“GOODBYE, FAREWELL & AMEN” (2 Cor. 13:11-14)
FBC Earlville, N.Y. December 30, 2018 10:30 AM
Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford, Pastor
TODAY’S “SPECIAL”: “The Doctor Funny”
A patient went to the Doctor and asked him to check his leg.
“Something’s wrong. Just put your ear up to my thigh, you’ll hear it!”
The doctor cautiously places his ear to the man’s thigh only to hear, “Give me $10! I’m desperate! I need $10!”
“I’ve never seen or heard anything like this before! How long has this been going on?” the doctor asked.
“That’s nothing, Doc. Put your ear to my knee.”
The doctor put his ear to the man’s knee and heard it say, “Please! I really need $5! Just $5! Please! I’m desperate!”
“Sir, I really don’t know what to tell you. I’ve never seen anything like this.” The doctor was truly dumbfounded.
“Wait, Doc, that’s not all of it. There’s more. Just put your ear down on my ankle,” the man urged him.
The doctor did as the man said and was amazed to hear his ankle plead, “Please, I just need $20! Please lend me $20, please! I am really desperate!”
“I have no idea what to tell you,” the doctor said. “There’s nothing about it in any of my books,” he said as he frantically searched all his medical reference books. “However… I can make a well-educated guess.
Based on life and all my previous experiences, I can tell you with some certainty, that your leg seems to be broke in three places.
Last Wednesday, quarterback Tom Brady of the (cough cough) New England Patriots was asked to comment on his 19 year career. His words were carefully chosen and interesting:
“I’ve been able to be in a career for 19 years that I love,” Brady said. “And I wake up every day excited to go to work. And I wake up every day fulfilled with what I’m doing. I don’t think there’s any greater gift in my life than to have that. Along with that has come a lot of other very cool opportunities, but in my heart and soul, I love playing the sport of football. And it’s brought me so much joy in my life.”
Then he went on to say, “It tests you in so many ways. I’ve been dealing with it for a long time. There’s anxiousness and nerves, and there’s joy and happiness, there’s disappointment and frustration. The emotions run the gamut. But if you can stay and build your mental toughness, it has just been incredibly rewarding. And I’m a very, very lucky man.”
This MOST LIKELY will be the last sermon that I ever preach as a pastor; it may be the last sermon that I EVER preach. And if it is, I hope I can apply what Mr. Brady did: I’ve been able to be in a career – a calling if you will – for 30 years that I love – and I wake up every day excited to go to work.
But if it really IS my last sermon, I couldn’t find a better text to preach from than the one before us – perhaps the last words given by the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.
The church at Corinth had a good history. It had a great foundation, much like First Baptist Earlville. Its people loved the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord. They were encouraged by many servants of the Lord over its history to stay true to the foundation they enjoyed in Christ. And through its many trials – both without and within – it was challenged to remember its roots, its firm foundation, and to build upon the foundation of the Rock – even the Lord.
With that background, let’s look at what Paul said to them – and in turn, what I am privileged to say to y’all this morning. PRAYER
Paul’s message revolves around 3 key themes:
1. BE GROWING: match on the outside God’s operation inside! (v. 11)
Paul begins his farewell to the people in Corinth by reminding them that their whole being is like a car. Huh? Well, let me illustrate: a friend shared with me the story of a phone call he received from his adult grand-daughter. It seems that her new car had blown its engine. My friend, who is a retired life-long mechanic, lovingly asked her, “how often did you check the oil?”. To which his grand-daughter replied, “check what?”. I hope that illustration makes sense to you. If we who own vehicles don’t regularly check the engine oil, or listen carefully to noises that just don’t sound right, it shouldn’t surprise us when one day we are besides the road, 20 degrees below zero, 40 feet of snow, and going nowhere. Oh, and the battery of our phone is dead, too. Hmm.
All that to say this: the church is like a well-cared for car engine. Paul says to “aim for perfection” – that means to be mature! Pay attention to the details. So let me ask you: do you love the Lord Jesus as your Savior and Lord? IF SO, how is your walk with the Lord? Are you taking care of your spiritual engine? Are you in prayer? Are you reading the Bible in a still moment of your day? Yes, it is possible to have still moments in your day, if you seek them FIRST.
Paul says “listen to my appeal – be of one mind, live in peace.” The Message says, “Think in harmony. Be agreeable.” This is under the umbrella of “be growing”. What does it mean? Well, think of two neighbors, both of whom went to the same church. One day, one of the neighbors stopped coming to church. In fact, she started attending a church on the other side of the valley. The wise young pastor went to her and said, “hey – you are missed at our church. How come you aren’t coming?” Do you know what she said? She said that her neighbor across the street thinks her kids are better than my kids. That is what she told me. So rather than bother her and confront her, I am going elsewhere.” The wise young pastor went to the first neighbor and said, “hey, isn’t it something that Mrs. Jones and her family no longer come to church – in fact, they’re going to the church on the other side of the valley.” And do you know what that first neighbor replied to him? She said, “I have NO IDEA why she stopped coming.”
