Using our House of Clay
Using Our House of Clay
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
In a poem there is a line “mildly he lays his glory.” John Milton was a poet, a 16th Century I think, one of the greatest English poets that was produced in this land. And one of his early poems – he was a great Latin scholar and Greek scholar and so his English is full of those compound sentences that it takes your mind to stay very alert to understand. And one of his early poems runs, “That glorious form, that,” talking about Jesus, “That glorious form, that light insufferable, and that far-beaming blaze of majesty, wherewith he wont at heaven’s high Council-Table, to sit the midst of trinal unity, He laid aside; and here with us to be, forsook the courts of everlasting day, and chose with us this darksome house of mortal clay.”
And you probably got the gist of it, that Jesus laid aside all the wonder and the brightness of sitting with his Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven in order to take unto himself this darksome house of mortal clay. And that’s we know what actually happened. We were born in him, he was born in us. From the very beginning he took upon himself the darksome house of our mortal clay, not only the darksome house of our physical body but you know where you’ve been and I know where I’ve been. We’ve all been places we would hope that nobody else here knows about. We have all been places in our minds, and our feelings, and our bodies that we hope nobody else knows.
He took that upon himself. He dwelled in that. He has experienced that. He came to dwell in the darksome house of our mortal clay. The worst thought that you and I have had he has borne. The worse imagination that you’ve had, the most miserable that you and I have ever been, the most wretched, the lowest place that you and I have ever got to in our experiences, or in our minds, or in our feelings, or spirits, he has been there with us. He has gone down into everything with us and that’s what it means.
And it’s important at Christmas to see that it was not just the stable, and the straw, and the dirt, and the cattle, it was us he was born in us and he has endured the very worst in us. So we owe him great gratitude. No one else, even our dads and mums, no one else has been with us in everything. No one else has seen the bottom of our hearts the way he has so we owe him a lot. And of course the reason he came and endured all that was for one thing, because he has a life that he wishes to live in you and me.
And so he has borne all that. So often he has stood not even being recognized by us, not even being given a word of acknowledgement by us, he has stood inside us and borne, and borne, and borne, and waited, and waited, and waited. And what I want to say to you and to myself is, let’s now end the waiting for him. And I’ll tell you what I mean.
He has things to do through each of us. We can see some of the things pretty obviously, some of them are plain. We’re going to call the newsletter the Christian Business International. There are articles that he has to write. I’m speaking to you for a moment just as an ordinary school teacher. I know from experience that if you have above average intelligence you can do most things. You won’t discovery the theory of relativity, perhaps but you can do most things if you’ve above average intelligence. All of you have.
There are articles that Christ wishes to write in the Christian Business International that he can write through you. I’m asking you will you give yourself to learn to write. Will you stop saying,
“I’m not very good at writing.” I know you’re not very good at writing, I understand that. But it’s not you that’s going to write. All the Savior is asking is will you fit yourself; will you get the equipment so that he can write those articles through you? Will you use Word in the computer and use the thesaurus, that is the little list of words that give you synonyms, you know, other words that will say the same as the word you’re thinking of and will give you variety in your vocabulary, will you use that? Will you give yourself to making yourself not a great writer; you don’t need to be Shakespeare but a good writer? And I’m saying will you let Jesus write through you?
I think that’s one of the places you may say, “Oh, listen this is more like a commercial.” No, this is fact, Christ is in each one of us and we have certain ways here that we can express him to the world. One of them is that newsletter. And we do need a variety of us to be doing it every month because we saw the way it works when you don’t do it every month; it almost disappears from the earth completely. We had three publications last year.
But I’m saying to you, forgetting about whether we publish or not that’s not the issue, the issue is will you let Christ live in you. You have things that he can say through you that he will not say through any of the rest of us. There are little articles in the newspaper and in the magazines that you will spot just because you come across them and nobody else will. Cut them out, put them in a notebook, and ask Jesus to give you light as to how you could use those to express to some business people in the world some of the ways in which God and faith in God and trust in him and respect for his commands actually enables business to be operated more effectually.
But will you let Christ live in you? That’s it. I think you understand that even though it kind of shocks you a bit me hitting you on the Business International, I think you know in your heart that I couldn’t care less about the Business International. I couldn’t care less about the newsletter. What I’m saying is Jesus has chosen the darksome house of mortal clay in each of us and has borne in us all the dreadful things that we know he has borne. I know certainly in myself and I’m sure you’re not so very different from me, I know the things he has put up with in me and borne in me. And it was all so that someday I would stop thinking of myself as Ernest O’Neill with these inadequacies or these limitations and I would stop all this stuff about I don’t know how to do this, I can’t do this and I would say, “Lord, I will make myself available. I will fit myself as well as I possibly can.”
