The Church as the household of God is further described in 1 Tim. 3:15 as the Church of the living God. An aliveness, a dynamic community in which God is present. There is power in the church, there is strength in the church, there is LIFE in the church.
I received a great compliment this week which I hope is true. I received a birthday card that included the phrase: “I think Carl that you are one happy man.” I think so, most of the time, and it’s because God is alive. Today is more amazing than yesterday, because God is alive among us, and tomorrow will be better still. The Church of the living God. I don’t have a corner on the market of happiness, that’s yours to claim, too. Because God is alive. I like what the great American preacher Henry Ward Beecher said: God asks no man whether he will accept life. That is not the choice. You must accept it. The only choice is how. God is alive. To know that truth is more valuable than any other advice Paul can give Timothy in how to be a leader. The Church is a family and God is alive. Amen!
Paul piles on more truth in 1 Tim. 3:15, describing the church as, “the pillar and foundation of truth.” Over and over in 1 Timothy is TRUTH. Guard the truth, preach the truth, base your Christian witness on truth. The church does not exist for herself, but to support the truth of God. One of the greatest needs of all people today is STABILITY. "Pillar and foundation" is the language of stability. Many who are in this room feel as though their life is crumbling away; the craving is for stability. Yesterday at Stan Digby’s memorial service, I talked to one of his sons. He was in the kids program in the early 80’s, living now near Enumclaw. He told me that for a long time this church was an incredibly important part of his life. What did he find: stability, acceptance, love. A measure of stability is found in the church family, the people, but the ultimate stability is found in truth, the truth of God, the truth of the gospel.
The wonderful imagery of the church as the foundation and pillar of truth is that we are bearing witness not to ourselves, but to lift high the truth of God. In Ephesis, the location of the church Timothy was serving, the people had a vivid illustration of a pillar: the temple Diana took center stage in the city. The massive building was regarded as one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, 100 columns, each about 20 yards high, lifting up a massive shining marble roof. In the same way, the church holds the truth high for everyone to see. We point not to ourselves, but to truth. When the world looks at the church we want them to see the incredible unchanging truth of Jesus Christ, his love, his cross, his resurrection, his power, his forgiveness, his Lordship. When Sumas looks at this little church, may they see God, the living God, the unchanging God, a place of stability not because of me/you, but because of Jesus Christ who is lifted high, the church, a pillar holding high the truth. Stability.
The family of God. The living God. The pillar of truth. Don’t ever lose sight of the incredible nature of the church as you seek to make a difference in the name of Christ. How easy it is to lose sight of the true nature of the church as we go about our daily lives. It’s not just a chili feed tonight, it’s the family of God, the living God, a pillar of truth. Not just the clothesline, but a means to point to Jesus Christ as a an expression of caring about others. The foundation of our faith is the absolute and unchanging truth of Jesus Christ.
Now we come to the Open Secret. “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great” (1 Tim. 3:16). The good news bible: “No one can deny how great is the secret of our religion.” … What follows is a poem inviting/compelling us to enter into an amazing world, an open secret, the center of our faith: Jesus Christ. Paul is saying to Timothy, you want to be a leader in the church, let’s pause and underscore the true nature of the church: God’s household, the living God among us, the truth of Christ lifted high for all to see, bringing stability and assurance. And this is how you remain secure in your faith: Ponder the mystery of God. Be amazed. Wonder. Each line is given as a gift for us to ponder. The church has no secrets, the truth is to be lifted high, an incredibly visible secret open to all, but many don’t hear, many don’t understand, but here it is, available to all.
To ponder the mystery of God is the strength and witness of the church. Don’t ever lose that sense of wonder. That’s what keeps us focused. How easy it is to lose sight of God by getting caught up in the details of serving God. We think if enough people show up at a planned event then it is successful. We are satisfied if there are no hitches in the presentation. If the problem is resolved then we sleep easy. There is a reason Paul thunders: “the mystery of God is great!”
The easy way out is to get lost in everything that is wrong with the world, to ponder the mystery of God is to consider everything that is right with God. That is our salvation. That is our focus, everything that is right.
Here is a wonderful thought of GK Chesterton birthed out of his pondering of the mystery of God. Chesterton considers that perhaps God’s nature is similar to that of children: A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, Do it again; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough... It is possible that God says every morning, Do it again, to the sun; and every evening, Do it again, to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and [God] our Father is younger than we. To ponder the mystery of God is to keep grounded in our faith. It’s a great lesson in leadership, a great lesson in living the Christian life. Begin anew in this place, never let go of the wonder, the mystery, unlocking once again the freshness of the living God each day.
There are so many ways to keep the sense of wonder alive. One person said, There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Pondering Christ is to see the miraculous.
So many ways to be amazed: Henry Emerson Fosdick: I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it. The never ending nature of the mystery of God. The open secret.
To be amazed is to be an optimist: Helen Keller: No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to unchartered land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit. The open secret is to think of that which is right!
To be amazed is to consider God’s incredible creativity afresh: for the farmer’s among us, one person observed, Look at those cows and remember that the greatest scientists in the world have never discovered how to make grass into milk. (Michael Pupin). God’s amazing. I sometimes consider the common seed... You cannot deny, the mystery of God is great:
He appeared in a body, the amazing plan of God, to send his son Jesus Christ into the world, born of the virgin Mary, the Christmas story is ever new,
Was vindicated by the spirit, the Holy Spirit, who is God, is sent by God to bring truth, counsel, wisdom…
Was seen by angels, Jesus was attended by angels, angels witnessed the unfolding drama of Jesus…
Was preached among the nations, the gospel of salvation to the world, to all the world, a missionary commission…
Was believed on in the world, the great success,
Was taken up in glory. The ascension…
The open secret is the mystery and wonder of Jesus Christ. Focus on the open secret as the primary means of remaining faithful to God and becoming the Christian and leader God intends for you to be. Living with the never-ending amazement of God, pondering the mystery of godliness, understanding that God is always within our grasp through Jesus Christ, but more amazing than we can ever fully understand. There is something incredibly healthy about living in continual amazement and wonder of who God is, the church is a family, with the living God active and alive among us, lifting high the truth of Jesus Christ. May our amazement never end, as we invite others, through our own sense of wonder, to seek to understand the depths of the open secret, the wonder and amazement of Jesus Christ,
He appeared in a human body,
was proved right by the invisible Spirit,
was seen by angels.
He was proclaimed among all kinds of peoples,
believed in all over the world,
taken up into heavenly glory. (the message version of 1 Tim. 3:16) Amen.