Paul said, “think in harmony. Be agreeable”. That means that in order to be a growing church – unlike the situation with Mrs. Jones and her neighbor – differences should be current. They should be settled as soon as possible, in order for the Lord’s growing hand to be upon His church.
And note that it is the God of love and peace that is overseeing His church. He just doesn’t leave His people alone to build His church. Jesus said, “I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH – and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
But if the church presumes that it will always be a mature people, then, well, one day you’ll start hearing the noises, smell the smoke, and the engine will be dead. Oh the church will still be open, it will be doing all the things it usually does, but it will not have any life. It will be going through the motions. The joy will be gone. It will be a dead church.
2. BE REMINDED: that saints are everywhere! (vs. 12-13)
Paul says, “greet one another with a holy kiss.” OK. Let’s go on to the next point. I can see it now. When I ever am invited back, Carl the organist, now age 75 or so, will tell me, “we listened to what you said in your closing message. Look and see!” And I’ll walk into the auditorium and see a wide Jumbotron screen over the pulpit. And sometime during the service the words “Kiss Cam” will appear, and the tv camera will zero in on couples – or even non-couples – to see if they will kiss. I can see it now.
It is interesting how other translations word this command of Paul. The New Living Translation says, “Greet each other with a sacred kiss.” But I think The Message gives Paul’s intent: “Greet one another with a holy embrace.” There are some that may forget the word “holy” and remember only the word “kiss”.
Perhaps I should leave that alone.
OR perhaps Paul intended that action to be closely connected with the next line: “all the saints send their greetings.” What does that mean?
ILLUSTRATION: Have you ever gone on vacation and visited another church in another state? What did you find? You tried to compare how they do things with how we do things. And then? You came to the overwhelming realization that the people there are just like us! In fact, they were quite interested to hear what church is like back home! Why? Because God has wisely planted churches and people just like us all over the world! Why? Because He wants us to see people as He sees them!
So – the “holy embrace” is to be first of all “holy”, and not necessarily a wet smooch. It may be even an handshake or a squeeze of the shoulder to let you know – hey, we are one in Christ. There are saints everywhere!
3. BE AWED: the Trinity sees you! (v. 14)
Finally, Paul ends his farewell greeting with a benediction. This should keep the church in Corinth in awe of Who God is and what He is eternally doing on their behalf. The Son? He displays grace – God’s kindness at His expense! The cross is always before Him, and He wants His grace to be always before His children. The Father? He displays love. The Bible says that He has loved us with an everlasting love. That means that the church should first of all look at each other and then at the mission field the Good Lord has given her through the eyes of His love. And the Spirit? The Holy Spirit loves fellowship. When the church doors are open, He is there. Why, wherever the church is, He is there. He just loves to be with those Who love the Lord Jesus. Fellowship.
Be awed. May we never lose that sense of awe of the Lord’s presence in our lives and in our church.
“Goodbye, Farewell & Amen” – the title of the 11th season and the 16th episode of MASH – still the most widely watched episode in the history of television. For me, Season 30, Episode 52. Maybe not the most widely watched sermon in the history of Christianity.
But before I’m done this morning, there are 3 things I want you to remember:
FIRST, there are 900 people (or so) in the Village of Earlville – plus those in the surrounding areas. And there are only 2 churches in Earlville to meet the eternal needs of those people. That task is always before us. We’ve done well these past years. Don’t forget that God’s heart is for those 900 people, just as He showed each of us His heart for us at Calvary.
SECOND, our Verse for 2018, from Psalm 71:18, centers on the next generation. Your task, my task is never done. It is ever with a vision that the NEXT generation loves the Lord Jesus and walks with Him with the same privileges and graces that each of us have enjoyed.
Finally, THIRD, do you remember the contest in my early days here? We were to come up with a theme, a catch phrase, a motto if you will, that best represents God’s heart and the personality of His heart at work in our fellowship. “Inviting and Accepting”. That is a foundational theme: we invite people to come just as they are to the cross, because that is how the Lord Jesus invited each of us. And we accept people as they are – why? Because, as Paul says elsewhere, “such were some of you -But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
And MY work here may have ended in the pulpit, but it has not ended in prayer. The prophet Samuel said that was his mission for God’s people, Israel. Please remember this: somewhere in this world, especially on Sunday morning around 7:30 am, by God’s grace there will be someone who will be praying for the First Baptist Church and Society of Earlville – and for each of the people that the Lord has brought through our doors in the past 10 plus years.
Who will join me in this eternal mission?
Close in prayer