Monday, October 27, 2008

No Starbucks at Golgotha (mp3/script)

Download MP3: No Starbucks at Golgotha, Hebrews 13:13 - Dave Bish at Frontiers Church Exeter

I preached an earlier version of this at Bath University Christian Union in May 2009 titled "Let us go to him"  - inspired in part by John Piper's T4G08 preach.

On Friday, January 12th 2007 at 7.51am a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap emerged from the Metro and positioned himself against a wall.... Pearls before Breakfast (The Washington Post) offers a unique experiment in context and beauty through the music of Joshua Bell.

Last week we closed with the words of The Puritan, Jonathan Edwards: “We should endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying ourselves in the way of allurement… There is no such thing as excess in our taking of this spiritual food. There is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting.” Edwards says don’t pass up beauty when it’s placed before you. Pursue it deliberately. Pursue it diligently.

This morning we come to a five word melody from the book of Hebrews – near the back of the bible – a symphony that should resound in the perfectly designed cavities of our hearts. Don’t walk on by, oblivious. Come, cast aside “temperance” and gorge yourself on this feast! Hebrews 13v13 says this: “Let us go to him…”

WHOM? Him is the subject of this letter.... He is Jesus Christ, and as John Piper observes: “All of this supremacy of Christ is poured into the word “him” in Hebrews 13:13:" And this vast array of his glory is set before us to arrest our attention, lest we walk on by. Heavenly anthems resound here.

The Washington Post offered the world a free performace from Joshua Bell. The world ignored him. We're that caught up in our own lives. We might do the same with Jesus. But - if we catch just the slightest glimpse we find the antidote to self-absoption.

The only viable option is to get down on our faces in awestruck, jaw-dropping worship of Jesus. The only rational way to respond to this glimpse of glory in the face of Jesus Christ is to embrace a Copernican revolution on a scale much vaster than the mere specks of light that form our solar system. We thought we were central just as people thought everything orbitted around the earth. The Spirit is our Copernicus, setting us aright. We are not the centre. Jesus is. This is Christianity. We can no more move stars and planets than we can make Jesus central. But He can do it.

He displays himself to drag us down from the high-horse of our own self-importance, that we might adore Jesus rather than ignore and defame him. As we hear of him we should feel his word revive our souls. The experience of beholding Jesus Christ is one in which the Holy Spirit pours petrol on the dying embers of our affections to set them ablaze. And yet here is where the potential problem lies. The real test of the heart is not just whether we’ll embrace glory and majesty but on what terms we’ll do so.

Here is where we may have a problem. Frontiers Church Exeter is one that loves to gather and worship Jesus. And we love sound doctrine so we love to hear the Bible preached. And those are very good things. I would not want us to ever be without them. We must never be without them. But we have only looked at half of v13.

Let us go to him is not written in the comfort zone. v13, “let us go to him // outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured...” “Outside the camp”… and “the reproach he endured” is a reference to some where very specific. The place in view is Golgotha, where in the midday darkness of divine curse Jesus died in our place. John Piper picks up on this and observes helpfully: Golgotha is not a suburb of Jerusalem. It’s not the comfortable place. Not respectable. Not middle class. Not “your best life now”.

The banquet doesn't come in comfort. It's served at Golgotha.What does that look like? Like early Christians in Hebrews 10:34 who joyfully accepted the confiscation of property to serve others. Or Moses in 11:25 who gave up all the world's pleasures because he preferred "the reproach of Christ". He thought Golgotha was better than everything the Prince of Egypt was entitled too. Don't reach for the stars, we sink to the bottom.

God has things to say to us individually on this. But, I sense he would address us as a church.
"Golgotha is not a suburb of Jerusalem." It's where they executed criminals. It's death row. Going to Jesus at Golgotha is at odds with our suburband expectations and sense of entitlement, for life, work, money, relationships and for church. Golgotha is not nice. Going to Jesus will not make your life nice.  

We live in a strange era. When we wan a coffee we don't put the kettle on.  Instead we go to Starbucks and sit on a comfy sofa and pay someone else to serve us coffee. There are no starbucks sofa's at Golgotha. Pursuing our own building is not to build a Starbucks church to meet our consumer-comforts. No, it's so that we can establish an outpost at Golgotha. A place to make substantial in-roads into our city. So new people can come in which will disrupt what we have already. We'll do it, if and only if going to Jesus is irresistible.

That's future. "Let us go to him" is a present. It's doubtful that going to him in Exeter will cost us our lives, but what's at stake may seem more costly, exposing how British we are - our reputation and our preferences. But God says: This church is not for you. It is for Him. And 200 people worshipping Jesus is not nearly enough. And 200 people hearing the Bible preached is not nearly enough. Not nearly, when you consider the infinite worth of Jesus. 

I'd love to think that I'd have noticed Joshua Bell. But I wouldn't have. We default to curving in on ourselves. That's Martin Luther's definition of sin. Man curved in on himself. Oblivious to the beauty before our very eyes.  We can try to pursue Jesus in comfort but neither we nor the people of Exeter will find him there. No we have to come on his terms and then we can have him forever. Let us go to him!

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