Sermon

Matthew 18:15-20

Blueprint For Living

By Pastor Steven Molin
Dear friends in Christ, grace, mercy and peace, from God our Father, and His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Well, today I feel a bit like the little boy who cried “wolf.” Last week, in a rather stirring and passionate announcement, I told you that by Rally Sunday, construction work would have begun on our new church building, and more importantly, that the entire west parking lot would be torn up and would be nothing more than gaping holes and giant mounds of dirt. I implored you to walk to church this Sunday, or car pool, or park on neighboring streets, because parking was sure to be a mess.

Well, there you have it; an expansive, untouched parking lot on the west side of the church, just begging for you to park there! There are no steam shovels or road graders! There are no great mounds of dirt or piles or storm sewer pipes. There’s a parking lot! Okay, so I lied! But next week for sure!

Truth be known, the construction process will start very soon. I have here the architect’s blueprints of our new building project. You’ll notice, they’re not blue anymore. Years ago, they went through a crude copying process of litmus paper and an ammonia solution which turned the lines white and the paper blue. Today, they are “white prints” but the old name remains.

Our blueprint is 44 pages long, filled with details and designs and directions of how to build a church. It shows, for example, how to create a solid foundation, so that our church can withstand the storms that will batter it in the coming years. This blueprint explains the process of construction – explains what comes first and what comes next – so that the process is smooth. This blueprint includes a description of how the various sub-contractors are supposed to work together in harmony so that the church gets built correctly. It’s the real deal, this blueprint.

But one of the problems with a blueprint like this is that it appears so complicated. It’s filled with words and language that we don’t commonly use – words like efes, and ballasted roof membrane, and galvanized threaded pipe flange – so most of us don’t understand it. We might be interested in what it means, but we’re scared off because we’ve never learned how to read a blueprint. And that’s sad, because the one who designed this building uses this document to describe his vision to us. He can’t be here in person 24/7, to detail his dream, so he has written it in a blueprint, expecting that some will study it, and understand it, and share it with others.

This (holds up blueprint) is the blueprint for building a church, but this (holds up bible) is the blueprint for building a congregation. The bible is God’s blueprint for the way we live our lives. Since God cannot be here to tutor us in person, his vision for the church has been written down in scripture so that we can study it — and understand it — and share it with others.

Now here’s the problem: this bible is nearly 1800 pages long. It is filled with words and language that we don’t commonly use in the 21st century, words like justification and sanctification and absolution. Even though there are countless people in the world, and even in the church, who are interested in what God has to say, many are scared off because they have never learned how to read and study the bible. And that’s too bad, because in this book, God has offered to his children the details and designs and directions of how to build a meaningful life.

In scripture, God describes how we are to relate to one another in community, which is another word for “church.” In scripture, God shows us how to build our faith on a firm foundation, so that when the storms come, we will not be devastated.

In short, the bible is God’s blueprint for living. If we study it and learn its principles, life can be abundant and meaningful for each one of us. And the reason I am bringing this up to you today is because it’s Rally Sunday, not only in this church, but in churches across the nation. Today, millions of children will return to class, and sit at the feet of Sunday School teachers who will teach them about Jesus, and how to read the bible.

Perhaps, a generation ago, that was you, sitting at the feet of some Sunday School teacher, also learning about Jesus. Back then, the highest technology available was flannel graphs, blackboards and 8-trac tapes. Never mind that today children learn from white boards, CD ROMs, and video, the process has never changed. One person teaching another person how to follow Jesus Christ.

My concern is that, as we grow older, the learning might come to an end. And even that which we may have learned as children might get forgotten with time. And then the wisdom and the teaching of the bible won’t even show up on our radar screen any more.

You want a pertinent example? How about the way adults in our culture handle conflict today? Conflict happens all the time, even in the church. In fact, conflict is a natural by-product of people living in community. We don’t always agree. We don’t always have the same perspective on issues. So conflict happens.

Our most natural response to conflict is to wage war with the other person. So we turn to gossip, and tell the world what this other person has done. Or we attack them in a public place, or we talk about them behind their back, or we shun and exclude them because they disagree. In extreme cases, we may even take our fellow church member to court and sue them so that they will agree with us.

That’s not how Jesus would have us do it. Jesus would have us sit down face to face and reconcile. To Jesus, the issue was never as important as the relationship. Reconciliation was more important that being right. So in this 18th chapter of Matthew, Jesus outlines how Christians are supposed to reconcile, and there is no mention of gossip, and there is no mention of public attacks, and there certainly is no mention of lawsuits! There is a process of reconciliation with our sisters and brothers. Its part of God’s blueprint for the way we are to live our lives as Christians.

I am here today to invite you to commit the coming year to studying God’s blueprint for our lives. Even if you have never studied scripture before. Even if you’re not a member of our church. Even if you are embarrassed or ashamed because you don’t know the Old Testament from the New Testament, I am asking you to decide today to look closely at scripture in the coming year. There are three ways I would propose for us to do this.

One way, of course, is regular Sunday morning worship. Every Sunday, we will open up scripture together. The hymns we sing, the liturgy we say, the lessons we read, and the sermons we preach use scripture as their basis. I encourage you to include regular, weekly worship as among the highest of your priorities.

A second way to approach and understand the bible is to attend adult education opportunities at Our Savior’s. Here, we expose scripture in the light of our worldly activities, and try to make sense of our lives. One theologian has said that we should approach live with the bible in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other.

And third, I encourage you to become involved in a small group. You could study scripture alone, by yourself, but why would you want to? The greatest argument for being involved in a small group bible study was made by Jesus in the final verse of today’s gospel lesson. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” So when you gather in small groups, in circles, at Friday Guys, or in group that walks around the track praying together, if it is done in Jesus’ name, then Jesus is meeting with you, helping you to understand.

If ever there was a time for us to look to scripture as a blueprint for our living, it is this time. With our nation still reeling from the attacks of last September, and with a world that is contemplating war, now is the time to find direction for our lives, and I can think of no better roadmap than the Word of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Copyright 2002 Steven Molin. Used by permission.