Guess Who is Praying for Us *

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.

This recording is intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian Church family.  While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given.

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Hebrews 7:23-28

30. Do some of you remember turning 30? I do. A long time ago. I seem to remember there just seems to be more than a year of difference between 29 and 30. After your thirtieth birthday, you are officially closer to 40 than we are 20.

So we throw the parties and mark the rite of passage. People offer their perspective and wisdom. Here is just a couple of perspectives:
“When you turn 30, a whole new thing happens; you see yourself acting like your parents” (Blair Sobol) I guess for us at the Kirk, it means it is time to admit that we are no longer a young church and we are maturing. To those who are depressed when they turn thirty, let me share these gems: “30 isn’t so bad… especially to people that are 50!” (Amen!) Like fine wine, getting better with age.”

I hope that is true for the Kirk. 30 years old. Just a babe in church age.

Still, a lot has happened since Fred and Leon spoke across a fence and a group of energetic and visionary members met up in the activities building. 30 years ago, the Kirk did not look anything like we do now. A small church where the sanctuary was a large room in a real estate office. [ice cream after church thanks to the machine] Moving chairs every Sunday. We’ve come a long way from movable chairs to permanent pews. [and where is that ice cream machine?]

Tight budgets…wondering where the payments might come from… how to pay for one preacher… people sacrificially giving of their money, their time, their love. Investing in a dream … moving into an unknown future.

Most of us are here today thanks to the dreams, hard work and sacrifice of those who became members of the Kirk in those early years.

Who would have known, back then, just 30 years later, we’d be a church of 1100 members with a big budget. True enough, we still have over $2 million in debt, but that has not kept us from developing strong ministries and missions. Who knew we’d enjoy knowing a fellowship full of Ethiopian friends.

Over the 30 years we have navigated many, many changes in the community and our culture. Who even heard of the internet 30 years ago except for Al Gore and Craig Nygard? Who knew what changes technology would bring to us? Who knows even today how all the changes will affect us in the years to come? [I’m wondering when I’m 83 and come back to the 60th anniversary of the Kirk, what changes we will have experienced.]

Turning 30. A good time to pause and reflect.

Someone reflected on what it means to turn 30 and I thought they were fairly accurate;
“You’re celebrating your 30th birthday; you’re getting older, you have experienced life and you are living it. You’re old enough to have gone through many challenges, you have probably learned from past mistakes and you have had your fill of fun, foolishness and stupid moments. (I think this is true for churches too, don’t you think? I bet the Kirk has had it’s share of fun, foolishness and stupidity) You are old enough to have done things you wanted to do, but not yet old enough to have done all of them.Your 30th birthday is a special occasion and considered a milestone in your life. You’ve probably figured out how you want to live your life and you might be living it already. Even if not, you’ve found a way to be stable. You’re over being young and rebellious (hopefully), you know yourself better and you’re probably good at what you do…You have probably set goals for yourself; maybe you’ve accomplished them, and maybe not. It might make you feel a little sad, but you should be happy, since this is your 30th birthday. You are not considered young anymore, at least not technically speaking, but you are definitely not too old to keep on pushing and reaching for your dreams. You have become much wiser over the years, too. One thing you have probably learned about is change. “Change is the only constant.” Things don’t stay as they are. Happiness, and, yes, even sadness, transforms into something else. So don’t worry about it: 30 is just a number”

Whoever wrote that spoke wisdom to me that can speak to the church. 30 is an age where you have lived much, but not all. Your life is still not over and there are dreams to pursue even in the church. This is not a time to get complacent. You have learned by now that nothing stays the same. You have learned as one wise person taught me 25 years ago that, “change is a given but growth is a choice.”

Today on our birthday and on Reformation Sunday that might be a good lesson to remember. Let me tell you a secret. Our church is not really 30 years old. It is at least 492 years old because we are rooted in the Reformation. I could actually make an argument that we are about 2000 years old since our roots are in the early church.

But let’s simply think about the Reformation. Our Presbyterian history goes back to that time. A time of rapid cultural change… a time when the church was changing. A time of unrest and fear. Change was a given back then too. Truth be told, change has always been a given.

Take the time of the early church when the letter to the Hebrews was written. The Jewish temple had been destroyed… Rome had responded quite quickly and overwhelmingly to Jewish insurgents. Christians, many who were Jewish in background were caught up in of that. The Church itself was changing… from a little sect of Judaism… from being purely Jewish Christian… to becoming a world wide and ethnically diverse church as Gentiles became disciples of Jesus. Change was a given…

Into this world of change… where people are weary and tired and burned out in the church from dealing with all the stress and the change… the writer has a message for them and I think for us. There is something… rather there is someone you can count on to see you through it all.

