Rose Park Sunday School (Adults and Children) at 8:45 a.m. / Worship at 9:45 a.m.

Madison Sunday School (Adults and Children) 10:15 a.m. / Worship at 11:15 a.m.

Let Us Consider

Based on 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13:1-8

          I have known David since I was 5 years old.  Dave lived on the same street, up around the curve at the top of the hill.  We met in kindergarten and were basically inseparable through the end of High School.  It was a rare day, over those 13 years,  when we didn’t spend a significant amount of it hanging out or in conversation.  We have been through thick and thin and everything in between.  We both even got married in 1987 – him in July and me in November.  Not sure that, other than Lucinda, I have another person that I am closer to.

          Dave is what anyone would call considerate.  In other words, he was the epitome of the term “Minnesota nice”.  This phrase describes those persons from that State who go out of their way to make sure everyone is having a good time and has everything they need.  Dave will give you the shirt off his back (literally) or gloves or a hat or will share anything else to ensure that you are comfortable and happy.  The downside to this behavior is that he would never, ever state an opinion or preference.  He was just happy to be included in whatever the other four of us were doing – but because he didn’t want to assert his opinion and make someone else uncomfortable he would never speak his mind.  This led to endless phone calls and the other four friends in our group deciding for Dave.  Being considerate was so well developed in my dear friend that his girlfriend actually had to ask him to marry her after about 8 years of dating.

          Our scripture from Hebrews today states boldly, “let us consider…” and that is what I have been led to speak about this morning.  We will not only explore the words consider and considerate, but what we are called by God to do once we have done these things.  Let us go to God in prayer before we get any farther…

          The Hebrew Bible reading today from 1 Samuel is the prayer/song of Hannah, who is the mother of Samuel.  Hannah was childless for many years and she was distraught.  Her husband, Elkanah, treated her well and yet, she was so depressed that she would not eat. In desperation, she went to the Temple at Shiloh and prayed to God to give her just one son and if God did this, she would dedicate him to serve the Temple for his whole life.  God heard her prayer and gave her a son whom she named, Samuel.  This is where our scripture starts today, Hannah is rejoicing in the LORD for answering her prayer.  God had considered her empty womb, her fervent prayers and dedication and had given her what she most treasured.  Her prayer/song has considered God and is reflective of what she knows to be true.  God is Holy and a Rock, God is considerate and knowledgeable, God raises the poor and needy, God is Most High and a guardian, God is a judge who strengthens the king.  Hannah has truly considered who her God is!

          The author of the Letter to the Hebrews is winding up his chapter on Christ’s sacrifice for us.  He states that God considers our sin-debt paid for all time through the sacrifice of Jesus and that because we are forgiven, there is no need for any other offering for our sin.  He then launches into a chapter on perseverance, reminding the reader that we need to be assured in our faith that Jesus is our great priest.  He says, “…let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering,…” In other words, let us consider what we know about our faithful hoping in the promises of Jesus and how His intervention will see us through our times of persecution.  Interestingly, the author then goes on to suggest that it is not enough to sit on the promises of Jesus.  He writes, “…let us consider how to provoke one another to good deeds…”  To put it another way, let us be considerate of one another and lift each other up so that we all can be encouraged as we wait for Jesus to come again.

          Jesus is asking the Disciples to pay attention – to consider what He has said and done while He was with them.  He tells them that their awe of the Temple is misplaced because there will soon come a day when it is in ruin.  To answer the question of his closest Disciples, Jesus tells them to consider what they know about Him so they are not led astray by imposters, by signs of the times or apocalyptic activities.  He reminds them that these signs are necessary for the birthing of the kingdom of God on Earth.

          The word “consider” has two separate meanings.  One, like is modeled by my friend Dave, is to pay attention to others needs, wants and desires.  One could also look to the instruction given by the author of Hebrews to think of ways to engage people in the faith so that they can weather the storms of the coming persecutions of Jesus followers.  The second meaning is to think deeply about something as an alternative to a comparator – or to remember some important data or instruction.  This is like Hannah’s song as she has thought deeply about how God has answered her prayers.  Also, Jesus asks all His disciples to consider how His teachings and ministry compare to the workings of the world, and to decide how it is that they (and we) should behave.

          Consider that we are coming to the end of the liturgical year – next week marks the end of what we call “Ordinary Time”.  Now, “Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary or mundane.  It is the majority of the year between major holiday seasons.  It is the time of year that can be a trap for those who say in their minds that nothing special is happening, therefore we don’t need to go to church.  This is what the author of Hebrews means when he writes, “…let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds…”.  You see, it is easy in the high holy times like Advent, Lent, Easter, and/or Pentecost to come to church and to register or renew our faith.  It is harder in August and September when there are no “special” things happening in the liturgical cycle.  Our imaginations and lives are captured by vacations and the new school year, and it is easy to lose track of our spiritual disciplines and our routine attendance at church.  This is why Hebrews asks us to consider how to encourage each other so that we continue to meet together.  Because meeting together and sharing our lives – ordinary and spiritual, is what Church really is all about.  As Jesus suggests to His disciples, the building is not important in the grand scheme of things – buildings come and go.  The people and their faith development and support system – how those continue to deepen is something that we all need to consider.

          How it is that each of us individually and all of us collectively as the Body of Christ understand what it is that our scripture is teaching us today?  Can we all look to what God has done for us in our lives and in the world around us and then come to God with a prayer-song like Hannah’s?  If not, what is it that is holding us back?  Do we consider the teachings of Jesus when we are attempting to figure out the “signs of the times” or do we just listen to the secular talking heads and take their word for what is happening?  Finally, are we considerate of each other to the point where we all are encouraging and provoking each other to love deeper and with less judgment or to doing ever more good deeds in our local community?  Are we considering how it is that we can reach out to those who we know that used to come to church but have now fallen away?  How can the teachings of Jesus help us to encourage and provoke them to come back?  I can tell you that two things happened in the life of our Charge in the last week that achieved both of those things.  The chili and Bingo night was a rousing success and was meaningful to show how much fun church can be.  It resonated with all of the youth who were there, some who do not attend church regularly.  The second event was a Baptism yesterday.  A strong showing by both churches to support a young believer who was led by the Holy Spirit to consider her desire to join the Body of Christ.  This occurred through God’s considerate grace, but also because of actions of many believers who lived their faith out in front of her in a way that was encouraging and welcoming. 

You all turned out in such numbers for both events that we needed to make room to accommodate all the people.  You considered how much both of these things meant and made it a point to attend.  Let us consider what God is doing here and what that means for us going forward as the Church.  The Holy Spirit is moving and filling us with energy and excitement, we are adding to our numbers and to the Body of Christ, we are encouraging all to get involved and supporting them in their journey.  Let us consider how to do our part to continue this amazing journey of faith.  Let us be considerate and raise a rousing thank you to our God who is always considering our needs and then moving in powerful and unpredictable ways to make us all into a new creation.  Thanks be to God!  Amen!