-The title, “child dedication” might give the impression that this ceremony of commitment is more about the children than the adults today.
-But in fact it is about us today, but it is for them in the days to come.
-It is about us today, because we…the parents, and the church family…are making the commitment, we are the ones “doing the dedicating.”
-It is for the children in the days to come…we are making this formal commitment today because we want them to thrive…spiritually, mentally, relationally, and physically…into the future.
-We don’t baptize children before the age in which they are able to make their own commitment to Christ.
-We do, hold these dedication services to communicate and celebrate…what we plan to demonstrate in the years to come…
That is a commitment to invest in the next generation for their good and for the glory of God.
-This ceremony would be empty if it were only a ritual…what makes it meaningful is that it is a symbol of individual and community commitment…we are committing to do day to day, year by year…what this ceremony symbolizes.
This is about a commitment to investment in the next generation.
-This symbol of ceremony today…points forward to years of future investment in the lives of these children.
*I see the power of these commitments now, more than ever.
-These kind of commitments are rare: In my life I they have been limited to…
-Military oath of office
-When we dedicated our children
*They have been times of Making, Marking commitments:
*Followed by years of maturing those commitments…and all three parts are important.
What these rare and important commitments have in common: They are about a willingness to lay down our lives for something bigger than ourselves.
-Till death do we part
-Death to old life, raised to new life in Christ
-Defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic
-Then today…we are pledging to offer our lives as living sacrifices for these little ones.
*We, not just the parents.
*Today, on Father’s day…a cultural holiday celebrating fatherhood(an ideal) and honoring fathers(individual men who imperfectly seek to live out that ideal)…
…we are making and marking a commitment to the future…to these children…that we must and we will…mature in the years to come.
–Here how we will proceed:
-Parents: In a few moments I will ask you to come forward and stand at the front, the walking forward is a physical symbol of your commitment.
-I will verbalize a prayer for you and your child.
*THEN WE WILL SING A CONGREGATIONAL SON WHILE YOU TAKE YOUR CHILDREN TO CHILDCARE…WHEN YOU RETURN…
-Charge to parents
-Church, I will ask you to stand and pray with me as we commit ourselves to these families.
-This commitment you are making today…does not negate the reality that your child must choose for him or herself someday…it is about your commitment to be found faithful.
-You must follow through on the commitment…this will mean leaning fully on God’s resources for your life: His Word, His Spirit, His People.
-Dedication: I am going to give you a semi-precious stone, it holds beauty but it is unpolished:
*How does this rough stone reveal its true beauty to the world. It is there, how do you get it out?
- Skill—know what you are doing.
- Endurance—takes time
- Challenge—abrasive polishing…through tumbling
*Your child has beauty, value, and incredible potential.
*You are tasked with helping reveal that to the world—so they will be blessed (happy) and a blessing (a delight to God and others.)
*This stone is a reminder…keep showing up…embrace challenge, embrace faith and faithfulness.
- Give yourself to the Lord
- Commit to one another
- Lay your child on the altar(symbolically), pick your child up with the knowledge that you have a stewardship.
Josh. 24:1Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel….2 Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your forefathers… lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants.
On and on it goes…as they reflected on their lives…God was the hero…he did what they could not have done on their own…it was vitally important that they see this reality.
24:14-15 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
*See the balance?
God was the hero of the story…it all depended on him.
They were to live the decided life…in a sense, as if it all depended on them.
That is the biblical balance: Fully trust God’s grace AND fully make the choices you need to make to live in relationship with God.
Three Challenges, the choices they were to make:
- Fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness
*Put him first
- Throw away idols
*Do not attempt to serve two masters
It cannot be done…it will only make you miserable and powerless.
- Choose…decide and then live decided
*Quit living “deciding if”…live the decided life.
*God is your only hope
*God is your child’s only hope
*You must choose and keep choosing to trust him…even when things are tough, or dark…stay faithful.
*Live like a parent who has chosen God…lived the decided, not the deciding life.
Cultures are set by what is communicated, demonstrated, and celebrated.
This weekend we have been celebrating Sherri for 20 years on staff giving her life away to our youth…but she’s worked with our kids…little ones and teens for much longer than that.
