Sunday, September 7, 2014

Watchman!! URGENCY !!!

Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost
Sept 7, 2014
Fr. Phil Eberhart


Watchmen ...  Urgency!!


This morning's readings have a sense of urgency about them.  Did you notice?

You, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep

lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;

 put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

I've always taken the words of Ezekiel here this morning quite literally.  These words were my companions as, 14 years ago, we contemplated a departure from an apostate church.  Now 14 years later we live in the midst of an apostate culture!

What is the role of the believer in a culture?

I don't believe that the words this morning are just for pastors, though they are for pastors most assuredly!  But the role of pastors, if we pay attention to the Word of God, is not just to shepherd the flock of God, but to equip people for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12 ff).

The ministries that are mentioned there by Paul in Ephesians are not setting up tables and making coffee, reading the scriptures or lighting the candles!  They are the core ministries of the Church - ministries that ARE the church's identity:  Apostle, Evangelist, Prophet, Teacher, Pastor.  These correspond to identities that we all have in our lives - motivations for ministry that we all have in varying degrees and that need to be 'trained up' for us to use properly.

This morning's readings from the Word cast the Body of Christ in its role as Salt and Light in the world!  Prophetic and Teaching roles are what seem to be indicated by our readings for those who believe.
Let's look again at the words we've heard:

I have made [you] a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

Have you ever "heard a word from the Lord" and given it to someone?   Anyone?

If we are salt and light in our world, then this is exactly the role we have among those that we "live, and move, and have our being" with!

I think it sheds a whole different light on the cause of witness!  There is an urgency here that is often not present in our lives when we think about sharing our faith.  And what we are talking about here isn't just the 'run of the mill' day of witnessing.  This is the sandwich-board kind of witnessing!  THE END IS NEAR!  REPENT! kind of witnessing!

We're there friends!  I'm not saying that the End is this fall or anything like that, but everywhere I turn - every paper, every TV screen, almost every conversation is about the events going on in our world that are "apocalyptic" in their force and in their nature!  There is a great deal of hand-wringing among Christians these days, and we are supposed to be up so something more than hand-wringing!

Ps 19 speaks of this warning as a conclusion to the section about the Word of God that we are so familiar with:

"Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward."

And friends, if we take the word from Ezekiel seriously this morning, then once we are warned, we are to pass along that warning to others!

you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep...

lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;

... put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.


I do believe that in many respects the American Church is asleep, still today.  I had a conversation a few days ago with someone about the marijuana laws that have gotten passed in the last few years.  Hand-wringing and asking how did this happen?

Sleep happened!  If the Church wasn't asleep, none of this would be possible!  And just one example is our voting record!  The Church in the U.S. is a significant force, but half of those who "say" they are Christians aren't even registered to vote!  And half of those who ARE registered, don't go vote!  So our voice is small and insignificant, when the world needs a booming warning - the world needs us to be what we are - Salt and Light!  Its simple, register and vote!

The world needs us to say what we know!  To repeat the very words we've heard this morning!

lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;

... put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

No, its not going to be popular!  No, they're not going to be nice to us if we do it.  The experience of the prophets throughout history bears this out, but the Church today is called to a prophetic role in our culture.  We are being called as Watchmen, to see and hear the danger that our culture is in, and to speak up in warning!

In his sermon entitled "The Decay of Conscience," Charles Finney, the lawyer become revival preacher in 1873, said this...

"Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits.
If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree.
If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.
Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation."


Finney was clear that the "fault" is in the pulpit, as the pulpit  influences the Church to action.  I take that responsibility seriously, especially as we approach another election cycle!!

Just as in that day, again we need to be called to action in our culture.  "immorality prevails" "decay of conscience" "Lack of moral discrimination"; Church is degenerate and worldly; World loses its interest in religion; Satan rules in our halls of legislation; politics are corrupt, so we are losing the foundations of our society!

LET US NOT IGNORE THIS FACT, MY DEAR BRETHREN, BUT LET US LAY IT TO HEART!

Today is the day of salvation friends, and we are the Church, called to go from here and give warning - prophetic warning according to the Word of God.  It is not an easy or pleasant thing, but our world is in desperate need of this voice we have.

One last observation:  Don't try this alone!  There is a reason that Jesus sent his messengers out two-by-two.  You must be yoked together with another to do this kind of work.  There is no Lone Ranger - no Silver Bullet - and no "Hi O Silver Away!"

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

Friends, we have the power and with God, we are the majority!  Even if we are just two.  The key is prayer, holiness of life, and a willingness to speak out.

Once again we are back to the elements of being on mission with God:  Willingness, Availability and Obedience.  Let's turn to our psalm for the day and say it again, slowly as a prayer together:

Let us pray.

33
Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, *
and I shall keep it to the end.
34
Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; *
I shall keep it with all my heart.
35
Make me go in the path of your commandments, *
for that is my desire.
36
Incline my heart to your decrees *
and not to unjust gain.
37
Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; *
give me life in your ways.
38
Fulfill your promise to your servant, *
which you make to those who fear you.
39
Turn away the reproach which I dread, *
because your judgments are good.
40
Behold, I long for your commandments; *
in your righteousness preserve my life.
Amen.