Sacred Assembly

I. INTRO

Joel 1:1-14; 2:12-17…

The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel.

An Invasion of Locusts

Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine;
wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white. Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the betrothed of her youth. Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the Lord. 10 The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up;
the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the olive oil fails. 11 Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. 12 The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree—all the trees of the field—are dried up. Surely the people’s joy is withered away.

A Call to Lamentation (or mourning)

13 Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar.
Come, spend the night in sackcloth
[mourning clothes], you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. 14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.

Joel 2:12-17: Rend Your Heart

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “reTURN to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing —grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico [porch or doorway] and the altar.  Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God? ’”

Context and significance:

Context: The book was written about 400 BC.  There was a devastation of the land by locusts and drought in an agrarian society.  One theologian said of the book, “In poetic strain of matchless elegance and power, the prophet depicts the invasion of the locusts under the figure of an army.”

Significance:  The great influence of this book in Christian theology lies in its being quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 (17-21).  Joel speaks about the “coming of the Day of the Lord” (2:1), which is a prophecy that is partially fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit.

II. BODY

The concept and practice of Sacred Assembly is seen throughout the OT – and I would argue that it forms the basis for NT worship services – as well as unique time in the life of a church when they are invited, or admonished, to seek God’s presence for a time of restoration, renewal, and refreshing.

OT — Numbers (29:35); Deuteronomy (16:8); 2 Kings (10:20); 2 Chronicles (7:9); Nehemiah (8:18); Isaiah (1:13); Joel 1:14; 2:15.

  • The definition, or description of a Sacred (or Solemn) Assembly in the OT…It is a biblical means by which Israel and the Church through the centuries has experienced spiritual renewal through a special season of confession and re-commitment to the Lord and His divine purpose
  • What a Sacred Assembly is not: It is not an emotionally charged time of confession, it is not a negative exercise in introspection, and it is not a form of group coercion – it is an emotionally safe setting for honesty and confession.

Wayne Jacobsen, in his book The Naked Church, identifies a biblical pattern (or model) of renewal seen throughout the Scriptures.

  • This pattern begins with God’s people becoming complacent – where we begin to rest-in and find comfort in the externals (i.e., how things look – outside appearance).
  • This eventually leads to a spiritual dryness – and then deadness.
  • God then begins to stir the people – or a church, to hunger and thirst after Him again, to seek the Lord.
  • Over time there comes a personal renewal that leads to corporate renewal.

According to Jacobsen, the Sacred Assembly is a biblical model for seeking the Lord at the low point in the cycle.

NT – Now, where do we see this Sacred Assembly pattern, or model, in the NT?  While the words “sacred assembly” are not used, the concept and practice are certainly encouraged…

First of all, at a certain level every weekend worship service is to be a sacred assembly – where:

  • We surrender afresh to God through worship in song and Scripture.
  • As we remember what Jesus Christ has accomplished through His virgin birth, miraculous ministry, horrific death, glorifying resurrection, and missional ascension  — we are drawn to confess and repent of or sins…
  • Repositioning ourselves in the grace to change and grow.
  • And often times we partake of communion, remembering Christ’s broken body and shed blood on our behalf.

I would also see the disciples spending 10 days in the upper room spoken of in Acts 1:12-26 as an extended Sacred Assembly.

  • Certainly there were times of extended prayer, confession – and worship…
  • We also read that there was some leadership, or governance, adjustments made.  They saw the need to replace Judas, with another apostle – Matthias was then numbered with the other 11 (v.26).

Another perspective that is helpful for us is to see the Lord’s admonitions to His church throughout the NT.

As Americans reading the NT we often view the word “you” as speaking to us as individuals, while most of the time the word “you” is plural and speaking to the church – or more specifically to local expressions of the Church (or which we are one).

There are two passages that I’d like to point out today…

  • In the letter to the Hebrews, the concept of Sacred Assembly is strong.  Listen as I read Hebrews 12:1-2:  Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • Another passage is found in Revelation 2-3, where Jesus Himself both affirms and rebukes seven churches.  This section begins to conclude with some familiar words for those of us who have been around the church:  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

Please take out the handout in your bulletin…The Transition Team has been working on this document since October.  The list has been shared in the last two summits – and statements have been written about the things we can own as a church.  We want to confess our sin, repent, and invite the Holy Spirit to come afresh and bring fresh life and vitality to SBF.

Review the statements…

Our Transition Team hosted an initial reconciliation gathering last Fri night…

This also coincides with our study of the Beatitudes – specifically becoming “poor in spirit,” and “mourning,” which leads to “meekness” (i.e., humble learner), and then we turn a corner and begin to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (or, the gift of His righteousness).

III. CONCLUSION

So, where do we go from here?

  1. Corporate renewal begins with personal renewal.
  2. I would invite each of you to spend some honest and surrendered time with God.  I would encourage you to meet in homes over dinner – or to gather to pray.
  3. God has humbled SBF.  I would like us to spend some time and consider the Beatitudes from both an individual as well as corporate context.
  4. Next week Chris Ryan will be here to speak on Rom 8.  Chris is a local Christian therapist, who for a few years worked out of an office here at SBF.
  5. We were scheduled to have a Concert of Prayer next Sunday afternoon.  I’d like us to put that off until I’m back in June (10th from 4-6pm).
  6. The following Sunday Gene Heacock will be back and we will jump back into the Beatitudes.
  7. As a church we still need to decide if we want to hold a Sacred Assembly??
  8. Out Transition Team – and I hope you as individuals will continue to pursue relational reconciliation with those who are no longer apart of SBF.  When you see them tell them God has humbled us, and that we are sorry for the pain that was inflicted.
  9. We are putting together an ad hoc team to work on some core ministry values.
  10. Beginning next month we want to launch a process that will identify and train a Search Team for a permanent pastor.  Develop a Church Profile and Pastor Profile.

Roms 5:1-5: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

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