Sermon Notes for the teaching at Christian Fellowship Church on Sunday, August 2.

The Church Under the Sun

by Pastor Mike Acock

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear. – Ecclesiastics 5:1-7 ESV

The life of the pastor – Henri Nouwen

“Preachers who want to be real leaders are those who are able to put the full range of their life-experiences –- their experiences in prayer, in conversation, and in their lonely hours – at the disposal of those who ask them. Pastoral care does not mean running around nervously trying to redeem people, to save them at the last moment, or to put them on the right track by a good idea, an intelligent remark, or practical advice. Pastoral care means: offering your own life-experience to your fellow travelers and, as Paul Simon says, to lay yourself down like a bridge over troubled waters.” – Henri Nouwen

Living in the story of scripture
Noah and the insanity of building the Ark with no rain
CF Building a new building in the midst of a pandemic where crowds are both discouraged and resisted

Solomon’s seasons of life:
Became King at 20 years old – reigns for 40 yrs
· writes Song of Songs in early 20’s
· writes Proverbs with wisdom of God in mid 30’s
· writes Ecclesiastes – a bit of a skeptical view of life under the sun at 50

My own story
Passionately pursuing a calling in life in my teens and early twenties
Wisdom of understanding a few things in life in my mid thirties
Nearing 50 have more skepticism and want deeper meaning than superficial answers

No regrets in the 16th second Video
Show clip from from 1:27 to 5:28

Peterson’s Introduction to Ecclesiastes in THE MESSAGE
Read the 2nd and 5th paragraphs
1) “harder we work at it, the less we get out of it.” some give up, others work harder and harder becoming less human and less human by the year – what is our trajectory
2) “sweeps our souls clean of all “lifestyle” spiritualities so that we can be ready for God’s visitation in Jesus Christ
3) “It is an expose’ and rejection of every arrogant and ignorant expectation that we can live our lives by ourselves on our own terms.”

Ecclesiastes is a book that reminds us:
1. Solomon has been exploring pleasure and wealth and wisdom and all other things under the sun to find fulfillment and he calls it all hevel – a smoke, a vapor. Grasping of the wind.
2. Life is random
3. Bad things come to the just and the unjust
4. Time never stops. You live, you die and people fill up the void left by your life.
5. Death is the great leveler. Richest, most popular will die just like the poor unknown wise man and the fool.
6. Grabbing on to anything for identity is Hevel or the vapor. It appears substantive and then it disappears.
7. This book is about living under the sun with no regrets in the 16th second, actually it is the place we can discover and under all the regrets we have had in the 16th seconds of our lives.

King David had the vision of the temple but Solomon was given the task of building it. Man of war verses man of peace.
I Chronicles 17:1 and 2
David says how can I dwell in a house of Cedar and the Lord is under a tent?
The dialogue between Nathan the prophet and God is telling to me.
The Lord says in vs 6 “in all places where I have moved with Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, “why have you not built me a house of cedar?”… Vs 11 “I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build the house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.” vs 13 I will be his Father, He will be my son, I will not take away my steadfast love but will confirm him in my house and my kingdom and his throne shall be established forever. IDENTITY grounded in God is the basis for the temple. This one will build the temple.

Then in Chapter 22 vs 6 through 10 we see God’s reasoning – David was a man of war and bloodshed, this was not to be the foundation of the building of the temple but Solomon, who was to be a man of rest and peace, who was going to bring peace and quiet to Israel – he shall build a house for my name.

Then in Chapter 28 David commissions Solomon with this in verse 9 – “and you, Solomon my son, know the God of our father and serve him with a whole heart and a with a willing mind, for the LORD searchers all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house of the sanctuary, be strong and do it.”

Then Solomon as he embarks on building the temple speaks of the purpose of the temple – 2 Chronicles – presence of God in cloud. A cloud so thick the priest couldn’t do their duties.

Speaks of what the temple was to represent under the sun. In the midst of a life that seemingly runs on repeat and nothing brings ultimate satisfaction, the temple is the place that represented the God that is with us under the sun. The one who is our peace.

Jesus in the boat during the storm – we are not delivered from storms but have been given one who brings us to peace in the storm.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7- The Church (temple) under the sun

Guard Your Steps
1. Quote Zach Eswine “guard our steps…we walk into the sanctuary what we find there is evil, bombast, arrogance, and slick speech with poor relational follow-through.”
2. All are welcome here – Weeds and Wheat and each of us gets our moment as one or the other. I have had my moments of worship and connection with God and others and I have had my moments of using the church for my gain and my means of meaning and purpose that cause pain and hurt in others.
3. Mercy undergirds your steps and Grace defends your place in the church
4. You see we need this place. Because we need community – 2 are better than one, remember. We need connection with the ONE who created us and connection with other humans it is what keeps us guarding our steps.
5. Protection and Provision is in guarding your heart
Protection in that I need to be prepared that I might encounter someone here in the church that could hurt me or be here to get something. They have a goal and believe that is want God wants
Provision in that I need to be watching my steps- how am I approaching the church, the house of God. Am I coming to meet with God and the community HE has made me a part of. I am coming with a purpose that gives me identity but will hurt those within and those without.

When you go- not if you go
Routine of going means we get to working at this thing church

Draw Near to Listen
“Humility is nothing else but a true knowledge and experience of yourself as you are.” The Cloud of Unknowing
It is at church that we learn to lessen our words (slow our tongues) and quiet our hearts (unlearn haste).

