The St. John’s Pulpit
St. John’s Baptist Church 300 Hawthorne Lane Charlotte, NC 28204 704.333.5428 www.stjohnsbaptistchurch.org
Joshua 24:24-28 and Gospel of Luke 19:28-40
Sixth Sunday during Lent (Palm/Passion Sunday), April 14, 2019
by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
For thirty years, from 1944 to 1974, The Rev. Dr. Claude Upshaw Broach preached from this pulpit.
Consider all the changes that happened from 1944-1974; WW2, Civil Rights, Elvis, the Beatles & Watergate.
In 1944, Charlotte’s population was a bit more than 100,000; by 1974, there were more than 250,000.
Through those four decades, St. John’s initiated ministries to both guide change and respond to change.
Throughout our history, we have sought to be faithful to God living beyond the applause of the crowd.
On occasion, Claude would announce to the Sunday morning congregation, “this will be a ‘homely’ sermon.”
He used this old-English term to mean, ‘this sermon is especially for home-folks.’
Today, I want to talk with you, as home-folks, as we continue to guide change and respond to change.
If you are a guest today, again, ‘welcome.’ My prayer is that this message will help you know us better.
Imagine you are dating a person, trying to decide whether you’d want to marry into their family.
In today’s scripture passages, we find the people of God at a point of transition amidst change.
Joshua 24 tells of a people seeing the end of one era and the beginning of another.
In Luke 19, we find this familiar story dubbed Palm Sunday; a brief moment of celebration in Passion week.
Like a crescendo in music, shouts of praise along Jesus’ path introduce a week of tremendous transition.
St. John’s has always been a church in transition; today is no different in a city of 860,000 people.
The rapid pace of change and our congregational context in the center of this growing city brings transition.
Today, I will consider these two scripture passages as I talk with you about our relationships.
I am talking about our relationships because this is the essence of what it means to be God’s people.
In this ‘homely’ message, I will place four pictures from today’s scriptures alongside:
· Our Relationship with One Another as Senior Minister and Congregation;
· Our Relationship with The Living God – Individually and Congregationally;
· Our Relationship with One Another as a Community of Obedient Disciples of Jesus; and
· Our Relationship with People Beyond St. John’s.
First, Consider Our Relationship with One Another as Senior Minister and Congregation.
In both scripture stories, a spiritual leader is guiding God’s people to embrace change with Active Faith.
Although I would never compare myself with Joshua or Jesus, I do embrace my role as your spiritual leader.
Whether I am studying for messages or congregational ministry, working with leaders and staff, caring for
members, or representing St. John’s in the community, city, state or world, I am committed to live in a
constant state of prayer in my relationship with God and in my relationship with you.
Although I am an imperfect servant leader, I interpret my calling from God guided by God’s Spirit to ask
questions such as these:
‘How can you add value to the ministry of St. John’s?’
‘What do these people need from you as they invest their lives in Jesus’ mission for the Church?’
‘How can you invest your gifts for ministry to equip and serve these people?’
‘Where do you need to repent of your sin and renew your commitment to be MY exemplary servant?’
‘Where are you having influence and impact as a spiritual leader?
‘How are you guiding these people along their spiritual and missional journey?’
‘How should you be calling the people of St. John’s to renewal in their spiritual commitments?’
Joshua called the people of God to the ancient city of Shechem, a city of refuge and covenant renewal.
Shechem was where Abraham heard God’s promise and where he responded to God’s covenant.
Shechem was where Jacob purchased property and where Jesus would later stop at Jacob’s well.
Shechem is known as one of the burial places of the patriarchs; still known as a holy city today.
Since 1903, archaeologists have uncovered many temples, altars and standing stones or pillars in Shechem.
Joshua was a spiritual leader who called the people to spiritual renewal in the midst of transition.
Notice how Jesus’ parade into Jerusalem began; he went ahead of his followers; he always goes ahead of us.
If you are following Jesus, he is going ahead of you to prepare your way. I was reminded of this again recently.
Jesus sent two of his disciples to fetch a colt with instructions similar to code words used by 007.
Jesus said, “if anyone asks you why you are untying the colt, tell them ‘the Lord needs it.’” And they did so.
Beloved, a little more than 8 years ago, Sally Young initiated a conversation with me about serving St. John’s.
From then to now, my desire is to be a servant leader among you as we guide change and respond to change.
While I can never compare with Joshua or Jesus, I see it as my role to go ahead of you as your spiritual leader.
Second, Consider God’s Relationship with Us and Our Relationship with God.
Joshua 24 and Luke 19 offer us messages about the relationship between God and the People of God.
As part of God’s people in the world, we should listen to and internalize these messages.
Joshua 24 is a narrative describing a covenant renewal experience among God’s people.
The people recommitted themselves to God; they responded in faith to God’s faithfulness to them.
