Theme: Velcro Church (Sunday 1 November, 2020)
Series: November 2020
Bible Reading: Ezekiel 37:15-28
Preacher: Phil Swain
This Service will be run in Hybrid mode, both in person at the church or you can watch the pre-recorded version here.
When I was younger, I desperately wanted a pair of “Velcro” sneakers. Sneakers which you did not have tie up the shoelaces but rather just pull the strap across. I wanted the Velcro sneakers not because I could not tie my shoelaces, it just seemed so easy and simple. Velcro is an amazing invention. Do you know the history of Velcro?
George de Mestral, a Swedish electrical engineer was taking a walk in the woods in the in the 1940s, and was frustrated that both he and his dog was covered with a whole lot of burdock seeds … and they were difficult to remove. The way these seeds attached themselves to his clothing fascinated George and he embarked on studying more closely the “hook” design of these seeds … leading to the invention of Velcro.
Velcro is sticky stuff. The tiniest patch has substantial strength and countless uses. You can hang pictures. Seal clothing from cold or rain. And secure shoes and batten down covers. You can even use Velcro to stick a body against a wall like I did one time at a youth group night.
So how does it work? Velcro is made from nylon and polyester has two parts. One strip made with tiny hooks and another strip has tiny loops … and when pressed together these hooks and loops attach and can provide significant strength … until they are pulled apart.
The irony is that by themselves, each strip is useless … it has no stickiness at all … It’s just a patch of nylon hooks and polyester cloth with the potential for connection. The strength only comes through connection.
Can you see where I am going with this? Yes, we as a church should be like Velcro! We are called to be a Velcro Church!
God is relational and God created us to be relational. It is like that our hearts and souls are little hooks or loops that find greater strength when they are connected with others. It’s how we are made.
And the Bible reaffirms this idea of Christian Unity over and over again:
- Psalm 133:1 – How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
- Gal 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Phil 2:2 make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
- Ephesians 4:3-6 – Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
God has created us to be joined. And the church we have been given the calling to be joined – we are one in Jesus. We are connected in Jesus. We find strength in connection.
However … reality would tell us the sometimes … sometimes we are not as unified as God calls us to be. Sometimes we find ourselves in the church having the feeling of being a little ripped apart.
COVID has been a bit like that – hasn’t it? Through no fault of our own, we have not been able to meet together in person for months and months. Sure, we have been able to adapt with our pre-recorded services … but it has not been quite the same. For some of us, it was like we were not quite as connected as we were before.
But COVID isn’t the only thing that can disconnect us from each other. As we learnt this week, death can also give us that feeling of being a little less connected. This week we had the funeral of our dear friend and member Iris. During COVID we have had a number of people who have died from this congregation such as Jim and Edna and others. We have also had some people who have moved away due to failing health – such as Shirley. Even though we do believe in an eternal reunion … in the meantime, each time a member of our congregation dies or moves on it is like a little more of that connection is lost.
Or our interesting Bible reading highlighted another way that we can feel a loss of connection – disagreement with others.
To explain the context … God through the prophet Ezekiel is talking about a disagreement within the nation of Israel – God’s chosen people. Even though the 12 tribes of Israel were equal members – like brothers and sisters in a family – they got into a huge disagreement over their religious practices and other things.
Their ongoing argument was brought to a head when Solomon, the King of Israel died and there was a disagreement over who should be the next king. The kingdom split into two, the northern kingdom took the name Israel and were dominated by the tribe of Ephrim and the southern kingdom took the name of Judah.
They remained in disagreement and apart until right up to the point of being defeated in war and taken into exile. It was at this point that the word came to Ezekiel about how strength does not come through disagreement and separation but rather through reconciliation and connection.
God gives Ezekiel that amazing image of two sticks. Ezekiel wrote the names of main tribe in each of the split kingdoms on a stick … representing the fracted state of the Israel nation. And then God said, “Join them together into one stick so that they become one in your hand.” Some translation talk about Ezekiel binding the two sticks together with twine to make them one. Either way, the imagery is clear. God wants the two nations to reconcile and be joined together as one again – because being connected is what we are supposed to be.
Maybe this is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24 … “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Reconnection brings strength.
Being connected together, being united brings strength and blessings.
What a special message for us today, the first Sunday that we have the opportunity to meet in person after 6 months apart. Not that we have been disconnected or in disagreement during this time, but rather a reminder of the importance of a church family. We have found strength in being united.
And God affirms these blessings in the rest of that prophecy by Ezekiel. God says that he is the one who will help us by drawing together all those who are separated. God affirms that we will have one king over us – Jesus – who will help us be united. That we will have one shepherd – Jesus – who will care for us and guide us. That God will make an everlasting covenant of peace with us. And God will make his dwelling place with us – establish his sanctuary with us forever!
Wherever we are hearing this message – whether it is pre-recorded on the DVD or whether it in here live in the chapel this morning. Whether it is locally or scattered throughout the state or country or even world. May we all know that in Jesus … we are one. We are connected.
And even when things of this world tries to tear us apart, when life or death tries to tear us apart, when disagreements or COVID tries to tear us apart … they will not defeat us because we are one in Jesus.
Jesus prayed to God in John 17:22-23 “May they be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.”
May this be true in our lives and in our church today.