Brad opened by commending the leadership team that worked so hard to make last week's Harvest Festival such a special event. We were also reminded that our new fall schedule features Sunday School at 9:00 a.m. and worship at 10:15. Other announcements included:
1. On October 3 and 6 there will be a music festival at our sister church First Covenant in Lincoln Park.
2. There will be a women's tea at noon, October 9 here at the church.
3. Gail thanked everyone who helped or contributed to the success of the rummage sale which raised $340 last week.
Darlene then blessed us with the introit, which was followed by a time of worship, which included a taking of the offering. Ellie read today's Scripture reading, Luke 15:1-10, which was followed by a time of prayer.
Brad opened by reading these words from what is probably the most famous sermon of all time, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." ~Matthew 7:24-27
The contrast is clear. A rock is solid. A rock foundation is a place of stability in a world where everything is uncertain.
Brad delineated just some of the experiences of recent years which have rocked our worlds. The 9-11 attack, anthrax fears, the tech stock crash, housing market collapse and banking crisis which have combined to make us less confident about our economic futures.
Having a job is no guarantee of security these days either. Companies get bought and sold, and jobs shuffled or eliminated. Brad cited a very recent example.
Some people who have lost everything say, "Well, I still have my health." They find security in having good health. But this, too, can turn around overnight in a hundred different ways, as we so painfully see year in and year out.
Family and friends are a source of security for many people, but even the best friendships are temporary for as we all know, life itself is a temporary stay on this earth and sooner or later one of us must go.
Brad noted that the introit Darlene played was that classic hymn, The Solid Rock, with these memorable words:
"On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand."
all other ground is sinking sand."
ALL other ground is sinking sand... The only really solid foundation is a relationship with Jesus Christ, whose 24/7 love for us is ever present and without fail. With Christ you also get a permanent pardon for your sins.
Brad noted that in a relationship with Jesus we also get rock solid power, power to build bridges with others, to control our tempers, our greed and our lusts. And power to get through hard times.
Jesus also gives us a rock solid sense of guidance and purpose. God will guide our futures, and will be there with us all the way through. Of this we can be confident instead of leaving us to face uncertain tomorrows alone.
And most significantly, with Christ you have a rock solid assurance of where you're going to go when you die. All of this is available through a relationship with Christ.
Many people who go to church know all these things and want these things, but still don't know how to get it, Brad has observed. Over the years he has met many a person who has taken a run at faith, but feel and say "it didn't work."
Brad asks these people, "Well, what did you do?" and often the answers go something like this: "Oh, I tried to get into God and tried to clean up my life and promised God and myself that I would use less profanity and drink less beer and go out partying less. I'd be a better boy scout... but there wasn't much joy in it. I didn't know if God was happy with me so I bailed."
Someone else might reply that they decided to get involved with more charities, serve in a soup kitchen... "and after that I felt O.K. but I never knew if it was enough. I never got to the place where I really felt secure."
How do I get from the shifting sands to the solid rock?
No one makes it through human effort, through their own power. The only way is for a third party to lift you up and place you there. God alone can do this for you, and He will do this when you take a humble, sincere step of faith. As it is written, "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." It is a gift from God. This is the only way to go from shifting sand to Solid Rock.