1996 Communion Service
1996 Covenant Service
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We all know the numbers of times we have thought, “Well, this is certainly one of the stops on the road of life.” You think of marriage as one, you know, you think of a funeral as another, some of us think of a birth or a baptism as another, some of us think of our graduation from high school or university as another. But at different times we feel this is an important moment and often we feel this about the new year, we feel this is an important moment for us and we try to rise to it.
And I just want to make the point without sentimentality without emotionalism because you can see I feel better than I’ve felt in my life for a long time, but I just want to make the point very clearly that it was let’s say interesting to me to see how quickly the end comes. And that it’s quite important for all of us even at the relatively young ages we are, it’s quite important for us to see that it ends very, very quickly. That it just comes and it’s gone and you don’t realize it.
And I think we have a tendency to think it’s going to go on forever and ever. And we have a tendency to think, “This year we made resolutions, we made decisions, and we kept some of them and some of them we didn’t, but we’ll have another year, and another year.” And I just want to make the very plain and obvious point that at March 10 as we sat at the stoplights and I said to, “Irene I think love, put the blinkers on and let’s blast we don’t have a lot of time.” It goes very fast.
And the same time will come for you. And it maybe March 10th and not at the beginning of the year it would be nice if God arranged it, just the 31st of December and you’d be ready for it. So it is very important that we stop messing about. That is it is very important that we stop saying, “Oh yes, yes, yes I should come to breakfast every morning with Lucy,” or whoever might be the guest. Or, “I should be pure in my heart, and my thoughts, and my body.” Or, “I should be disciplined.” Or, “I must start to pray every day.” Or, “I must get back to my disciplined bible study.” Or, “I must stop being cutting in my words to this person.” Or, “I must…” and it’s on, and on, and on.
There comes a time when we have to see plainly that we are wrapping Christ in such tight swaddling clothes that he is not able to be seen. And what people are seeing is us, us with all our failings, with all our inadequacies, with all our disobediences, with all our eternal resolutions. You remember, what we’ve often quoted, that it’s no use having a good intention if it does not translate into action and the life then Christ is not seen. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes or he is wrapped in a shroud, in grave clothes.
And so often I think we would all say that what people are seeing in us is not Christ in all his beauty. It’s not Christ in all his liberty and his freedom; it is Christ bound up in our repeated failure to take action in this bible study, our repeated failure to take action in this practice or habit that we know is not expressing him. Well I’m saying you can see is you’re going to find yourself in the spot I was in last March but without the right surgeon at the right moment, or with God deciding that’s enough that is it. Come and join me. And that will be this life over.
And that I thought was the great benefit of that thing in March. Nothing sentimental, nothing emotional about it, but just that all of us here we’ve had it – some of us have had it with our dads and mums and here it was our very own family you know, one of us. I mean, I say it was me in this case but if it was Marty it would be the same thing, one of us who is blood of our blood, bone of
our bone, and is as far as we know with us forever. And suddenly that life ceases and that’s what it will be like for each of us.
So I bring that before you to stress to each of us that there is only one way to live and that is that verse of scripture Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ,” because really what we are doing is we’re wrapping Christ in swaddling clothes, we’re wrapping him in grave clothes and we’re saying, “Me first.” You know that, you know that, that’s what we’re saying. When we say I prefer this rather than that, we’re saying, “Me first.” You can see it in this pitiful creature, I mean, did I like chocolate mousse, you know. Does a bunny hop as they say? So you know all that and we all know the story, we told the same story about Perry Mason’s side kick you remember who smoked all his life until of course it was declared that he would die in a few weeks or months of cancer. Then he went on television you remember, speaking about cigarettes. Of course we know it.
Can we stop? Of course we can stop. The examples are all around us everywhere with this chocolate mousse lover, or bacon lover, or whatever. Of course we can stop. The issue is not will we stop, the issue is, is it to life is Christ is that living for us? Or is living me first, me first, and my pleasures, myself indulgence, my enjoyment, my life? Is that first or is Christ? That’s it you know.
