This past Wednesday (8/14/2019), CPC in The Hill had the privilege of bringing its 7th 2019 Summer Park BBQ to the Trowbridge Square Park here in the Hill. I do a little park preaching before we eat. And, the people in the park come and listen: parents, adults, children, and even teenagers. They hear a gospel message that is relevant to who they are as residents of the Hill: Adults just hanging, dads making good by spending some time with their kids, moms trying to let their kids run off some energy, gang members, some homeless, addicts (maybe some selling, too), and too many unparented (wandering) teenagers. They all come and listen.
This, in part, was my park sermon thas evening:
This is not a verse of condemnation. Although many, of course, read or take it this way. The verse is the way home. Yet, we can’t get there by ourselves. God is the one who gets us home. This is why the Apostle Paul continues in verses 24-25:
First, we hear in Romans 3:23 that “all” have sinned. This is good news (well, sort of). Really, though, isn’t it good to know that we all, every single individual—rich or poor, suburban or urban, suburban or . . . Hill [they laugh], politician or CEO or regular people like us—each carry the label “sinner.” And, as such, each have fallen short of God’s glory. No special people. All have sinned. All fall short of God’s glory. All–everyone needs a way home. And, so, again, this verse is our way home.
How many here have had the thought that I’m not all I was created to be? [Hand up all over.] Anyone here messed up so much you believe there is no way out? It’s ruined; life is ruined; seems like there is no exit. No hope. [Hands up.] Who here has tried to fix their life and you know it’s impossible? [Many admitted to this. Hands.] Any here actually fix it? [No hands.] Well, again, this is why this seemingly rather condemning verse is good news. We know what we have fallen short of. This tells us what needs to be fixed. What needs to be restored.
We are unable to fix this (as some of you have already admitted). We are incapable of restoring ourselves. So, God must do it. God has provided a substitute for us. Jesus is God’s propitiation (yes, that’s a big word, put simply, it means Jesus is) our substitute. He took our place and paid in full our sinful debt to God. And, God wants to restore us to His glory, that is, the image he originally created us for. He has provided a way home, back to that glory.
Back to what we were created for.
It is important to know what we will be restored to. We can’t just be restored to a better version of ourselves. Heavens, no! Because, everything about us is tainted by our sinful nature–not just the mistakes we make, but the actual, very core of our being is corrupted. A better version of ourselves isn’t what we want (really, it isn’t). This isn’t what God had in mind.
Our sinful nature. This is why we fall short, for all–I say it again, for all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. This is good news to us. None of us needs to question who we are: we are all sinners. None of us need question what it is we have fallen short of: all fall short of God's glory.
This is our way home.
So, knowing what we are restored to is very important. We are to be restored to the glory that is found in Jesus Christ. He has restored what Adam broke. What our forefathers and parents keep breaking. What we keep breaking. We need Him, first, as our substitute and, then, we begin to be conformed (restored) to the image of Christ. That is what it means to be transformed from glory to glory.
But, you see, here’s our problem: Everything else about our world (all around us—the people, the systems, the government, business, advertising, the news, everything) pushes us to be conformed to this world (conformed the way they want us to be, the way it makes it all work for them, the way that keeps us all unequal) or to simply just be a better version of ourselves (that is, that version of course, that the world thinks is best) or, more likely, a better version of somebody else’s idea of glory. That is why Jesus is not only our substitute, paying for our sin, but also who we are to be like (that’s the glory we want, the glory we need restored). We are now to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
This verse is good news.
This verse is our way home.
Before the hot dogs, a little Park Preaching:
“Innocent people get caught up in our sin. Everyone here knows what “sin” is, right? It’s our mistakes. It’s our evil. It’s our decisions to not do good. I don’t have to explain this, right, you all know what sin is?”
Plenty of hands up.
I continue: Well, it’s also part of our nature. It’s our bent. And, you all know innocent people, too many times, reap the results, the consequences of our sin.
How many here admit their sins hurt and have hurt other people? (Hands up.) So, you know what I am talking about. God has something for you—and for you who have been hurt by the sins of others.
Well, here in Isaiah 25, God has something for those who had reaped the results of sin and rebellion against God. Especially the innocent, who had to share in the punishment, the exile, when God dealt with their sin. There would be a time when God would make a feast for all peoples on His mountain.
(Strange, it seems every time God does something to heal and forgive and restore His people, it’s over food—do you wonder why CPC in The Hill does so many things related to food!)
God promises that “he will swallow up” the “covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.” And what is this “covering,” this “veil”? It is death. For, Isaiah tells us in the next line: he “will swallow up death forever.” This is the end of sin. We, right here in the Hill, have seen too much death. We know this covering because we have seen it. This is the veil that hangs over us: Death. Death from violence. Death from bad (sinful) decisions. Senseless. Needless. Death.
God promises he will take this away. And we hear, “the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” Tears are what we feel when the results of sin hit us, our sins, the sins of others, the sin that infests our lives and community: tears from fatherless homes, tears from lose of loved ones, tears because life is hard and lonely. God will wipe away those tears.
And, God will take away “the reproach of his people.” We all know what shame is, do we not? Anyone here felt shame, shame because of what you have done? (Believe it or not, plenty of hands went up all around, even from a few of the men.) Shame because of what has been done to you? (Again, hands up.) Well, God promises to take this reproach—the marks of sin—from you.
