"But there is a task that is hers alone," Percy Ainsworth noted in his sermon The Pilgrim Church, about the church's mission in this world, "and that is to put men in touch with the eternal world of love and truth and peace - their spiritual fatherland." [p. 23] Ainsworth goes on to describe "a higher loyalty and spiritual patriotism," as the hallmark of the true Christian; this is our open secret, exuded as a powerful aroma into the unbelieving world, instilling powerful patriotism in our own souls, and heartfelt prayers for "kingdom come." Well, this is what worship at Irvine Pres. did for me today: I felt I was in heaven praising God together with my spiritual family. From the preparation for worship which began with the hymn "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us," the Call for Worship with Psalm 100, Shout for Joy to God all the earth, and the Reading of Luke 13:31-35 to the soul-stirring music of the Children's and Handbells choirs and the final Sending with the new contemporary song One Thing Remains (by Brian Johnson, Jeremy Riddle and Christa Black), it was very well-crafted. I especially loved seeing Jeff and Laurie do the Reading together. The symbolic offering of the calendar was touching. I pray that we will be inspired to leaving space on our calendar, this Lent, for God's nudging, so we can hear his quiet voice speak to us and thoughtfully respond.
Worship at my church never fails to point me to God's kingdom to come, besides showing me the ways - such as a tendency to fill my calendar and busyness - in which I often stray away from God's will for my life. Today's worship, including the sermon, resonated with Ainsworth, who in the same sermon, continues, "There are some who would have the church sit at the feet of the successful business man. They rise in our councils, these baptized worldlings, and talk as if the things we really need could be picked up at the head office of a smart and bustling firm. They say we do not speak the language of the people and are not sufficiently in touch with all the swift and subtle changes in the world's shifting and complex life. And such criticism is wrong, as all shallow things are wrong. It is not this world we need to know better, it is the other world. It is not the language of the street we need to master, it is the language of the kingdom where He reigns whose voice has the music and throb of many waters. We need to move with surer step and keener vision and warmer response amid eternal things. [p. 20]
Pastor's Scott's sermon on confrontation was fitting and not the saccharine-sweet shallow mediocrity that one often hears these days. It was based on the text of Jonah 3; 6-10; God does not like sin, he reminded us, urging us to confront the sins of our own wayward hearts and those of others when we see practices (including those of our fellow brothers and sisters) that are at odds with God's justice, mercy and righteousness. Having just completed a study of Jonah last fall (our group used Priscilla Shirer's Navigating the Interrupted Life), I, arrogantly and presumptuously, didn't think God could have anything to say to me so quickly from Jonah. Well, I learned differently today; I need these sermons from Jonah again because the old lessons haven't been learned fully, yet. Besides, I am a slow learner and there's plenty of new lessons! God's justice and righteousness are perfect and I will always fall short of them while in this mortal body. But that's no reason to use my free will without discernment, indulgently, and hinder the Holy Spirit's ongoing sanctification. It is "to the stranger in the earth that the fore-wandering souls of men instinctively turn. He is the only man who never loses his way. It is to him that men have ever come in their confusion and their despair. my life." [p. 21] I pray that my life and yours "plead the cause of the eternal life with the world's heart." ... let [me] remember... that to be in touch with human needs we must be filled with heavenly satisfactions, that the world will never be one whit better off for our diplomacies and stratagems, our clever opportunism and our time-bred familiarity with life, and that all the really precious things in our earthly heritage are found in the track of a band of pilgrims. [p. 26-27]
Source: The Pilgrim Church, and Other Sermons by Percy Ainsworth. This particular sermon, the first in the book and titled, The Pilgrim Church, is based on Psalm 119: 19: I am a stranger on this earth. You can download the full-text online, in your choice of format (pdf, txt, etc.) freely from The Open Library (Internet Archive).