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Shareholders in God's company: an Easter series on the benefits of the resurrection, page 2 of 2

Week Four
Shares in a Linked Network
Scripture

Exodus 17:8-16; Romans 8:31-35

Message

Sometimes we run scared because our prayers to God seem to fall on deaf ears. Is there nobody out there? Is God unable to help us? Doesn't God care? Or have we been such a disappointment that God has just given up on us?

The story of the first major attack on the fledgling Israelite nation by the marauding Amalekites reassures us that God does hear our prayers. Our appeals to divine power do not go unanswered. The rag-tag band of undisciplined slaves laden with Egypt's wealth represented an irresistible target for the veteran Amalekite army—like taking candy from a baby. Amalek gave no thought to the fact that the salvation of all humankind rested on Israels fragile freedom. Without God's intervention not only Israel, but also every person in the world would remain unredeemable.

When Israel's army fought this life-and-death battle, it had little time for prayer. So Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a hill, and Moses stretched his hands toward heaven on Israel's behalf. God heard his prayer. As long as Moses stretched his hands out to God, Israel had the upper hand. But when he grew tired and his hands dropped, the tide turned in Amalek's favor. Victory came only when Moses' cohorts managed to prop up this senior citizen so he could finish his prayer.

Who says that people who are elderly and shut-in can do nothing important anymore in the kingdom of God? By praying for youngsters who are up to their eyeballs in a crushing load of responsibilities, they provide them with an essential link to the sustaining power of God. Seniors can pray like Moses and the priests of old for those who are too busy, too distressed, too exhausted, or too confused to pray for themselves. And such prayers access the great power of our God for those in need. God answers intercessory prayer.

There is a problem, however, with those who so often pray for us—young or old. They're only human. Like Aaron who allows a stray golden calf to clog the lifeline to God, like idolatrous priests who dial one wrong number after another, and like friends who just plain forget or get tired of remembering our ongoing struggles before God's throne, our intercessors with God sooner or later let us down. They get tired, and our lifeline to God gets disconnected.

To this problem the apostle Paul announces God's reassuring Good News. Christ's resurrection from the dead provides for us another crucial benefit: "Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us" (Rom. 8:34).

When we fail to pray as we should, or when others cannot stand in the breach for us, Jesus prays for us. He fills up what's lacking in our prayer. He never tires like Moses. His words on our behalf always hold our heavenly Father's attention because Jesus is less than an almighty arm's length away.

Frequently we fail to ask forgiveness for our sins—often as not because we haven't even noticed them. At times like that, Christ's intercession for us is essential. "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?" Paul asks. Who indeed, when Jesus himself intercedes for all our sins and refutes all charges against us with reminders of his atoning blood?

In our global village, communication networks have turned into essential lifelines. Medical specialists who are thousands of miles removed from the operation table provide instantaneous, lifesaving advice. Untold thousands of travelers daily depend on aircraft communication systems to bring them safely back down from six miles up to a fright-eningly thin sliver of runway.

But more essential than all of these is the line of communication Christ has established for us with our Father in heaven. This line patches us into eternal life. In Christ we share also this resurrection benefit: a direct line of communication to our heavenly Father that will never again go unanswered, get disconnected, or return a "busy" signal. Romans 8:35-39 makes that clear as "Ma Bell."

Visuals

¦ A banner or paper-hanging could be added that displays a graphic image of a satellite dish.

¦ The word "LIFELINE" could be added to the list of benefits superimposed on the share certificate.

¦ The sign could show the coil of a telephone cord (heading vertically to the top border) and the word "LIFELINE" in bold lettering—indicating that Christ is our lifeline to God.

Worship

Call to Worship
Romans 8:34-35


Songs
"All Glory Be to God on High," st. 1 and 2—-sermon response
[PsH 247, PH 133, RL 620, TH 102]



"I Serve a Risen Savior," st. 1 and 3—song of praise
[PsH 405]


"Lead Me, Guide Me," st. 1 and 2—song of rededication following reading of Psalm 32:1-2
[RsH 544]


"Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow"—parting song
[PsH 637-638, PH 591-593 RL 556, TH 731-733]


"Unto God Our Savior"—gathering song
[PsH 175]


Dramatic Sketch

A dramatic sketch that sets up the doubts we sometimes experience in our relationship to God could work equally well in both a more traditional and a seeker-oriented service, possibly doing double duty in both. In this case the sketch might have us "listen in" on a conversation between two high school students as they discuss their (lack of) communication with God.

It would be important to include reasons why we might think God isn't listening to us, leaving this dilemma's resolution for the sermon. High schoolers could be invited to write the piece and to present it to the congregation in the service as a means of leading us into the Word.