We celebrate her because of what she has communicated and demonstrated for so many years:
I heard many stories this weekend of former youth who are now raising their own children and investing in the next generation whose lives were, and continue to be shaped by Sherri.
It’s appropriate to celebrate her in this service:
-In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul recognized the ministry of Epaphroditus.
-He said to “honor people” like him…why?
-He had been willing to lay down his life for the good of others, for the gospel…those are the ones the church is to celebrate.
-Culture celebrates people for their skill, talents, celebrity, status…we are to celebrate those who are faithful…who/what we celebrate becomes the direction the next generation sets their course by.
-Culture chases “cool”…we are to embrace faithfulness
-We are celebrating Sherri…because she has faithfully, humbly, sacrificially, given her life away for the next generation…and the next….and the next.
I first worked with Sherri in 1986…she has been my trusted partner in ministry ever since.
Sherri has a degree from WSU in International Business, with a minor in Economics and German.
She has a MDIV from Midwestern Seminary: Greek, Hebrew, it is about an 80 hour master’s degree
She has worked for:
-Flight Safety International in international marketing-Recovery Adolescent Program first as a house parent then as a counselor
-Wichita Children’s Home as a counselor
-Albania as a missionary from 1994-1996
-Albania was the first country to officially designate themselves an Atheist
state. Sherri was there just a couple years after they opened up, when the iron curtain fell.
I imagine she is the longest serving youth minister at a single church in the state…she is my longest serving staff partner here at River.
Sherri is wise, skilled…she is a good theologian, a good thinker…she is a good counselor, and a good leader.
She knows how to lead youth and volunteers…she knows how to build to a healthy team, and a healthy culture.
*I took two of our youth boys to dinner last week: Without my prompting they told me how healthy their relationships in youth group are, and what those relationships mean to them.
*God has used Sherri to build that culture…and to keep building it over and over.
She has been to a million events: graduations, celebrations, concerts, games, plays…
She has spent thousands of hours listening to youth and advising parents of youth.
Made dozens of quilts.
Her youth leaders include many who were at one time, in the youth group.
I thank God for Sherri…we celebrate her because she has communicated and demonstrated for many years a life of faithfulness to the gospel.
From today through much of September we will be in the book of Hebrews.
Today, we will spend just a few minutes introducing the book.
Both the author and the recipients are unknown.
The author was, based on chapter two, trained by the Lord’s disciples…and based on the letter itself…an expert in the Old Testament and how it flowed into the life and ministry of Christ.
The recipients of the letter were, most likely, Jewish converts to Christ.
The setting, or the immediate context of the letter was that these Christians were suffering for their faith…they were being persecuted and some of them either had or were contemplating walking away from their faith.
So, the main theme is: Christ is better.
Better than what?
Better than anything…better than all of it.
How can you contemplate going back to the old life, life without Christ?…it was not better, even if your life now is hard.
Israel had been in slavery for hundreds of years in Egypt…they prayed, and pleaded and longed for release.
When God finally did free them, it only took some time and trouble before they were longing to back to Egypt…forgetting already, that it was not better.
Now, these Christians needed to be reminded that the old life was not better…Christ is better.
“If he is better, how can people so easily forget?”
-How do you explain that?
Have you ever been really sick and were sure you would be forever grateful to be well if you could just finally feel better?
-How long did that last…days, or weeks?
Or have you missed a person or home…and thought… “I will never take them for granted again.”
How did that turn out?
We are a perpetually forgetful people…God knew this, that’s why in the OT he set up physical reminders of what he had done.
In the NT we are directed to worship each week, we celebrate the Lord’s supper, we meet together in accountable community…we need these built in reminders.
Jesus is better…we have to do the work to remember.
Let’s read just the first 3 verses:
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Christian author Francis Shaeffer told a story to explain the difference between what he called “faith” and faith.
Suppose, he said, we are climbing in the Alps (he lived in Switzerland) and are very high on the bare rock and suddenly the fog shuts us down.
The guide turns to us and says that the ice is forming and that there is no hope; before morning we will all freeze to death here on the shoulder of the mountain.
Simply to keep warm, the guide keeps us moving in the dense fog further out on the shoulder until none of us have any idea where we are.
After an hour or so, someone says to the guide, “Suppose I dropped and hit a ledge ten feet down in the fog. What would happen then?”
