We live in a fractured society and a fragmented age. The political conventions that took place over the last few weeks remind us again of how much divides us. Our views of human nature, of freedom and liberty, of the common good, of the purposes of the state, of the good life and the righteous city—our divisions on these questions are deep and they are real. The world is presently in a time of great shaking, and we find ourselves looking for a sure place to stand.
As Christians, we know that the only sure place to stand is Christ. Christ is a solid rock, and his kingdom will never be shaken. And, standing on that rock, part of our witness to the world is to show a different kind of society, a community where our differences don’t divide us, but instead show the greatness of our Savior. We want to be a society of life and light, a city set on a hill, the church of Jesus Christ.
These are lofty sentiments, and it’s important that they touch down on the ground at some point. Here are two immediate places where we can shine in this way. The first is here on Sunday morning, before and especially after the service. We have a saying around here, that we aspire to be “the Say Hey people.” We want to welcome, to connect, to smile and wave at those we don’t know. And that starts with the folks who show up here on Sunday morning. It’s good and right to chat and welcome those that you know. But it’s also good and right to welcome those that you don’t know, to learn a new name each Sunday (or relearn it, as the case may be). This is especially true as we grow in size and it becomes easy to simply congregate with our friends. And this exhortation is especially for our members, but also applies even if you’ve not joined this church yet. So if you’re a follower of Jesus, take some initiative and meet someone new today, after the service.
The second place of application is in our neighborhoods. We want to be a city set on a hill. We want to seek the good of the city. And so we want to get to know our neighbors. This Tuesday is National Night Out, when many neighbors around the city gather to connect. We may have different views of God and man and society, and those differences matter. But we’re also united by the fact that we’re all made in God’s image, and, if we’re neighbors, we all live close to one another. So we want to encourage you to get to know your neighbors on Tuesday. If it’s snuck up on you, you can find information online about gatherings in your area. So go, shine, and be the Say Hey People in these Twin Cities.
This reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let’s seek his presence together now.
Prayer of Confession
Our Father and God, we live in a world of fragmentation, hostility, and strife. Our neighborhoods, our city, and our country are being rent apart by accusation, malice, rivalry, and hatred. We fall into vindictive tribalism, gathering with those who are like us, and looking at those who aren’t with dark suspicion and condemnation. We bite and devour one another and so we are in danger of consuming one another. This is a great evil.
What’s more, Father, as your covenant people, we too have grown dark and suspicious. We have either grown naïve about the world, welcoming its wickedness into our midst, or we have grown closed to the possibility of repentance in the world. We have refused the hard path of being wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Forgive us for our pettiness, and our refusal to make our first word to outsiders a word of kindness and welcome in the name of Jesus. Help us to welcome one another in Jesus’s name here, so that we might be able to welcome all in the name of Jesus out there.
We know that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst or in our own hearts, our prayers will be ineffectual. So we confess our individual sins to you now. . . .