Welcome to Our Community - Pastor Ben Worley
This week we are excited to welcome Pastor Ben Worley from Emanuel St. John's Lutheran Church in Lytton, IA. Ben and his wife Faith stay busy with ministry and family life with four kids, the oldest of which is on the verge of the teen years! When Ben does have some free time, he also serves on IOLBC's Board of Directors. In addition to sending campers to summer youth and family camps and Recharge retreats, Emanuel St. John's also hosts one of our Day Camp teams each summer for a week.
At the very great risk of driving you away from this post before you get past the first sentence, I’d like to ask a grammar related question. …
Good! Glad to see you are willing to hear me out. Here is my question: When you consider God, do you think of him in the second person or in the third person? Is God a “you” or a “he”? I ask this question because I have recently realized something about my own relationship with God and I think the answer to this question makes a big difference.
Pastor confession time: I think of God in the third person, as a “he,” all of the time. There is a good reason for me to talk about God in the third person. Primarily, I am always talking about God to other people. I talk about him in sermons, in newsletter articles, when I’m answering questions, and in so many other ways. What I do far less is talk TO God, as a “you.”
What I am admitting to is that I talk about God more than I talk to God. What about you?
After God brings his people out of Egypt, they build a tabernacle: a special tent-like structure which defines the space of worship for Israel. Outside of it is normal space, but inside the space becomes progressively more holy until one goes, or rather, does NOT go, into the Holy of Holies. Later on, under King Solomon, Israel builds a temple which fulfills this same purpose of defining the space of worship. In both, there was a curtain which shielded the Holy of Holies from the outside. Or, more accurately, it shielded the outside from the Holy of Holies. Both the tabernacle and the temple provided a barrier between God and his people. This protected the people because to stand in the full presence of God would mean certain death due to the stain of sin each on each human.
At the end of the Gospel of Mark, as Jesus dies, this curtain is torn in two. The tearing of the curtain symbolizes what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has accomplished. The barrier between God and his people has been destroyed. The price for our sin has been paid, we are washed clean, and able to dwell fully in the presence of God.
What this means, practically, is expressed in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
We get to go to God, face to face, just as Jesus does, and speak to him with no barrier between us at all. We can speak to God intimately, child to father, as “you.” “Dad, I am having a hard day. Would you please help?” “Dad, you are so good. Thank you for walking with me.” “Dad, tragedy has come crashing into my life. Why didn’t you stop it?”
Sometimes we can still feel a barrier there, despite the fact that God has torn it up and thrown it away. For instance, we might say, “I know that I can speak to God, but I don’t want to bother him with the little things.” There is nothing too small or mundane. Go to him with all of your life and speak to him.
Or we might say, “I’m not worthy to speak to him this way.” God is the judge of that, not us. And he has broken the barrier down. Go speak with him.
Or we might perhaps say, “I’m not sure I want to speak to him like this. Because if we are face to face, if I say something, he might say something back to me. He might expect something of me. I might feel convicted and I’d rather avoid that.” That’s true. When we speak to God face to face, there is every possibility that he’ll say something too. And he does expect something of us. He sees right through us, to our very core.
When I speak to other people about God, I can tell them of his graciousness. But when I speak to him, I think I’m worried I won’t be able to hide who I really am. Part of me wants to keep the barrier so I can hide behind it.
Maybe that resonates with you, maybe not. But if it does, let me tell you what I need to hear. There is no hiding from God. There are no barriers. He sees you, knows you, and wants to speak with you face to face. Not so he can let you know how disappointed he is that you still aren’t better than you are, but so he can tell you that you are forgiven, that he is at work in you, that the problems and the sin and the garbage which still fill your life have already been buried with Christ. Stop holding onto them and go speak to your father, face to face, you to you.
- Get to know Pastor Ben and Emanuel St. John's a bit better by visiting the church's website!
- Which do you find yourself doing more: talking ABOUT God or talking TO God?
- What most prevents you from letting down the barrier between you and God?