Sunday, June 29, 2014
Fans of the movie Frozen remember how important “Coronation Day” is in that story. In the story of our church life, “Ordination Day” is a big day. If it is your ordination, you have to speak in front of the congregation. The church gathers around you and lays hands on you as your name is carried to God in prayer. If it is not your ordination, you may not remember as much about the day. Like most Sundays, you come to church. It is special, but may not stand out from other Sundays.
This morning three individuals are recognized as uniquely set apart. Each has answered the call to a servant-ministry role that is specific in the life of HillSong Church.
As all of us participate in recognizing the ordination of Jess, Tabitha, and Jeremy, we remember the word of God from last week, Colossians 3. We are God’s chosen, beloved and holy. Not all are ordained, but all who are in Christ are God’s people. To be his is to have his purpose as ours. God chooses us and God defines us. If there is something we all might remember from this ordination day – those being ordained and those laying on hands and saying prayers – it might be the words of wisdom Paul gives the church in the opening verses of Colossians 4.
He begins, “devote yourselves to prayer.” Make prayer a marker in your life, an activity, a ‘go-to’ coping response, and an automatic way of processing information and emotions. This cannot be overemphasized. The disciple lives a praying life. It would require a sermon series lasting a couple of months to think through all the different ways that we pray. I simply urge each of this morning to identify one way that we pray that is most comfortable and to practice that method without fail daily for the next 30 days. It could be prayer with journaling, it could be praying the scriptures, intercession, or something else, but find your sweet spot in prayer and don’t miss a day for the next 30. Find a style of praying that works for you and stick with it.
Also, pray in ways that are challenging. You struggle with silent prayer. You don’t like to get up early, so sun rise prayers are tough. Praying in public is difficult. Find that one way that is most difficult for you. Practice that for 30 days.
We meet God in our comfort zones and also way outside our comfort zones. In both meetings with God, we are blessed and we grow. Especially, newly ordained leaders, you will want to discover new avenues of prayer. You will want to find out what it means to live a praying life. Paul insisted here and in other letters that we devote ourselves to prayer. He wanted every church under his influence to be a praying church (Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:17).
Devote yourselves to prayer.
“Pray for us … that God will open a door for the word” (Col. 4:3). In asking that they pray for him, Paul acknowledged his own dependence. He could not succeed without God’s constant help. He also knew that if he did succeed, it would advance the Kingdom of God. Prayer by the church then and now plays a role in the advance of the kingdom.
Colossians 4:3 is a summons to the church to pray for that church’s pastors. In our case, this is a call to prayer for our youth minister Emily, and for Heather and me. We need your prayer for us to be successful in helping our body of Christ-followers make sense of the world according to the word of God. We will be better pastors if you make prayer for us a part of your lives. And the church will be closer to who God is creating our church to be with pastors and ministers who are covered in prayer. In addition to volunteering, prayer is a way you participate in church life.
Colossians 4:3 also ties the prayers of the church to the work of God in the world. Paul’s intent is that God will open a door for the Word as Christ followers spread the gospel around the world. In living a praying life, we are called by God to pray for Christian workers – evangelists, missionaries, and lay people who serve God on campus and in the marketplace.
Choose one day a week your own prayer life and make that the day you pray for pastors, missionaries, and Christian workers in the world. Make your prayer specific. Pray for our partnership in Ethiopia. Pray for members of our church going on trips. Pray for persecuted Christians in Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Nigeria. Pray for our members – your friends; ask God to make them missionaries in their jobs. Make this prayer for the advancement of the word in our own community and worldwide something that matters greatly in your life.
Devote yourselves to prayer.
Pray that God will open a door for the word.
A final instruction – “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders; let your speech always be gracious.”
As we become praying people – we come to know God more and more. As we invest our heart’s energies in praying for the advancement of the Word, we become more connected to God’s work in the world. Striving for wisdom and gracious speech, we embody God’s loving, inviting character. Our faith comes to life as it is lived beyond the walls of the church building. We see what kind of Christ followers we truly are in how conduct ourselves with non-Christians. Are we aloof or warm and inviting? Are we judgmental or gracious? Everyone can be a Christian at church. There one is rewarded for singing well, praying well, and speaking well. The God who calls is a God who sends and we are sent to engage in relationships with people who have not given themselves to Christ. We live out our lives within systems not in step with the Kingdom.
Coronation day is a declaration of the state of affairs of the kingdom. If the new ruler follows a tyrant, the subjects in the kingdom have hope that life will be better under a newer, gentler monarch. If the new king replaces a beloved king, there’s anxiety. Can he be as great as his father? Can anyone? What will become of our kingdom?
Similarly, the ordination is statement of the health of the life of the church. I look at Jess, Tabitha, and Jeremy and I have hope. God is at work in the lives of the people of our church and they are answering his call. And I have seen people in our church live praying lives. I have heard as HillSong people have prayed fervently for the advance of the Word of God in the world. I have watched my brothers and sisters in this place conduct themselves wisely in the world, sharing grace, and acting as salt that preserves and seasons their environments with the Gospel. I am impressed by how much this church calls me to pray and live. I know the three being ordained today will step into that role of encouraging their fellow church family members just as they are being encouraged.
Colossians ends with Paul telling someone named Archippus to complete the task he has received in the Lord (4:17). He had something specific in mind for Archippus. His advice transcends and speaks to us. We complete the task God has given us by living prayerful lives as followers of Jesus. This is true for ordained deacons and elders and it is true for all who read the word, hear the call of God, and decide to give themselves to Him. All of us are called to life and called for life.