Sunday, November 23, 2008

Where No One Has Gone Before

(A sermon for my last Sunday as pastor of The Hill Baptist Church. The texts I read are Genesis 12:1-4a; Mark 2:13-14; Hebrews 11:13-16.)

Some of you will recognize the words of my title as being borrowed from the famous introduction to the iconic Star Trek television program:

Space…the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

We are finishing up a nearly six-year mission together here at The Hill Baptist Church. It’s been an interesting and good voyage, although a voyage not without perils and bumps, which no voyage worth taking is. Even though our mission together and our voyage together are about to be over, all us will still have a mission and all of us will yet be on a voyage.

I am struck by the applicability of the idea of “voyage” to the living of life and particularly to the living of the Christian life. To quote the theologians Aerosmith, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” So long as we live we never arrive; one day we’ll be home but that day comes only at the end of this life. I strongly believe that heaven is our ultimate destination but I just as strongly believe that while we are here we are meant to keep moving, to keep loving, to keep helping, to keep trying, and to keep believing. That’s what I always try to do and that’s what I want to encourage you to do. That’s what I mean to do and that’s what I hope you’ll mean to do.

We’re all about to go on our particular journeys where no one has gone before. I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, come on, now—we’ll still be here at The Hill and you’re going to Fitzgerald, Georgia, which is not exactly uncharted territory.” And that’s true as far as it goes. What we have to understand, though, is that every day is a new day and every experience is a new experience. My wife is fond of praying, “Thank you, Lord, for this new day, a day we’ve never had before.” Indeed. Every day is a new day and every moment is a new moment and no one can experience those days and moments like you and I can because no one else is you and me except for you and me. We all need to embrace and to get ready for what’s coming. I have the rest of my life and ministry before me. You have the rest of your life and ministry before you. Let us all be grateful. Let us all be excited.

After all, who knows what new worlds await us? Who knows what new worlds of ministry are out there? Who know what new people are waiting to be discovered by us? Who knows what changes we can undergo that will make all the difference for us and for those around us? Who knows what new ways the Lord God will choose to use us?

When I say that we are about to go where no one has gone before, I don’t of course mean that we will chart completely new territory. The story that we will be living is still a part of the old, old story; the story that we will be telling is still the old, old story. And so I want to spend the rest of my time today reminding you of what I’ve really been trying to remind you for the last almost six years: everything that we say, everything that we do, everything that we are about, is all about our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God; he is the Messiah; he is the Savior. Jesus Christ did not count equality with God as something to be grasped but instead emptied himself, becoming a servant. He lived a life of perfect obedience to his Father. He did not seize by force or power the kingdom that was his but rather lived a life of humble service. Jesus Christ spent his time on earth giving himself away for the sake of people who did not deserve it and who for the most part did not appreciate it. He went about teaching, preaching, and healing. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. As he hung on that cross he asked his Father to forgive those who were killing him. On the third day he rose from the tomb, defeating forever death, sin, and hell. One day Jesus will return and everything will be fulfilled according to God’s plan. Meanwhile, God has sent his Holy Spirit upon us to equip us and to empower us to be the Body of Christ in the communities in which we live and in the world.

How we live our lives as Christians and as the Church matters. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “My life is my message.” Well, our life is our message, too. How well our lives reflect the life of Jesus Christ finally tells the tale of the validity of our ministry.

Our individual lives and our church life is to based on following Jesus; our individual ministries and our church ministries are to be based on following Jesus; our activity in the church and our activity in the world are to be based on following Jesus. It is all about following Jesus!


Wherever we go and whatever we do, then, let us follow Jesus by demonstrating his grace in all that we do.
Wherever we go and whatever we do, then, let us follow Jesus by practicing radical forgiveness at every opportunity.
Wherever we go and whatever we do, then, let us follow Jesus by focusing on what we can give rather than on what we can get.
Wherever we go and whatever we do, then, let us follow Jesus by loving sacrificially.
Wherever we go and whatever we do, then, let us follow Jesus by thinking more about others than we do about ourselves.
Wherever we go and whatever we do, then, let us follow Jesus by obeying God with great faith.
Wherever we go and whatever we do, then, let us follow Jesus by loving all people but especially the one who is standing in front of us right now.

Wherever we go and whatever we do, then, let us follow Jesus! Because wherever our mission leads us and wherever our journey takes us as we travel along the road to our heavenly home, so long as we follow Jesus we will be walking the right path.

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