Community Service

Scripture

The Old Testament passage from Exodus 17 is clear and straightforward enough to include in this service. It beautifully introduces seekers and new Christians to the redemptive/historical lines that unify Old and New Covenants, particularly focusing here on Moses as covenant mediator, tire precursor of Christ's role in tire fullness of time. Care should be taken to explain to "seekers" who the Israelites were and what role they played in the economy of God's plan.

Songs

"How Great Is Your Love"
[Songbook 7, Praise Worship , Hosannah! Music , Integrity Music Inc., Mobile, AL, 1990]


"I Cast All My Cares"—concluding congregational prayer
[Maranatha! Music Praise Chorus book , Maranatha! Music. Distributed by The Benson Corp Inc., Nashville, TN, 1990]


"In the Presence of Your People"
[PsH 160]


"Jehovah Jireh"
[Songbook 1 , Praise Worship, compiled by Jeff Hamlin and Tom Brooks,Hosanna! Music , Integrity Music, Inc., Mobile, AL, 1987]


"Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow"
[PsH 637-638, PH 591-593, RL 556, TH 731-733]


"You Are the King of Glory"
[Unity Praise & worship Vol. 1, Unity Music Ministries, Mississauga, ON, 1986]

Week Five

Shares in a New Line of Clothing

Scripture

Exodus 19:3-14; Col. 3:1-17

Message

At first blush it seems a trifle strange; at the very moment that God comes down personally to establish a covenant with the Israelites, he asks them to do their laundry (Ex. 19:10). So what's a sweat-stained, desert-dusty robe between a people and their God? Is God just being like a typical parent who at your wedding or graduation blurts out: "Did you change your socks, Dear?" Is God guilty here of similarly mixing the monumentally important and the incongruously trivial?

Not likely! Washing their clothes was literally of sacramental importance to God's people. By this act they demonstrated their desire to put off their old, sinful way of life and to put on the new lifestyle of consecration to God's will. When God makes us new, we want to change our daily living. We want to wear our newness all the time and all over the place like a brand-new outfit—a righteous robe. God's gracious gift to Israel of the decalogue and all the statutes that follow it showed them the way to hve, though it was not until Jesus actually walked that way on our behalf that we could truly experience new life in fullness.

Paul picks up that theme in Colossians 3, He reminds these recent converts that Jesus has given them salvation fully and freely. They have no need of anything or anyone above, beyond, or beside him. He is their perfect Savior and Lord. And in him they have become new creatures who can now already begin to live the new life by following in his footsteps.

So a fifth benefit of Christ's resurrection from the dead is the fact that we share that new life with him already here and now. Having been incorporated into Christ (2:9f), we are empowered to exchange our grave clothes for grace clothes. We can now adopt a lifestyle characterized not by moribund earthly concerns, but by eternal heavenly ones.

Paul reminds us how foolish we would be to let our old and new life coexist. When we put on fresh new clothes, we take the dirty old rags off first. That only makes sense. So Paul tells us, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature..." (Col. 3:5ff). He continues: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility..." (Col. 3:12f).

A handsome jacket completes and pulls together the whole new outfit. Paul tells us what it is: "over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (v. 14). Those who are raised with Christ will forever after wear their Spirit-filled hearts on their God-given sleeves.

Visuals

¦ The words "NEW LIFE" could be added to the list of benefits superimposed on the share certificate.

¦ In addition, you might hang a graphic image of some clothes hangers, either empty or sporting some shirts or robes, indicating the new line of clothing we share when we are incorporated into Christ's death and resurrection.

¦ The 3-D sign could read "CLOTHING EXCHANGE."

¦ If baptism is scheduled, a children's message showing the water and its meaning (washing, purification) could precede the actual event and tie it into the message.

Worship

Call to Worship Psalm 24:3-4

Songs

"By the Sea of Crystal," st. 1 and 2—after reconciliation; st. 3—parting song
[PsH 620,TH 549]


"God Be Merciful to Me"—prayer of confession
[PsH 255,RL 104,TH 486]


"May the Mind of Christ, My Savior," st. 1-4—response to message
[PSH 291, TH 644]


"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"
[PsH 253 , RL 145,TH 53]


"We Praise You, O God"
[PsH 237 TH 97]


Community Service

SongS

"Create in Me a Clean Heart"—following message
[Maranatha! Music Praise Chorus Book, Maranatha! Music. Distributed by The Benson Corp. Inc., Nashville, TN,1990]


"Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart"—during offering
[Maranatha! Music Praise Chorus Book, Maranatha! Music. Distributed by The Benson Corp. Inc., Nashville, TN,1990]


"Glory Glory in the Highest"
[Worship Songs of the Vineyard Vol.1 , Vineyard Ministries International , Anaheim, CA, 1989]


"I Love to Praise Him"
[Songbook 2 , Praise Worship , compiled by Dan Burgess, Hosannah ! Music ,Integrity Music Inc., Mobile, AL, 1988]


"Take My Life That It May Be"—after offering
[PsH 289, PH 391, RL 475, TH 585-586]


Drama

"The Ragman"; this could be easily made into a dramatic sketch that would be a very effective lead-in to the message in either type of service.