The guide would say that you might make it till the morning and thus live.
So, with absolutely no knowledge or any reason to support his action, one of the group hangs and drops into the fog.
This would be one kind of faith, a leap of faith.
Suppose, however, after we have worked out on the shoulder in the midst of the fog and the growing ice on the rock, we had stopped and we heard a voice which said, “You cannot see me, but I know exactly where you are from your voices. I am on another ridge.
I have lived in these mountains, man and boy, for over sixty years, and I know every foot of them. I assure you that ten feet below you there is a ledge. If you hang and drop, you can make it through the night and I will get you in the morning.”
I would not hang and drop at once but would ask questions to try to ascertain if the man knew what he was talking about and if he was not my enemy.
In the Alps, for example, I would ask him his name. If the name he gave me was the name of a family from that part of the mountains, it would count a great deal to me.
In my desperate situation, even though time would be running out, I would ask him what to me would be the sufficient questions, and when I became convinced by his answers, then I would hang and drop.
This is faith, but obviously it has no relationship to the first instance. As a matter of fact, if one of these is called faith, the other should not be designated by the same word.
(Schaeffer, Francis. He Is There and He Is Not Silent . Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)
We are not to take a blind leap of faith…that is not Christianity…it is foolish.
We are to listen to the God who has spoken, to trust him because he is trustworthy.
We can ask him questions…and we can get accurate and sufficient answers.
God has spoken in Creation…Romans 1 says…we can know somethings about him by what he has made.
-The science on this is sound…there are lots of books and videos that are excellent regarding this fact.
God has spoken in human conscience, or the heart Romans 2 says…this is self-evident if we pay attention.
-We can scar or destroy our conscience…but this just further reveals that we have one.
God has spoken in his Word, the Bible…it accurately and well describes the world we live in…and tell us about the world in ways that we could not know were it not to be revealed.
God has spoken to us finally and completely by his Son.
In space and time…God entered our world…taking on human existence.
This is fantastic, mind-blowing stuff…but reality itself, human existence, eternity, infinity…all of this is mind-blowing.
The question is, is this mind-blowing thing…God took on human flesh, real…is it true?
We can look at Jesus…his truth claims, his life, his death, his resurrection…his historical and personal impact and know what is ultimately true.
The Son is the radiant glory of the Father and exact representation of his being…God became man, Jesus.
Jesus, the creator and sustainer of the Cosmos…is the same one who…
Provided purification for our sins…he then “sat down” at the right hand of the father.
This purification is OT sacrificial language…the priests didn’t sit down as they offered sacrifices…these sacrifices had to be made continually for the sins of the people.
Jesus, is the final sacrifice for sin…it is finished now…he sat down.
The one who made the distant expanse of the cosmos…who sees, right now…the far edge of physical reality…provided purification for your sin.
He sees you now
I’ll make just one point of application, then we will be done.
Human religions tend to be imbalanced in either God’s immanence or his transcendence.
Immanence has to do with the nearness of God, intimacy of God.
Transcendence has to do with the “otherness” of God, his far-off might and power…how different he is than we are.
Imbalance comes when we make God either immanent OR transcendent.
In reality, God is both
Christ, the eternal Son of God…is the transcendent, creator and sustainer of the universe.
Christ, the incarnate Son of God…is immanent, here with us…he died a real death on a real cross…making purification for our sins.
My sin…it has been covered in full.
Another way of thinking about transcendence and immanence is God’s justice and his mercy.
These are different ideas but they can be linked like this.
God is wholly other than we are…he is sinless and perfect and all powerful…this perfection means he is just. He cannot, not deal with sin.
God is with us, he loves us…his perfection means he is merciful and loving. He willingly paid the debt of sin we owed.
Jesus is better.
He is creator and sustainer of the cosmos, of you, of me…he alone gives purpose that transcends everything…in him, everything matters, apart from him…nothing ultimately does.
Life without ultimate meaning is ultimately despair.
He is God with us…he is immanent, personal…he is present in everything…apart from him, life will end in utter loneliness.
Who, but Jesus can walk with you through death’s door…who can give meaning in life, and hope in death.
Jesus is better.
We will spend the next few months talking and thinking about this reality.