Scripture: Matthew 11:28-30
Sermon: “Who Are We?” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
Peter Sellers, famous for the hilarious Pink Panther movies, once said, in all seriousness, something like, After playing so many roles in my life, I don’t really know who I am. One wonders if Lindsay Lohan might suffer from some of the same identity crisis. Indeed one actor once told me, I can be anyone you want, just not myself. Now it’s very helpful to know that I am not handy, but I am hands on. (Sometimes Mark might say, “too hands on.”) I am not high-tech, but I am high-touch. I am not a good athlete, but I am a good Tiger fan. Indeed one of you recently came in the church office to turn down a ministry request by saying, I am just not good at that! I’ll do this, but NOT that. Who am I? is not just an important question for people, it is also a critical question for churches. That’s why our church, Macy’s Depart-ment store, and the SMCenter all have mission statements. Who has God created us to be?
Our vision statement begins, We invite all. That is, we are an inviting church. Now some of you visiting church today might fear a more confrontational approach. Either you’ve watched very in your face preaching on TV, or you’ve seen one of those nuts carrying a wooden cross and yelling Repent! on the street corner, or you’ve had a co-worker look you in the eyes and ask you, Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? You would have preferred a question on bowel function. To put you at ease, let me promise you that we are not the 2 x 4 between the eyes confrontational church, we are invitational. We invite respectfully.
We are invitational because Jesus was: Come to me, all who are weary and carry heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Jesus invited. Notice he didn’t force by saying Get over here! Why? Because Jesus respected the free will with which he created us. And Jesus trusted the Holy Spirit whose job it is to draw us to God. It’s not our job to make anyone believe.
And like Jesus, we invite all. Jesus invited the hated tax collectors, prostitutes and the upper crust. So in our day we invite homosexual, alcohol abuser and mayor. But let’s be realis-tic, that unlike Jesus, we’ll draw upper middle class whites better than we’ll draw gangbangers. Jesus’ divinity is displayed in how he could draw all strata; we’re too narrowly human for that.
And to what, or whom, do we invite all? We invite all into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus is so personal in our text that he says, I am gentle and humble in heart, goes against the most common misconceptions of how God relates to this world. Our culture believes either that God is totally separate from his world, this is called Deism, or that God is equated with our world, which is called paganism. In Deism God will never have a personal relationship with us because of distance, and in paganism there is no God with whom to have a personal relationship, so there is no distance, since you, not to mention that tree, are god! But the Judeo-Christian worldview is that God overlaps the world, meaning that God is greater than the world, but passionate about healing the world, so he comes in Jesus to be our friend, advisor, Savior and Lord. And there is no greater relationship!!
Enter a personal relationship with Jesus, and you’ll have intimate moments like John had at the last supper where, in the custom of the time among friends, he laid on Jesus’ chest. (They didn’t sit at tables, but reclined.) Enter into a personal relationship with Jesus and God will chew you out, like Jesus did when he told Peter, Get behind me, Satan! It’s the richest of relationships.
And how do you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus? We invite all into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by placing our hand in his. You see, a personal relationship with God is not about God catering to me. Oh, Todd wants a Cadillac, let’s get him one. Todd wants to be healed of cancer, he’s healed. Todd wants perfect kids… you get the idea. It’s not about making God my bellhop, but letting God be my pilot. Or, in wedding posture, making my vows to Jesus, since the church is the bride of God’s groom, Jesus.
Placing my hand in God’s is what Jesus was talking about with the different metaphor of a yoke. In Jesus’ day farmers placed an experienced ox with an inexperienced ox in the same yoke for training. Sometimes the young ox would get eager and race ahead, but his neck would chafe. At other times, the young ox would get tired or passive, and then the yoke would drag him. But when the young ox learned to pace himself with the older ox, his yoke would be easy, and his burden light. In the same way, if I get too eager or anxious, and get out ahead of Jesus, even on a good thing like marrying the perfect guy, or a great idea whose time is now, my neck will be chafed. My guess is that is what happened to me in our church plant, and about ten times every day. But if I get lazy and reluctant to follow Jesus, I’ll be dragged, and that happens daily also. May you and I learn to place our hand in His, or to pace ourselves to Jesus our guide.
That’s who we are, our identity is to invite all into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by placing our hand in His. I can’t think of any greater organization to be a part of! So I ask you, as we read this vision statement together in a few moments, to place your hand in His, and then go from this place to invite all others to this personal relationship with Jesus, as well.