Forgive One Another | Chapel Hill Church Sermon | Gig Harbor, WA

Forgive One Another | Chapel Hill Church Sermon | Gig Harbor, WA

Good morning, Chapel Hill! Last week we talked about our DNA value of “serving our neighbors.” It’s part of who we are. We have committed $600,000 annually in perpetuity to support causes “beyond these walls” so that we might love and serve our neighbors well. Thursday, I represented us at the grand opening of the new FISH Food Bank; a spectacular new facility for this venerated ministry. They announced they had just crossed their fund-raising goal of $8 million. And I was told that, aside from foundations and a state grant, the Chapel Hill gift of one quarter million dollars is one of the five largest gifts of over 550 they received. That’s you, Chapel Hill… loving and serving your neighbors. Well done!

And Happy 4th of July! With Pastor Ellis and his family on their way back home to England for sabbatical, we can all be a little more boisterous in celebrating our Independence from Britain! Although, I’ve got to say, I like Queen Elizabeth a lot more than I like our current set of politicians! Still…independence…is at the heart of who we are as a nation. There’s a lot that’s wrong with the United States….but with all our faults and sins, we are still a great and generous country…and our passion for liberty is at the heart of what makes us great. So, Happy Independence Day!

BUT…we are also members of another group. However loyal we are to America we owe a higher allegiance to THIS organization. What is it? The church! The church of Jesus Christ. THIS body…and the rest of the billions of people who proclaim the Lordship of Christ. Our membership in the church is eternal. As much as we might value being citizens of the United States, that citizenship will end the day we breathe our last. But our citizenship in the Church, God’s eternal covenant people, is only beginning.

Look around you. This gathering…this motley crew…is your family. Go ahead… spot the goofiest person in the room. Point them out! You might never hang out with that person in any other setting…but because of Jesus…because we’ve been adopted as God’s sons and daughters, every Sunday morning is a family reunion. And as much as we celebrate our independence as a nation… independence is NOT a value we celebrate within our church family. Our nation, yes. The church, no!

We are not independent of each other. Jesus said we are branches of the same vine. Paul said we are different body parts of the same body. Every New Testament image of the church is of connection, of INTERDEPENDENCE. The American heresy is the idea… the lie … that my spiritual relationship is just between Jesus and me. Jesus never taught that. Paul never taught that. And those who live that way…independent of…superior to…oblivious to their connection and obligation to their church family…are in defiance of God’s intent. We were CREATED to be together. Not independent at all. God once said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” He has never changed his mind.

We need each other. We need to be together. It’s God’s intent. And it’s one of the many reasons COVID has been so pernicious. Because it made us scared to be together and convinced many of us that “church” is about content and entertainment. The songs we listen to, the sermons we listen to…THAT’S church. Which means… as long as we have an internet connection, we can do church.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m GLAD we jumped into the world of virtual church. I spoke this week to a woman who suffered a severe injury and took months to recover. She was so grateful to be able to worship with her church family on-line. Many others are in that same boat and I’m glad we can remain connected to you. But as I’ve said before, there are hundreds of our sheep who have not returned to the flock and, as your earthly shepherd, that grieves me. It will always grieve me. You are living independent Christian lives; disconnected from your brothers and sisters in your church family. Satisfied to worship via TV. But we were not created for that. Jesus never intended that.

One reason I’m sure of this is… the “One-anothers.” The New Testament is FULL of one-anothers. Admonitions, commands, encouragements…on how to treat our brothers and sisters in our Christian family. Dozens of instructions on how we are to behave toward one other. And we cannot treat each other this way if we aren’t with each other…

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