Here’s that promise, on that day, after all our waiting and wandering, God will save us. He will bring us salvation. “Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation,” Isaiah writes. You see, though, God has already begun removing the veil of death. He has already begun wiping away the tears. He has already taken away your shame. Because Jesus has already paid the debt we owe. Jesus has already remedied the sin that separates us from God and from one another. Jesus, God’s Son, has already died on that cross to take away your shame, to take away sin and death’s reproach. All you need is receive this gift of salvation, the forgiveness of sins. God has already brought salvation to His mountain, to this Hill.
And, God has provided a place, a church, to find strength, be encouraged, discover hope, find a family . . . the place to be assured that God has brought this salvation to you, that he is wiping away your tears and has taken away your shame . . .
Each week at our summer BBQ in the Park, I witness God’s grace through those who do the serving. While, too often, I get the credit and the thank yous, it is, actually, the CPC in The Hill congregation that is serving and loving on the people in the Park.
This is church, the body of Christ, visible to the community. This is an illustration of what we affirm as a church: At the Park on a summer Wednesday evening, you will see the church as the body of Christ, the mediatorial presence of Jesus. Amid the hot dogs, salads, fruit, desert, and the mixture of lives joined over a meal, in a very real way, if you want to see Jesus, you can through the CPC in The Hill serving together, loving on its neighbors. This is truly a sign of the Kingdom of God, right there in Trowbridge Square Park.
This is no more evident than during a deluge one Wednesday evening— yes, it poured BIG TIME! We saw it coming—and still made the decision to get to the park, set up, and serve as many as we could before the rain fell. We probably served about 40+ when it started pouring. And it came down heavy. Yet, people still kept coming—lining up--and our servers kept serving.
One young lady (pictured below next to the girl with the pan over her head) had been volunteering to help with drinks at the coolers. Eventually drenched to the bone, she still stayed at her post until the last person went through the line. Along with a few other young ladies, this young women, a teenager, often helps us at the park and at Sunday service setting up in the morning. Pictured here (above and below at the grill) is our Nigeria still grilling until the last hot dog was done, last hamburger grilled, and last person had something to eat.
We have a no cancelation policy. No matter the weather. No matter. We somehow make it work so the people have something to eat.
Please help us ensure we have the resources for this important summer ministry >> 2021 CPC in The Hill Summer Park BBQ Ministry Fundraiser
Imagine the grill is smoking with sizzling hot dogs and hamburgers. Tables are set with various salads, some fruit, a few homemade dishes, and, of course, cookies. You notice a handful of people milling about the park, some are sitting on benches, and children with their parents watching are climbing on the playground.
You’ve already made the rounds to introduce yourself as Pastor Chip. You recall that most of these enjoying the park are broken and live rather messy lives and at this hour, some are certainly homeless. Now, in a few minutes a meal will be ready. You've told everyone you've met, “Come join us when you hear me shout, ‘The hot dogs are ready!’”
2019 CPC in The Hill Summer Park BBQ Ministry Fundraiser
You’re hoping for a good crowd, but at first you don’t see a high turn out this evening. The park crowd seems small. But, in time, that changes.
Our Nigeria, at the grill says, “We’re ready.”
You shout out, “Hot Dogs are ready. Come join us!” And in a few moments a small crowd of teens, children, and adults appear (as if out of no where) around the tables. Some even know you’re going to preach a little; but, yet, they still come. Now, you’re surrounded by 40-plus families (sometimes 80+) and a number of parentless teens. You welcome them and tell them, “We are Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill and thank you for letting us be your guests in your park this evening.”
You open your Bible to Psalm 23 and begin, “The Lord is my _____________.” And, the crowd without being asked fills in the blank: “Shepherd.” You continue: “I shall not _____________.” They add, “want.” And then, you declare, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of _________.” “Death!” they fill in. “I shall fear no ___________.” “Evil,” they shout without hesitation. You identify with them: “We all have seen too much ‘death’ in our neighborhood. We all know what “evil” looks like.” They all nod in agreement. Some even say, “Amen.” You have their attention. You let them know there is a Shepherd who wants to walk with them through that valley of the shadow of death so they can brave and even deliver them from that “evil.”
This happens every Wednesday evening, with different messages, throughout the summer. For nine weeks Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill shares a BBQ meal in a nearby park. For some, it’s their only meal that day; for some, the only meal in a few days. This is what we call our “In His Midst” ministry—to show up where Jesus is already working, seeking to change lives. The good people of CPC in The Hill is in that park to share the love of Jesus over a meal, spending time listening to their stories and offering prayer, sometimes a scripture, and, mostly, encouragement. This year we have had many more intentional conversations about God and what Jesus has done for them. The “In His Midst” ministry is a natural megaphone to our community that CPC in The Hill cares about its neighbors. I even receive some calls during the week with requests for prayer or just to talk. Pray that the relationships we are developing in that park move toward Jesus, the Shepherd ready and open to change their lives.
Please consider helping us >> 2019 CPC in The Hill Summer Park BBQ Ministry Fundraiser
Wasted Blogger, Chip M. Anderson
I am the pastor and church planter for Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill; a flawed practitioner of Wasted Evangelism. I am learning about Wasted Evangelism through my experience in The Hill and through the good people of CPC in The Hill.