FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap!
The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions:
- Did anything land with you during worship?
- What did it make you think? How did it make you feel?
- What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word?
- What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?
- Did you hear any good news? If so, when and where?
Words For Reflection:
...left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entropy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there's nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present...is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second. – N.T. Wright
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: Isaiah 40:3-5
Praise to the Lord - Adoration
Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder - Adoration
Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts - Grace
The Church’s One Foundation - Response
Psalm 126 - Communion
The Bible Project:
As a way to help you grasp the over-arching story of the Bible, I am going to include each week a link to one of The Bible Project videos that summarizes in a few minutes one book of the Bible.
This week check out the summary of Luke 1-9 and 10-24.
If you are looking for help to read the Bible in a more regular way, you may findthis approach and this app helpful.
As we've mentioned the last couple weeks during worship we are using theNew City Catechism for our confession of faith this year. It is 52 questions long, one question per week. The authors have also written a helpful companion to the catechism to aid your learning and even a children's edition coming out later this year. Is there an app? Yes there is. The app is user friendly and already includes a childrens' version.
This is a great resource for individuals and families to learn the basics of the Christian faith and commit them to memory.
The New City Catechism & Devotional
The New City Catechism Mobile App
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
All Things New
Come, Lord, and tarry not;
Bring the long looked for day;
O why these years of waiting here,
These ages of delay?
Come, for thy saints still wait;
Daily ascends there sigh;
The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come;"
Does Thou not hear the cry?
O come and make all things new
Come and make all things new
O come and make all things new
Build up the ruined Earth,
Come and make all things new
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
Merciful Father, forgive us the sins of our tongues—for deception and untruthfulness in our dealings with others; for resentment, coldness, impatience, and ill temper. Forgive us for the sins of our eyes—for impurity in our glances and imagination; for pining after more beauty, comfort, status, and wealth than you have given us. Forgive us the sins of our hearts—for hard-heartedness toward you and our neighbors; for pride, self-absorption, self-pity; and above all for rebelling against you and doubting your love. Father, remove our fear, envy and pride and melt our hearts with the good news of the Gospel. Transform us by your grace to live wholly for your glory, for it is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Words of Grace
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text - Ezekiel 37:1-14
1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”
1. Renewal and healing requires accepting the bad news
2. Renewal and healing means being made whole again
We are in our second week of renewing our vision as a church. About a year ago, the elders of RMC began discussing how to more succinctly and clearly communicate our vision. That work culminated this past December. You can read more here.
For these first few weeks of the new year, we are focusing on our vision statement:
RMC exists to pursue renewal and healing
for all the people and places of Birmingham
through Gospel ministry in word and deed.
Last week (1/14) we looked at the word pursue. This week we looked at the words renewal and healing. Why did we pick these two words to try and encapsulate why we are here? The answer comes from looking at the end of God's great story of redemption beautifully expressed in a passage like Revelation 21:1-5a and working backwards from that. What would it look like to try and align our vision and common life together with the trajectory of the good news and the hope of all things being made new? Renewal and healing give expression to the biblical theme that something has gone terribly wrong and it has left its mark on each of us and on God's good creation. We need to be renewed, that is given new hearts. And we need to be healed from the ravages of sin. In other words, sin has ruined our relationship with him and one another.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 vividly portrays both the renewal and healing we need. The renewal and healing we need begins by accepting the bad news. In Ezekiel 37:1-14 God places Ezekiel in a valley full of human skeletons and even leads him through the valley showing him the vast numbers of bones. It's a gruesome scene full of death. In verse 11 God tells Ezekiel these bones are the whole house of Israel. That is a striking statement because Ezekiel is called by God to be his mouthpiece to God's people still alive but in Exile in Babylon. What's the point? God is giving his people a vivid metaphor of the bad news they wouldn't accept. Ezekiel 1-24 is one chapter after another of God detailing the sin and rebellion and disobedience of his people that led to their exile and ultimately the utter destruction of Jerusalem in 586. In other words, the valley of dry bones is a picture of his people as the living dead cut off from God, with no home, and no one to save them. In fact, God's people are quoted in verse 11 as saying: "Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off." In other words, chapters 1-24 coupled with the horrifying scene of 37:1-2 vividly portray the guilt and consequences of building our lives on anything other than God.
However, the bad news is what prepares the way for the good news of what renewal and healing means and who can do it. As we continue through Ezekiel 37:3-14 we discover that renewal and healing means being made whole again. God commands Ezekiel to speak to these dead bones of what He will do and it is nothing short of recreation, a clear echo back to Genesis 2:7 and the first creation. As Ezekiel prophesied to this valley of dry bones they began to move and come together: bones, tendons, flesh, skin. But he also commands Ezekiel to prophesy that God's Spirit would breath life into them that they might live. And why does God do this? So that they might know, "I am the Lord." God promises to renew and heal his people physically and spiritually. He promises to restore them to a right relationship with himself and his world!
Why does God give his people this message through Ezekiel and his promise to bring them back from the dead and restore them in verses 12-14? He does it to give them hope; to let them know he is not done with them, despite the fact they have rejected him and broken their relationship with him. He gives them a promise of a living future! But how is that possible? Because it is from this valley of dry bones that one day there would be one who would come and stand in their place (re: Ez. 22:30) as the beloved son of God to bear the penalty and experience the full guilt and brokenness of sin. Jesus fulfills the story of Israel. He is the living future of God's people and all who look to him in faith. Death is swallowed up in resurrection!
We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that anyone who is in Christ, is a new creation. Likewise in 1 Peter 2:24 we are told that it is by the wounds of Jesus that we are healed. To use our language, renewal and healing are found in Christ and him alone. He is the one who gives the Spirit to remake us (Rom.8:11) and he is the one who will redeem and heal our bodies (mentally, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually) if not today when he comes to make all things new.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16) Therefore, we have reason to persevere in hope for one another, our neighbors and our city.
Sermon Reflection Questions
- What stood out to you from these verses?
- What questions do they raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- How does the valley of dry bones portray sin and brokenness?
- How does Ezekiel's vision describe what renewal and healing means?
- What do you think it would look like to pursue this renewal and healing for others?
Confession of Faith: The New City Catechism, 2017
Q. 3. How many persons are there in God?
A. There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
2 Corinthians 13:14
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.