With Ezra and Nehemiah we see the cooperation between the church (Ezra: Temple) and the state (Nehemiah: Wall) and we are inspired to strive for similar arrangements with the leaders in our city. This message will call our church into formal partnerships with more civic leaders, and will challenge us to partner with other area churches to form a coalition for the revitalization of our community.
From Esther we learn that God has called some into places of power (like Esther), and others to stay and the gate (like Mordecai), and that we must accept the place that God has assigned and to wait for the moment – a time when options are clear, when decisions are points of departure, when the community is divided over two ways of living – and to offer fresh, informed and creative solutions.
From Daniel we learn that there is a time to submit and a time to resist, but the best resistance is a counter-offer and the most persuasive argument is our loyalty to those in charge. This sermon will teach us how to discern whether to submit or to resist, and how to resist while remaining loyal and useful to those in control. We’ll call people to “lead up,” like Daniel did, by speaking truth with humility and grace.
Over the past 40 years we have witnessed the migration of wealth toward a few who were already wealthy, and away from the masses who were already poor. The political answer is to change the laws, to stimulate the economy, to incentivize the behavior of the rich and the poor but this is doomed to fail unless the heart of a nation is changed. In protest of our unprecedented greed, the Remnant will be people with a fundamentally different view of possessions.
cheating culture exists when “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.” In our day, there is a sense that everyone is cheating – and justifying it – so that cheating in return is thought a matter of survival. Before the mayhem destroys us, we will need a community who live simple, transparent lives, who risk being taken advantage of because their trust is in God.
Ours is a loud and angry culture in which words turn suddenly into threats, and then to violence. People are slow to listen and fast to speak, often in militant tones. We are more demanding and less patient. As our culture becomes more polarized by our convictions and more fragile by our threats, we will fray the “more perfect union.”
Our current trajectory of unrestrained pleasure, of freedom without responsibility will have tragic consequences for which we, as a culture, are unprepared. These consequences will threaten even our most stable institutions until the society begins to look for an alternative. In that day, a Biblical view of morality, of responsibility and self-control will be an attractive, if unpopular option for some.
Just as some are always changing there are others who get stuck. They bide their time on the margins, waiting for the day when things will return to normal. To them, the remnant is something left over from the past and so they cling to traditions. What they miss is that the remnant is also the first component of the future. It is the gospel that the next generation will believe, stripped of all time-sensitive convictions.
Once on the margins, we want to be relevant. We seek the approval of those in the center. We try to become what we think the host culture will value and sometimes forget that our first call is to the Lord our God. We confuse our loyalties to the culture (in the name of evangelism) with our loyalties to God because we want to be respected by the secular age. Right here we face the choice between being prophetic and being popular.
When we first hear of exile, we are tempted to complain, to resist, to try and regain control. We insist that we have rights, or that we are too powerful to ignore. And here we are faced with the choice between the way of opposition or the way of humility. We must decide what kind of power we want. Must we be in the center, or will we accept our place on the margins?
What time is it? And what kind of Church produces the people that are called for by these times? This sermon we’ll introduce the series by suggesting that we live in a time of exile, and that the kind of people called for are a “remnant.” This provides the context for the gospel, the mission and the cause of our church.