[from The Ragman and Other Cries of Faith, Walter Waugerin, Harper Collins, New York, N.Y, 1984]

Week Six

Shares in the Vault

Scripture

Joshua 6:20-25; Rev. 1:9-18

Message

A symptom of the deep pessimism of the "Baby-Buster"

generation (the generation following the "Baby Boomers") shows up on a typical '90s bumper sticker: YOU WORK, YOU PAY TAXES, AND THEN YOU DIE.

That gloomy scenario is only partly accurate, of course. Lots of couch potatoes have figured out how to get through life without lifting a finger, while others have amassed fortunes without paying a nickel to the revenuers. Only the last phrase is incontrovertible and inescapable: THEN YOU DIE.

With the exception of Elijah and Enoch, no human being avoids the vault of death. All our hard work, technology, and know-how serve only to stave off the inevitable for a little while longer and make our life's journey to the grave a bit more comfortable. Since there's no hope in avoiding it, we do well to seek the key mat will unlock that vault of death before it captures us. We'll have no further opportunity once we get there!

The Bible provides us with a surprising role model to teach us this. Rahab is hardly a paragon of virtue, but she knows that her fellow Canaanites' demise is imminent: God will now carry out the death sentence they deserve. She also knows the key to safety through this sure destruction rests in the heart of Yahweh, the God who will rescue any old heathen harlot if she asks. God so eagerly establishes covenants with sheep farmers, Israels ("God-wrestlers"), and even bawling twentieth-century babies that Rahab, keenly aware of the unavoidable crisis to come, acts wisely by clutching that key to safety through the approaching doom.

A sixth benefit of Christ's resurrection in which we share through faith turns out to be our ultimate escape through the inevitable annihilation that we all must face. Our risen Lord jingles before us our only means of deliverance from deaths dark vault: "I hold the keys of death and Hades" (Rev 1:18).

How can we be sure he really has them and that they really work? "I am the First and the Last. I am fe Living One; I was dead, and belioldlam alive pr ever mid ever1." (Rev 1:17-18). Jesus proved it. He was locked into deaths icy grip, and he came out. Within the solid bedrock of history he has proven once and for all that he has opened the way through death for us.

Our neighbors and work associates are also plummeting willy-nilly toward that vault of death. Many of them have no key. Others have what they think is the key, but find that it doesn't open anything, much less that final prison. What an incredible waste: billions of lives wasted in death, like stacks of money and negotiable bonds left to rot in a vault for which no one can find the right combination.

God has favored us with full knowledge of the identity of the One who holds the real key. Like a hot tip on the market, shouldn't we spread the word so that those around us can also gain a share in the life-giving company of our God?

Visuals

¦ A graphic image of a large, darkened, ominous-looking vault could highlight a banner or paper-hanging rounding out this series of messages. Or perhaps a simple silhouette of a large key or set of keys could be effective.

¦ The words "ETERNAL LIFE" could be added to the share certificate, completing the list of six benefits of Christ's resurrection.

¦ The 3-D sign could read simply "EXIT" and carry the imprint of a key. (In a congregation fairly sophisticated in their knowledge of financial lingo, the sign could read something like "FUTURES OFFER" instead.)

Worship

Call to Worship

John 14:6

Songs

"How Great Is Your Love"—-response to Scripture reading
[ Songbook 7, Praise worship, Hosannah! Music , Integrity Music Inc., Mobile, AL, 1990]


"Jesus Lives and So Do We"__sermon response
[PsH 399]


"Lord of Creation, to You be All Praise"__song of rededication
PsH 286,RL 68]


"Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow"
(PsH 637-638, PH 591-593, RL 556 TH 731-733]


"Rejoice, the Lord Is King"
[ PsH 408, PH 155, RL 596-597, TH 309-310]


Community Service

The Old Testament passage from Joshua may take too long to explain to people who have no background in the history of God's people. It may be wise to read only the New Testament reading and focus specifically on Revelation 1:18. The subject of death is a crucial point of contact with those who have little or no exposure to the Christian faith.

Scripture

Revelation 1:9-18

Songs

"Alleluia, Alleluia!"—response to message
[PsH 402, PH 106]


"He Is Lord"
[PsH 633]


"How Great Is Your Love"—parting song
[ Songbook 7, Praise worship, Hosannah! Music , Integrity Music Inc., Mobile, AL, 1990]


"Majesty"
[Maranatha! Music Praise Chorus Book, Maranatha! Music. Distributed by The Benson Corp. Inc., Nashville, TN,1990]


"Oh, How Good Is Christ the Lord"

[PsH 401]