Often, in Hebrew culture, when people needed to remember their words, a symbol was put in place.
So, after the people renewed their commitments to God (with words), Joshua placed a large stone reminder.
Every time they saw that stone, they remembered and reminded one another of their commitment to God.
In Luke 19, a transition is beginning: Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt; a symbol of love and peace.
The people along the streets follow the lead of the disciples and begin praising Jesus.
That throng of people shouting praises were not aware of what they were applauding.
However, Jesus is completely aware of what he is doing there; he revealed God’s nature and vision.
Riding into Jerusalem on a colt, Jesus proclaimed our relationship with God is based upon love and peace.
Our relationship with God is a response to God’s initiative toward us.
Our commitment to God is based upon God’s commitment to us.
Because God is actively faithful and faithfully active toward us, we can be actively faithful and faithfully
active in relationship with God.
Jesus’ entrance on this colt unveils God’s message to us, a message behind the news cycle of eternity:
NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, GOD’S LOVE WINS & GOD’S PEACE PREVAILS!
Third, Consider Our Relationship with One Another as a Community of Obedient Disciples of Jesus.
When Jesus sent those disciples to get the colt, they didn’t question or change his commission.
When Jesus sent those disciples to get a colt, they didn’t return with a horse symbolizing military power.
Jesus tells us, “come unto me and learn of me…” So, we are learning of Jesus.
Jesus tells us, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” So, we are learning to do so.
Jesus tells us, “love your neighbor as well as you love yourself.” So, we are learning to do so.
Jesus tells us, “when you serve the poor, overlooked, victimized or ignored, you are serving me.” So, we do so.
Jesus tells us, “go, teach all people groups, making disciples, teaching them to observe what you are learning.”
Therefore, we continue to serve Jesus by serving others and we continue to learn of Jesus.
St. John’s, over the past year, you have given several ideas to this year’s class of church leadership.
You have given input to groups focusing on Safety and Security, Architectural Review and Staffing Our Future. We are living as a community of obedient disciples of Jesus wanting to reshape our facilities and our staffing
to initiate change, guide change and respond to change in the future.
On Sunday, May 5th, you will hear updates from these groups as we follow and obey Jesus’
Fourth, Consider Our Relationship with People Beyond St. John’s.
When Joshua gathered God’s people in Shechem, he was thinking of people beyond their generation.
He set in place a pillar to help them remember; a stone of witness still mentioned these centuries later.
Each time people saw or spoke of that stone, their memories allowed them to see the past and future.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on the colt, he was moving beyond applause.
Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem because he was thinking of people beyond this parade.
Jesus knew the praise and applause of this crowd was shallow and would be short-lived.
By Friday, he would look upon some of the same faces crying out, ‘Crucify him,’ saying, “Father, forgive them,
for they have no idea what they are doing.”
One theologian points out, ‘these stones could witness of his worthiness, because he was their creator.’
Jesus was committed to God and others; he saw beyond applause to a cross through a vision of hope.
During this spring, we are seeing how our commitment to God and one another can offer hope to others.
On April 1st, many of you heard how this entire city block will soon be invested in ministry and service.
Existing partnerships will be strengthened and new partnerships will emerge.
In coming months, two of our community mission partners plan to purchase the former King’s College dorms.
Charlotte Family Housing plans to purchase the dorm closest to the fence increasing their capacity to
transition homeless families toward permanent housing. They will continue to have their offices in our
buildings and house 6 families in our apartments. Now they will be able to care for at least 20 more families.
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will purchase the dorm on the corner of Lamar and Park. Their staff
and others, including several attorneys who are members of St. John’s, provide public service to others.
On May 5th, you will see and hear how we will continue to guide change and respond to change in new ways.
You will hear inspiring suggestions of how our facilities can become more welcoming and useful in the future.
And, you will hear how we can re-allocate our staffing resources to reach more young adults; enhance
our impact in the city; improve opportunities and experiences of spiritual formation; expand our efforts in
messaging, engagement, outreach and assimilation; and broaden our ministries of congregational care.
As followers of Jesus, we do not seek the spotlight or get caught up in the applause of the moment.
Think of the people in the past years of St. John’s who have shaped you to be a person of active faith.
Now, envision people of future generations thinking of how you lived by active faith beyond applause.
As we relate with God and one another, we also relate God’s love and peace to people beyond here and now.
In one of those sermons Claude Broach called ‘a homely sermon,’ he wrote these words:
“What of the future? What will be the shape and form of the Church seventy-five years from now?
This I know full well; that strange Man who walked forth from the tomb on Easter morning is Lord
of the Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!”
That strange Man who walked forth from the tomb first rode into Jerusalem on a colt.
He calls us to active faith proclaiming God’s message in all our visions, our efforts and our relationships:
NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, GOD’S LOVE WINS & GOD’S PEACE PREVAILS!
Amen and AMEN!