The writer knows something about change. He talks about the former priests who come and go… they live and they die. Sort of reminds me of how churches talk about ministers. At the Kirk the names are Witherspoon, Jackal, Spence, Peters, Pierce, McCarthy, Taylor, McMenamin, Bock, Church-Norman, Arnold-Workman and Welker.

Let me tell you another secret. We come and go. We are just passing through. None of us are here forever. Forever is a long time. The writer knows all too well that the only constant thing is change… except for one thing.

He says there is one thing, actually one person you can count on that is a constant. Jesus Christ. Jesus, holds the priesthood permanently. Jesus continues forever. Jesus, the one who, unlike the other priests we know who had feet of clay… some who were imperfect and corrupt… Jesus the only pure and holy one… this Jesus continues forever.

And what does Jesus do for eternity? Did you hear what the writer said? I love this:
“Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God thorough him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
He live
s to make intercession for them and for us.

In this midst of a changing life and a changing world of circumstances and unknowns, we have a permanent priest who is praying for us. Someone who has direct access to God… all the time.

When we pray to God – we have someone advocating for us. When we cry out to God in the midst of dealing with change.. we have someone praying for us that we might have wisdom to grow through the change… When we are praying for mercy and forgiveness… Jesus is praying for us that we may know the joy of forgiveness… When we are praying for guidance and discernment…Jesus is right there praying for us hoping to guide us as we make difficult choices… When we are praying for courage to do what is right when fear gets in the way… Jesus is praying we might have the courage to do the right thing… when we are praying for endurance when we are ready to give up… Jesus is praying that we may have the strength and energy to carry on. Jesus is praying for us. When we are praying for peace – for our selves, our relationships, our family, our church, our nation or our world… Jesus is right there next to God praying for us. Jesus intecedes for us.

Jesus intercedes for us.

I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in that as we look ahead. We have many challenges known and unknown to face in the coming years in the church as all of us do in our personal lives. Some of the challenges will come as a result of our discernment and decisions about what we think Christ is calling us to be and where Christ is calling us to go. Some of the challenges will come due to our lack of faithfulness. Let’s be honest. Some will come due to forces beyond our control… like a recession… or any number of things that are changing around us.  In the next 30 years we will face generational change… the World War II generation will be gone… the baby boomers will be retired and a generation raised on the internet, cable tv and a very different world from the one that raised me… that generation will be doing their best to be faithful. It is inevitable.

Change is a given.

I mean, ever since the printing press was invented, it has all gone downhill… don’t you think? All those ideas getting out into the culture… pamphlets, pictures, leaflets… Of course it was partly due to the printing press we are here-Luther and Calvin used it very well. Change. It is a given… it is something that causes anxiety… but growth is a choice to be made.

Many churches do not make that choice and they suffer and die. But we can make that choice with God’s help and Jesus’ prayers.

I don’t think we have any idea what kind of changes are ahead for the church:
I think back to the changes I’ve experienced and wonder what the future holds.
Mission?… When I was a boy, the closest we got to a mission field was watching slides from a missionary… now we go there personally and build community centers.

Youth ministry?… when I was a youth… technology meant watching films on a 16 mm projector. Now we have the internet and facebook. We are still trying to figure out how to use that for God.

I don’t think we’ve begun to understand the changes that are coming to us in the church. We’ve already experienced so many.

The church I knew 30 years ago was all white and very southern.. Today, the Kirk is a place that has attracted people from all over the world. 30 years ago, and even today, some churches seemed stuck in the 1950s or the 19th century acting as if the world has never changed. But you know and I know we are not living in the 19th century or the 1950s or the 1970s anymore. Much has changed. Much will change.
What that means to us in the future, I don’t know.

But what I do know is this. We have someone with direct access to God praying for us. Praying that we may be faithful and not fearful as we manage the change in our time. Praying that we may join a long tradition of Christians with a vision to faithfully proclaim the gospel in our time and place… preparing for future generations. Praying that we might grow-not just in numbers… but in spiritual maturity… and in wisdom.. that kind of wisdom and maturity that leads to faithful growth. We have someone praying for us, says the writer to the Hebrews. And that is a good thing. For I am confident, that with Jesus praying for us, the future (no matter what challenges we face) will be a blessed one indeed… and the gospel will be proclaimed from this place for generations to come.