Jul 9, 2012

Sermon from General Assembly in Pittsburgh

Many have asked for the text of the sermon from GA so I am posting it here. 

Also, if you want to see the video, you can find it here. The sermon begins at about the 53rd minute. 

Here's the sermon.

Let me start with an illustration told by John Ortberg.

Think about the entire sweep of scripture, all of God’s revelation, and try to answer this question. 

“When in the Bible does God call someone just to give them an easy job?  When in the Bible does God interrupt someone’s life and hand them an assignment, and it turns out to be relatively low risk and effort free?”

And of course, He never does.

God comes to Noah, says that the level of violence and corruption on earth is so high I want to start the human story all over again with you. I want you to gather your family and some animals and build an ark and start it all over from scratch.  But, but, you won’t be alone. I’m going to make a covenant with you.  I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people.  And I’ll give you a sign - a rainbow. And every time you see it, remember, I’m with you always and I’m enough. 

So Noah does.

But the human race drifts and God has to begin again. 

He comes to a man named Abram, later to be called Abraham, and says, “I want you to leave everything familiar to you. I want you to take your wife and leave your home, your country, your culture, your security and go far away to a place you don’t even know. I’ll show you when you get there. But you won’t be alone. I’ll make a covenant with you. I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people. And I’ll give you a sign of our covenant. The sign will be circumcision.

Abraham said, “Circum what? Noah got the rainbow…Couldn’t we do like a secret handshake or something?”

Friends, God never said being and living into the church of Jesus Christ with people we may not agree with, people who are down right disagreeable, people we may not like would be easy.

But here’s the thing. God chose them, just like God chose you. God chose each and every person who has surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ.


We have already experienced many ups and downs, joys and great disappointments, and even some tears.

As we experience the real painful divisions, divisions so think and oppressive you could cut with a knife, a lack of trust, the clear disagreements in the life of the PC(USA), we can’t help but wonder, God where are you in this thing?

We seem to have hit one snag and one paralysis after another.

But please, don’t quit. Don’t quit just because it’s hard, because it’s painful.

Don’t you quit believing that this church is bigger than the conservatives, or the liberals, or the moderates, or any particular agenda.

Don’t you quit believing that this church - you, me, us - has always been, is still now, and will always be God’s church and that it is this sovereign God of the universe who has called, set apart, and commissioned each and every one of you to be about the work and ministry of Jesus Christ through this assembly.

Don’t you quit.

Because as difficult and painful and impossible our differences may be, the reality is that we are first and foremost children of God, brothers and sisters.

And we have to figure out how to do and be the church because what’s at stake is a world who doesn’t yet know God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever should believe in him will have everlasting life.

We have to believe and remember that the God who is the Lord of tearing down barriers, breaking down differences, destroying the spirit of paralysis IS at work in this place through you.

Some men came, we are told, bringing to Jesus a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.

These four un-named men came bringing a paralyzed man, not because they had nothing better to do, not because they needed some way to be physically and emotionally exhausted, but simply because they knew that there was no one else who has the power to bring healing over paralysis.

They had to bring him to Jesus.

But there was a problem.

There were faced with an obstacle they had not expected. There were too many people crowding Jesus that they couldn’t get to Jesus.

At this point they could have quit. And no one would have blamed them for it. They’d already done so much. They’d already demonstrated so much faith.

They could have said, “We’ve done everything we can to bring you to Jesus. But as you can clearly see, there’s no way we can get you to Jesus.”

But that wasn’t true was it.

They did what was totally and truly ridiculous.

They tore up some poor dude’s house!

They crazy!

Who does that? Who does that…

Those crazy and foolish and faithful enough to know that there is no one else who has the power to bring healing over the oppression paralysis and therefore resolve that nothing on heaven or earth will stand in the way from bringing the paralyzed to Jesus Christ.

They had to get this man to Jesus.

They had to get this man to Jesus, even if it meant seeking totally outside the box, totally radical solutions to do whatever it takes to bring people in need of healing to Jesus.

Friends, it’s going to take more than our best efforts and our best hopes to find a way out of the paralysis that the PC(USA) finds herself in.

It will take an absolute conviction that we have been called to do whatever it takes to get people to Jesus Christ. Only then will we be able to find solutions that are bigger than our agendas, bigger than our problems, and bigger than our paralysis.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”


Run that by me again? Jesus said what? “Your sins are forgiven?”

I didn’t do all this so you could forgive the guy. The guy’s paralyzed!

And you see, this is the biggest miracle of all.

Forgiveness leads to healing. Forgiveness leads to healing.

I believe that as our God sees us struggling and discussing, and making motions and substitute motions, what our church needs is not more declarations or statements, but the faithful actions of those whose singular conviction is to bring people to Jesus Christ.

And could it be possible that, not in our statements, not in our declarations, but as Jesus sees the faith of Presbyterians doing whatever it takes to bring people to Jesus that God would declare unto all within the PC(USA), “Your sins are forgiven?”

And that through this forgiveness that the 220th General Assembly would become an instrument to bring healing to our church and our world?

It’s all about Jesus.

But what I find fascinating about this statement is that there is not a single description of what Jesus looked like in all of the gospels.
  • We don't know if he was tall or short. 
  •  We don't know what kind of hair he had. 
  •  We don't know what his face looked like. 
  • We don't know a single thing about his physical appearance. 

Isn't that strange?

It's all about Jesus and yet, we have no clue what he looked like.

When we try to tell someone about a person they haven't met, we always say something about what they look like.
  • He's a short, middle-age, bald, goatee, handsome Asian dude - hey! That's me.
  • She's a beautiful, long straight-haired, slim lady - That wouldn’t be me.

But there is not one description in the Bible.

The only things that are recorded are what Jesus did, what Jesus said.

Maybe that's because, when it comes to Christianity, how tall or short, how handsome or ugly, what color or race, how much or little education, how rich or poor, etc. - none of these things matter!

I love that about Jesus.

It doesn't matter who you are, what you look like, what nationality, what color, what race, what your education level, or anything else...the only thing that matters when it comes to Jesus is how we resemble Jesus.

That's why in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, free or slave, male or female. All are invited to live like Christ.

My prayer and challenge to you is to pray, discuss, discern, and decide in such a way that what would be said of this 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA) is not look at all that they’ve declared and stated.

But what would be said of the 220th General Assembly is that they so committed themselves bringing people to Jesus that the Spirit of God fell upon that assembly to slay the spirit of paralysis, division, and distrust precisely because of how radically they loved, forgave, and led the PC(USA) to be like Jesus Christ.


Stan Ott said...

A very good word! Thanks!

James Kim said...

Thank you Stan! Blessings to you and your ministry to the greater church!

James <><