We ought to just be sane and sensible about it, that will Christ’s life be ministered in the Garden Café, will Christ’s life be ministered in the store when you go in? Of course, if Christ is bursting out from you and Christ will burst out from you if he’s the only one that counts, of course. You won’t have to think of ways to bring up Christianity or ways to share the gospel, or ways to talk about the bible, or talk about Christian Corps. You won’t need to there will be such a life, such a rising joyous life of Christ that will enter that store, there’ll be such a spontaneous spirit of victory in the Garden Café that people will sense it, they’ll know it because it will be Christ.
And what they’re seeing is a pitiful shadow imitation of Christ in us, or they’re seeing Christ wrapped in swaddling clothes so that they cannot recognize him. That’s what it is, it’s not better ways, it’s not more knowledge of Schaeffer (a theologian), it’s not more understanding of Barth (a theologian), it’s not more cleverness with our words, it’s not all those things. It’s Christ living glorious instead of us.
And what I’m saying to us is what prevents that is all the little things that we’re playing games with, because that’s all we’re doing. That’s what I’m saying, we’re playing games, you know. Once a guy takes a knife and cuts you down there and then you say, “Are you going to stop eating chocolate mousse?” “You better believe it, yes, yes because I don’t want any more staples down here.” But I’m not doing anything you wouldn’t do, you’d do it. What I’m saying is we are able to do it by God’s grace. We are able to change, we are able to stop doing the things, we are able to lift out of this stupid crawling mole like life. You remember the guy who says, “We burrow like moles through the ground and we should be flying like eagles over the mountain tops.” And we are able to exchange that bluff, oh great discipleship life you know, great Christian life. “I’m a disciple, I’m trying to follow.” Its foolishness, just foolishness and you know it and I know it.
And I’ve said it to you before. “Lord I’m stopping, I’m going to stop. I’m going to stop Lord; I’m going to stop Lord. I’m going to stop, stop thrusting the sword into your side. I am going to. I am determined.” It’s madness you know, it’s just sickening, it’s just – we just know we’re hypocrites pretending. So that’s why I bring this before you.
It’s covenant service. There are transactions to be done between each one of us and our Lord during this service. And then there’s a life, a glorious life to be lived. Will you decide does my physical satisfaction either in food or in lust, or in passion, or in friendship, or in happiness, does that come first or is it for me to live is Christ? Lord, you go for it, forget all, forget even that I exist, forget even that I feel tired this morning, forget that I don’t like that or that thing is dead. Lord, it’s you, let’s go. And go for it with all our hearts, that’s it. That’s what he’s saying to us today. So really, it’s a very easy, simple, straightforward, honesty between you and the one, who has not hesitated, has not hesitated for a moment.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, we hear the words now of your invitation. Dearly beloved Christian life to which we are called is a life in Christ redeemed from sin by him and through him consecrated to God. Upon this life we have entered having been admitted into that new covenant of which our Lord Jesus Christ is mediator and which he sealed with his own blood that it might stand forever.
On one side the covenant is God’s promise that he will fulfill in and through us all that he declared in Jesus Christ who is the author and perfector of our faith. That his promise still stands, we are sure for we have known his goodness and proved his grace in our lives day-by-day. On the other side we stand pledged to live no more unto ourselves but to him who loved us and gave himself for us and has called us so to serve him that the purposes of his coming might be fulfilled.
From time-to-time we renew our vows of consecration especially when we gather at the table of the Lord. But on this day we meet expressly as generations of our fathers have met that we may joyfully and solemnly renew the covenant which bound them and binds us to God. Let us then remembering the mercies of God, and the hope of his calling, examine ourselves by the light of his spirit that we may see wherein we have failed or fallen short in faith and practice. And considering all that this covenant means, may give ourselves anew to God.