Healdsburg Community Church, which we attended from 2001 to 2013, and where I served as a part time staff member. (We wrote about the church in September, during Old Home Month.) In lieu of a church post this week, here's a summary of the sermon I preached Sunday -- which doubles in the program as a mission statement for our travels to a church in every state in 2016. (I've changed the sermon a bit to include it as a post; the original, complete with Mindy's coughing fit, is posted on the church website.)
Have you ever been stood up? I'm not just thinking of romantic situations, though that has certainly happened to me. I'm thinking of those times when you think you have a set time and place to meet someone, and they don't come. You start questioning: Were we were supposed to meet today? Is this the right place? Did I say or do something that hurt the other person's feelings?
I believe a lot of people go to church and think God has stood them up. They hear He was supposed to be at the 11:00 am service at the First Whatever Church of Someplaceorother, and they go, and He isn't anywhere to be seen. It can be discouraging.
And yet, Mindy and I expect God to show up at churches in 2016. We find encouragement for that expectation in Luke 2: 22 - 39. In the passage, Mary and Joseph go to church (okay, they go to the Temple), and see God show up in surprising ways -- particularly through two individuals.
Leviticus chapter 12 that acknowledge God's authority over their lives (and the life of their Child) through circumcision, purification and sacrifice. Taking these steps required time and devotion. Following these practices also allowed the couple to encounter two amazing people who spoke to them with blessings from God.
As Christians, we no longer need to practice Law of Moses, with its ritual cleansings and sacrifices, but there are other spiritual disciplines we should practice, like prayer, fasting, studying Scripture, and meeting with God's people. Hebrews 10:25 teaches us that we must not neglect the gathering together of believers (i.e., going to church). Some people say, "I don't need to go to church, I see God in the forest." Of course you can see God in the forest, but you can see God in the garden as well, so why go to the forest? God speaks to us in unique ways in different places and times, and church should be one of the places we go to find Him.
And yet, God did speak through Simeon. God is free to speak when and through whom He chooses, and we should be ready to listen, just as the Holy Spirit spoke to Simeon and then Simeon spoke to Mary and Joseph.
Finally, we come to Anna. She was an old widow without children in a time and place when such a condition was considered a curse from God. Her life was difficult, full of suffering, but such suffering can draw a person close to God. She too speaks for God to Mary and Joseph, assuring them that their Jesus is indeed God's anointed.
We need to recognize that God can speak through pain. We shouldn't try to cover over our own spiritual pain or ignore others who suffer, since God may speak through our pain as we bring it to Him or speak to us as we minister to others.
We trust God will show up in 2016. In our journey and in yours.
Service Length: 58 minutes
Sermon Length: about 20 minutes (Mindy can't find her notes in the confusion of moving)
Snacks: leftover Christmas goodies including lots of different cookies, tangerine wedges, pears, coffee, decaf, tea, water
Joy to the World
He Shall Reign Forevermore
We Three Kings of Orient Are
Miles to place: 47 (it's only 12 from our house, but we had to make several trips to get everybody)
Total California Miles: 17,735
Church website: www.healdsburgcommunitychurch.com