If there is one theological concept that has been pounded into my head over and over, it’s the Trinity–one God in three persons. So when last Sunday’s sermon was about the Triune God, I wasn’t exactly groaning, but I was not expecting to learn something new.
And then we got to point three: Scripture and Experience, at which the minister said something about some people not liking Christianity to be so abstract. I realized I do like it to be abstract. Talk to me about the relationship between the truths of the Trinity and my Christian experiences, and I have to take a deep breath. I could hardly take notes because it’s not really something you take notes on (and I like taking notes).
I don’t have much to report about the sermon itself. I’m just saying there are profound, breath-taking ways of looking at normal Christian topics. We’re never finished learning about God.
Here is a small portion of the Bible that I never read before with the intention of getting personal meaning from it:
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Here’s what I learned on Sunday: We are in the era of Satan’s collapse. The kingdom of God is advancing. Christians overcome their enemies by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. Preaching the word is a humbling exercise: treading on serpents and scorpions (wouldn’t we rather be saving endangered sea turtles or discovering new birds in the rainforest?). Serpents and scorpions are venomous; however, Jesus already delivered the head-blow to the serpent. Satan is rendered harmless. What we experience is the wrath of angry Satan because he couldn’t take down the Lamb he wanted. Even if the enemy gets our dead bodies, it doesn’t get us. God is in control, and He has no intention of losing His people to the enemy. Be comforted in belonging to a faithful Savior.
Sunday morning’s sermon taught me a thing or two about church. And about Psalm 87. Verse 2 says, “the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.” Before Sunday, I would not have known how to explain that verse. The meaning is surprising: Zion is church (the gathering of God’s people to worship Him) and the dwelling places of Jacob are homes. God loves when we worship Him in church more than He loves when we worship Him in our homes.
If that wasn’t in the Bible, I probably wouldn’t believe it. I like to worship at home more than I do at church. Church is stressful. Getting ready for church is the most stressful. Having a child fall asleep in evening church only to be awake afterward until midnight is not something I look forward to. But it doesn’t matter what I think. We go to church because that’s what God wants. That’s where God will bless us the most. I don’t know what kind of blessings they are. They are probably the invisible-to-the-human-eye type of blessings. At least for me, when going to church is often hard to do. I do believe that God does bless us, though.
During the silent prayer at the beginning of worship, I sometimes pray that our worship be a pleasing aroma to Him. I think that’s part of why God likes us to worship together as a church body; the prayers and songs and praise rise to Him in a fuller sense, like the aroma of an entire garden. It has more depth than the smell of a single rose.
Last night’s sermon was about rest on the Sabbath day. I wanted to hear the sermon, so I did the very unrestful thing of getting my three children out of the muddy outdoors, into the bathtub, into clean church clothes, into the car, into the back row of church, and then attempted to keep the two oldest from whispering and poking each other while the youngest slept curled up on my lap (and she’s pretty big). I realized at one point that I was listening to the preacher, my eyes on him, while I was shaking my head at the kids, who were trying to tell me something. I hope he didn’t get discouraged. His sermon was good.
I learned that rest does not equal leisure. Rest is what heaven will be like. Our Sundays should be about glorifying God, exalting Him with our praise and worship. Sundays are different from the other days of the week. We should honor them, keep them holy, set apart. There are ten commandments, not nine. One of them is “keep the Sabbath day holy.”
Although I did not take notes, and I didn’t catch everything, I did catch the phrase, “Sundays should not be a burden.” That’s where I’m wrong. Sundays are a burden to me. They are difficult. Because my husband is at church in the morning, he has more chores to finish in the afternoon, so he’s out almost the whole day. He doesn’t get home in time from milking to go to night church. And I’ve been raised to not do extra work on Sundays. I don’t do laundry, I don’t dust or vacuum. If something is dirty (and I have time to notice dirty things) I can’t clean it until Monday. The kids get restless. I read a lot of books, but we don’t do school stuff. I make popcorn on Sundays. Popcorn gets all over the carpet. Mostly, we get exhausted trying to keep Sunday different from the other days. It doesn’t feel restful at all. I don’t like Sunday afternoons.
So there it is. My Sunday joy gets squashed when I’m at home. I will say that church is fine. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing there. I suppose I was hoping this sermon would solve my problem. It didn’t. However, I do have some more thinking to do about the difference between rest (as in relaxing) and rest (as in the heavenly sense).