God is looking for mercy not sacrifice (Psalm 51:16-17)

Nothing Hidden in the house of God.
If mercy and grace sustain every step toward and in the church and cleanse every soul with in the same, then the church is a place where my guard comes down.
Many of us have not found the church to be that. It is the place of hiding the real you and thus we live in shame and darkness instead of love and light.

Do Not Be Rash with our mouth
No wordy prayers and monologues before God

Be careful with the vowing. If you vow it do it. Often the vows are for sake of our ego in front of others. We look good and get a praise for what we vow to do. But then we do not follow through. You know the good intentions path.

God doesn’t need your words, you need HIS.

Fool hearty act of offering a sacrifice
The mindless offering of all that I think God wants
My knowledge, skills and talents
My dreams for the kingdom
My sense of rightness and justice
My sense of power and prestige
My sense of conflict
My sense of value

I can derive value from all these things apart from the God, to whom, I was actually drawing near.

Do let your heart be hasty
The constant busyness of my heart to find meaning and purpose in the world. You can let that go as you come. The temple was a place of peace and rest. Solomon’s very name mean just that.

We long for peace in the world yet God came to bring peace to the human heart. Erwin McManus made this statement in sermon recently – “The war to end all wars is the war of the human heart.”

The haste in our hearts needs the shalom of the temple, the shalom of the presence of God. The one who has made it possible for us to even approach and come in through Jesus Christ and the work of the cross.

Religiosity and it’s effects on the church

Much of what Solomon is saying here is the work of religion. God has provided a way to himself; yet, we in our sin and haste keep creating religious ways to approach God. Religion is man’s construct to connect to God. Jesus was, is and always will be how God has come to us under the sun.
Hasty hearts, fool hearty sacrifice and rash mouths are the activities of the religious
When I fear that I must create in the Heart of God love for me, I look for what God loves and hates and I then love it or hate it no matter what it cost humanity.
Matthew 23:13-15 – Religion actually blocks us from the kingdom of God and will create converts that twice the son’s hell as you who are disconnected from Jesus.

What good is the church under the sun for? It is the place of community with God and with each other.
The church – “Don’t blame the clown for acting like a clown. Ask yourself why you keep going to the circus.” Unknown
This quote was quite thought provoking for me. I actually thought immediately of the church. Perhaps I keep rehearsing a narrative that says this place is a circus and is full of clowns. But the truth is that these clowns might be my people and this circus just might be my community.

I think this goes with Solomon and his thinking of the church under the sun. When we forget the church is about a God who is simultaneously in Heaven and who has in Jesus come to be with us under the sun, we act with many words and dreams and haste in our hearts trying to accomplish what we believe God wants. We make promises in Jesus’ name that we can’t let alone want to fulfill so that our egos are propped up and our comforts are maintained. We look like clowns running around with make up coming with crazy things to do. Like packing 15 clowns into a car and at a stop light we all get out and get back in in different order.

The church is where the makeup comes off and we find the real souls that are in the seats beside us and we cease the busy activity that we hope provides meaning and purpose to life only to find we are simply tired and burned out. We find rest and peace when we discover God who is with us and with in us in our identity.

“we are made quiet in the presence of a vibrant storyteller, an intimate lover, a merciful knower of our worst moments.” Zach Eswine

Quote Zach Eswine “Church is meant to disrupt our denial. We are meant to learn, there in God’s house, how to unvarnish our lives before him.

The church can’t fulfill only the God of the church. The community of the church is where the God of the church flows not in the building nor could I say even in the work of the church but only in the intertwining of people of God in life with others does hope shine like a city on a hill.

We can act like our religious activities activate God to come near to us. Our tithing, our vowing, our worship, our reading and praying, even our loving. We do all those things because we have found that HE already drew near to us. These are the activities to help us to unlearn the haste of our hearts, to slow the words of our mouths and we SEE and KNOW God who is in Heaven and has come to invade all this hevel.

When I know that Jesus has made peace with me and I cannot increase nor decrease love in the heart of God. I am freed to love others as they are.

Some thoughts on Personal Relationship with Jesus and an Intimate Relationship with Jesus.

Proverbs 3:5-10
Proverbs 3:5-10 The Message

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart,
Don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for GOD’S voice in everything you do, everywhere you go,
He’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to GOD! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
Your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
Give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
Your wine vats will brim over.”

Trust in the Lord involves humility (knowledge of need) and intimacy (the state of being known)
Thoughts from Daniel Southern’s book – The Message of Leadership: 31 Essential Insights from Proverbs (with the Message text by Eugene Peterson.

Read from page 17.

Desmond Doss – Hacksaw Ridge -Court Scene
“While everyone else is taking life, I am going to be saving it. With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.’ – Desmond T. Doss (Hacksaw Ridge)

The church the people of God – are not to give life under the sun over to folly and evil. We will with wisdom and love and mercy and grace in play along side the folly- worship of God alongside the devastation of evil. Humane acts of compassion living right alongside the inhuman acts of greed and envy.

The church the people of God – are not to give life under the sun over to folly and evil. We will with wisdom and love and mercy and grace in play along side the folly- worship of God alongside the devastation of evil. Humane acts of compassion living right alongside the inhuman acts of greed and envy

City on a Hill
Jesus has moved into the neighborhood. This the church, the people, have we moved into the neighborhood as the Beloved to be with those who live under the sun.

Vs 7 The message – But against all illusion and fantasy and empty talk there is always this rock foundation: FEAR GOD!
Come into the house of God knowing exactly who HE is and exactly who you are. He has joined with you and me under the sun. His presence is our provision for finding communities of love and grace. This is where we find no regrets in the 16th second. Our lives find purpose in Him and His community acting with love and grace right alongside all the evil and destruction this world can bring.