And I would say to you that you’ve probably found the same as many found in the early days in Bethany Fellowship. I remember asking Paul Strand who was one of the first children there, “Well, were you a good singer?” And he said, “No, none of us were good singers but we all became good singers because we were the only ones to sing.” And that’s it. You become whatever you need to become. Christ enables you to do what needs to be done. I remember Carol Brown a little Minnesota lady who had that little phrase, “We do what needs to be done.” And she really had very little education of any kind but she did what needs to be done and that was the attitude. And that’s what I’m saying to you, will you let Christ begin to live in you, begin to do the things – you don’t need to think a lot about, “Well, I wonder what he wants to do? Does he want to go to Mars in me?” Well he obviously doesn’t want to go to Mars in you because you’re not a space person and you don’t know how to get up there yet.
But you do have some obvious things that you can do and the Christian Business International is an obvious one. And you are in the midst of London, you’re in the midst of one of the financial centers of the world, and one of the business centers of the world. You’re in a situation with lots
of libraries and lots of newspapers with lots of businesses going on, with the financial news coming out every day. You’re in the middle of it all and you can get the information that is needed even if you say, “I don’t know anything about business.”
You know a lot more about business than most people just because of practical experience. But the big thing is Christ can guide you to the right information and he can enable you to write clearly. And if you don’t know grammar you can get to know grammar. That is one thing.
The radio is a great opportunity for us. I can’t do all the speaking, it’s very obvious. For one thing I don’t last forever, but I can’t do all the speaking even if I do last a long time. That’s why I urge you and encourage you in the Homiletics class; we’re going to run it again this next quarter, let Christ live in you. Sure you can’t speak, none of us can speak, we’re all like Moses, and we all have our excuses. I stammer, I can’t speak loudly, I can’t speak clearly, I haven’t the flow of language that this person has or that person has. No, but you have a voice and you have a good mind, and you have a basic education and Christ is able to make you better and better because speaking is a matter of practice. It’s a matter of doing it again, and again, and again.
And if you say, “Oh, but aren’t there outstanding speakers?” Well there may be some outstanding speakers but frankly, I think most of us are in the same boat, we’ve become what we are by doing it. There’s great opportunity for each one of us not only to prepare so that we can make presentations on radio but also so that we can make presentations to other people about living in Jesus in business. There are great opportunities there.
If you keep on saying, “That’s for Myron to do, or that’s for pastor to do, that’s for Greg, or Marty to do.” Christ cannot become himself in you. You will forever live inside your own inadequacies. So please if you’re saying to me do you think I can do all those things? No, but I think you can do all those things through Christ who strengtheneth you. And most of us are in the same boat, we’re very shy, we’re very uneasy with public performance. Most of us would rather sit in a corner and be not noticed. But Jesus requires a face. He needs a face, he needs eyes, he needs a tongue and you have all those and he says, “Will you lend me these? I have given you everything I had; will you lend me these while I’m here on earth in you?” That’s it.
So Christmas for us is a very personal thing. It’s will you let Christ do what he wants to do in you? Will you let him live in you? It ties up with our time. I feel very strongly that we ought to be guided by the inner light of Jesus’ Spirit within. I think that’s right. I don’t think we should be some corporate body that moves according to certain corporate principles and moves when the general says we should move. I think that each one of us should be moved by the Spirit of Jesus who always of course moves in harmony in his body but we should be moved by the inner voice of Jesus.
But our time is not ours to harvest, and to keep, and to protect, and to defend so that we can hear that in their voice. Our time belongs to him. If he wants us to pray then we need to pray. If he wants us to be alone in our room we need to be alone. But it’s not for us to determine, “Oh my time, I need to protect my time. I need to keep my special private time. I need to get away from everybody else.” I’ve always felt this, you can say it’s just the discipline of the ministry, but I’ve always felt if Jesus has a prayer time going, or if he has a meeting going, or if he has something where everybody else is there and they would like me to be there, I’ve felt that’s where I should be.
You may say, “That’s dreadful. That’s a dreadful way to run your life.” Well, that’s what I’ve always felt our life was in Jesus. Our life was at his disposal, it wasn’t for us to do what we wanted with it was for him to do what he wanted with. I’m sure I might prefer to be alone in my room at that moment but he wants to be out among the others in me and that’s where I should be. So our time is his it’s not ours. Our time is not ours to do what we want with it belongs to him. He has given up, he has forsaken the courts of everlasting day and chose with us this darksome house of mortal clay so he has given up all of eternity, constant brightness around him all the time and dwelled with us in all kinds of little shadowy places.
So it’s nothing to say, “Lord Jesus, this life is your life. This time is your time.” If you say to me, “Oh, we’ll become a nothing” that’s right you lose your life and you’ll find you’ve saved it. You’ll find that there is rising up within you a new person that is different from you and that is more glorious than you. And yet, you find that you are becoming your real self in the midst of him. And that’s what that verse means you remember, we are most truly men when we are him and he is us.
So you can think of other things you know, you can work out other things. But I think that’s what Christmas day means. Jesus is saying here in this chapel in different ways to different people here, “May I?” And you have to answer. Let us pray.