews 10:12-13.
When we look at Paris, or Kenya, or Syria, or Lebanon, or Palestine, or Charleston, or the Twin Towers, we are seeing the results of a sinful world. We are seeing the brokenness of humanity writ large. We can see it on a smaller scale in our personal relationships too: when neighbors do not speak to each other out of resentment, when when brothers and sisters let small disagreements push them apart, when we talk about people instead of to them. Make no mistake, it’s all sin, the only difference is the scale on which it plays out. Although the attacks in Paris may resonate more with us, we know that Paris is not alone in its suffering. This is nothing new, it’s been repeated and translated everywhere humans have taken our broken relationships with one another and with our God. We are sinners.
But we know that we sinners are forgiven. We know that Christ died to take away the sin of the world and rose again to the glory of God the father. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14. We know that our God reigns, we know that Christ is alive. We know that the power of sin and death is broken.
There is a place for a little church like the Presbyterian Church of Lowell to proclaim the good news. That place is here, and that time is now.
The world is not as it should be, and we peer out to see what God is doing about it. God sent us Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, his Son. And Jesus went to the cross. He did not overthrow empires by raising armies, he did not defeat evil by beating it at its own game. He humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. But even death could not separate us from the love of God. The vulnerable love of Christ, and his obedience to God, has accomplished what humans could not. It broke the power of sin and death, and freed all humanity to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
“Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22.
We will preach the gospel by following Christ’s example and pointing to the cross and the empty tomb at every turn. Although sin would have us react with terror, we will respond with love. Although those who serve violence would have us close ourselves off, we will open ourselves up. Although we may be tempted, in our more selfish moments, to drive each other apart, we will come together.
We will preach the good news, the mystery of faith, that Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. That story, the gospel story, overwrites any hold that sin has on us, and remakes us into disciples of the living God. “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,” Hebrews 10:23-24.
The movie Casablanca is set in “French” ruled Morocco during World War II. France was occupied by the Third Reich at the time. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s considered a classic. In one particularly moving scene, a group of German soldiers sing a folk song about their homeland. The French people in the bar stare depressed at their drinks at one more reminder that home isn’t home anymore. One man goes over to the the band and tells them to strike up the French National Anthem, and soon the whole bar joins the song, drowning out the Germans.
When I first saw the film, I didn’t understand why that scene was considered so powerful. I’m all for a musical showdown, it’s the band kid in me. But then I learned that the film was released in 1942, the same time at which it was set. while France was still occupied. The tears when the actors sing the French National anthem are real, because this scene gave them a place to reclaim their identity as French, and to resist those who sought to take that from them. These French actors didn't do it with guns. They didn't do it with bombs. They did with music and with film. Art is the tool of the human spirit.
In a few moments, we will sing a hymn. It’s not a national anthem to any fatherland, it’s a hymn of praise to our heavenly Father. The tune is one we’ve sung a number of times before in recent months, but the words are perhaps new to us. The tune comes from the Paris Antiphoner, published in 1681. It’s a song of praise called “Blessing and Honor.” We will look into a world that thinks that violence and sin are the only answer and we will sing these words: “Sing we the song of the Lamb that was slain, dying in weakness but rising to reign.”
Because those who serve violence do not rule creation. The God who is vulnerable enough to love, and loving enough to die, and powerful enough to rise from the dead, reigns on high.
We’re still waiting for the fullness of the kingdom. But we know that it’s coming. We know that Christ already reigns. We know that sin and death are already broken. We know that when the presence of God fills his kingdom, when the LORD writes his laws on our hearts and on our minds, then our sins and lawless deeds will be no more.
When that day comes, there’ll be some changes made.