Getting Ready For Sunday: How to Prepare for Worship at Uptown, 11.22.15

Last night Meghan and I watched a news documentary on mass incarceration in the United States (typical Thursday night!). The documentary followed individuals from a poverty stricken neighborhood in a major American city. One individual was a young woman who was 14 or 15 years old. Her father was in jail and not in her life and her mother was struggling to take care of her and her 4 or 5 siblings. Throughout the documentary she continued to get in trouble and was in and out of a juvenile detention system. The overall picture was one of hopelessness. She did not see a way out and her mother felt as though she could do nothing to help her daughter out of this cycle of incarceration. Another individual that was followed in the documentary was an older man who had been in and out of jail 5 times and was set to be released in 3 months. Upon his release he had a brief time of excitement, but in a few short weeks he found himself without money, clothing or job prospects and wound up back in jail because he had skipped out on parole. After being interviewed again he was downcast and without hope. To these two individuals they had found that life and the systems they were born into had failed them. You could see throughout the documentary that they were struggling between hope and despair. 

C.S. Lewis writes in his book ‘Mere Christianity’ that when we find that there are desires (and in our case hope) that nothing in this life will satisfy we must come to the conclusion that we were made for another world. In this documentary the hopelessness of this situations was palpable. I found myself searching for answers. I know that there are smarter and more gifted people who are directly involved with the situations have also searched for answers. Proposals have included government agencies, strengthening family life and community engagement to combat the destructiveness of poverty. However, we must admit that these would only be temporary solutions. The individuals in this documentary see the vanity of this life.

Why is it that the gospel spreads so rapidly in parts of the world where their are dire needs and it struggles where there is affluence and comfort? I believe that it is because they are aware of the brevity and vanity of this life, which enables them to easily forsake any hope they would put in this life. They see the brokenness of this world and when they are offered true hope in the gospel it is amazingly good news. To those who live lives of comfort and ease it can seem that they have all they need. They believe that this life is all there is and it will continue to go on. We are called as Christians to live for the next life. We are called to put our hope in the next life. This is the hope that we offer to all people. For those caught in a system of incarceration this is the hope that we have to offer, a hope that is imperishable and a true freedom that is unlike any hope this world has to offer. As we consider these things over the weekend and as we approach Sunday morning reflect on this quote from C.S. Lewis from the same portion of ‘Mere Christianity’: “I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.” What does it look like to live as exiles on this earth ‘pressing on’ to our true home and calling others to join us on the pilgrimage? 

THE WORD

Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Sermon: Finish Well: Live for Eternity

SONGS

Come Ye Thankful People, Come
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Jerusalem, My Happy Home (arr. J. D. Goodwyne)
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We Will Dance (David Ruis)
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On Jordan’s Stormy Banks
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Song of Preparation: There is a Land of Pure Delight (arr. Red Mountain)
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Song of Response: The Sands of Time Are Sinking (arr. Indelible Grace)
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