A Solemn Assembly
June 16, 2009 
Trumpet Horn call by Joel (Music led by Joel)
Reading of the 10 Commandments (Reader : Ken Davis)
Baptism of William Royce
Reading of the Beatitudes (Reader Monty Gorley)
Call to order of the Solemn Assembly using the Shofar
A time of Reflection of God’s grace and goodness (Audience questions)
- What are some times in your history that God was Good to you?
- What were some times that God has shown His favor on this Church?
- What were some times that God has turned the tide of danger away and saved you?
One woman was recounting an experience she had in an article she wrote. She said…“My doctor had recommended surgery and referred me to a specialist. Arriving early for my appointment, I found the door unlocked and the young surgeon, deeply engrossed in reading, behind the receptionist’s desk. When he didn’t hear me come in, I cleared my throat. Startled, he closed the book, which I recognized as a Bible. I asked. “Does reading the Bible help you before or after an operation?” My fears were dispelled by his soft, one-word answer: “During.”” [i]
You have been called tonight to a very special night. A night of Solemn Assembly… And in this time I want you to hear the alarm! Twice Joel says: “Blow the trumpet in Zion!” (verse 1 & 15). He actually says: “Blow the Shofar in Zion!” A Shofar is a ram’s or bull’s horn that sounded to warn or call together the people of Israel. [play shofar sound]
Now Joel says twice to blow the shofar in this passage, but for two different but related reasons.
1. Sound the Alarm: Judgment is Coming!
Some of you may have heard of the pastor by the name of Will Willimon’s. He served a little church in rural Georgia. One Saturday he went to a funeral in a little country church that was not of his particular denominational flavor. He had grown up in a big downtown church and had never been to a funeral like this one. The casket was open, and the funeral consisted of a sermon by their preacher. The preacher pounded on the pulpit and looked over at the casket. He said, "It’s too late for ole Bob. He might have wanted to get his life together. He might have wanted to spend more time with his family. He might have wanted to do that, but he’s dead now. It is too late for him, but it is not too late for you. There is still time for you. You still can decide. You are still alive. It is not too late for you. Today is the day of decision."
Then the preacher told how a Greyhound bus had run into a funeral procession once on the way to the cemetery, and how that could happen today. He said, "You should decide today. Today is the day to get your life together. Too late for old Bob, but it’s not too late for you."
Willimon writes: “I was so angry at that preacher. On the way home, I told my wife, "Have you ever seen anything as manipulative and insensitive to that poor family? I found it disgusting." She said, "I’ve never heard anything like that. It was manipulative. It was disgusting. It was insensitive. Worst of all, it was all true." [ii]
The Prophet Joel is an insensitive preacher at a funeral… He seems to be kicking an already discouraged people while they are down. Chapter one is about a how a Swarm of locusts had swooped in and devastated their crops.
“Cry out to God,” Joel told the shell shocked people of the land. “This plague should serve as a wake up call for us!” And if that message wasn’t shrill enough, Joel follows it up with a prophetic horn blowing in chapter two.
1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand- 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.
Blow the Shofar!
Another army is approaching… this one not of locust but men… who attack, very much like the locusts in chapter one, scaling walls and entering houses… and this too will be a “Day of the Lord.” But we must admit, an army of locusts is far less frightening than a vicious invading army.
Verses 11 Reveals that this army has as its commander and chief: the Lord Himself!”
Joel concludes: “the day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?”
Quick: What do you think of when I say the word: “Joy?” Perhaps images of puppies, Ocean Beach Walks and Mountain springs in the sun come to mind. How about when I say the word: “Judgment?” Maybe a slap on the wrist, the sound of a gavel or perhaps the slamming of a jail cell door. We humans like joy… but judgment? Not so much. And so often Christians want to talk about the Joy and ignore the coming Judgment. We want to be known as loving. And that’s sweet… It is part of the responsibility of God’s church to warn that there are consequences to sin… one of which is a future judgment.
Timothy Keller in his marvelous book: “The Reason for God,” answers the skeptic’s question: “Because Christians think there are consequences to sin… including judgment… does that make them narrow minded?” He uses this analogy: “Imagine two people arguing over the nature of a cookie. Jack thinks the cookie is poison, and Jill thinks it is not. Jack thinks Jill’s mistaken view of the cookie will send her to the hospital or the morgue. Jill thinks Jack’s mistaken view of the cookie will keep him from having a fine dessert. Is Jack more narrow-minded than Jill just because he thinks the consequences are more dire? I don’t believe anyone would think so. Christians, aren’t more narrow-minded because they think wrong thinking and wrong behavior have eternal effects. [iii]
Sounding the alarm can be a very loving thing to do! “Don’t eat that cookie!” is a much better thing for us to exclaim than “Call an ambulance!” So: Admonish the alcoholic …that if he doesn’t get treatment he will destroy his family. Warn your children about the effects of drugs and alcohol. Tell your neighbor that an affair is not a harmless thing, but something he or she will regret for rest of his or her life. Warn your friend about the consequences of sex outside of marriage. Tell everyone, that we have all sinned and fall short of standard set by a holy God.
Sound the alarm! Judgment is coming! "The worst industrial accident in history occurred on April 26, 1986, in the town of Chernobyl in north central Ukraine of the former Soviet Union. It was caused by two electrical engineers who were playing around with one of the nuclear reactors. They were conducting an unauthorized experiment trying to see how long a turbine would freewheel (or keep spinning) when the power was turned off.
To do this, they had to manually override 6 separate computer-driven alarm systems. Each time the computer would warn, ’Stop! Dangerous! Go no further!’ Each time the warning was foolishly disregarded. The end result was a major explosion, 31 immediate deaths, untold eventual deaths, and the release of 100 million curies of radionuclide (or units of radio active material) into the atmosphere that circulated worldwide. Only time will determine the full extent and destruction of the accident. The problem is that" Often, we are just like those foolish engineers who failed to heed the warning given to us by the Holy Spirit: ’Stop! Dangerous! Go no further!’
As a result, there comes a point when our restlessness and refusal to listen to the Spirit’s warning leads us to cross the line from restlessness to rebellion." [iv]
My friend, are you crossing that line? Have you heard the shofar sound its warning…? Hear the shofar call you to repent. But there is another alarm sounded in this chapter.
2. Sound the Alarm: Gather to Repent
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a solemn 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 temple porch and the altar. Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD. Now this is not a cry of warning, but a call to repentance. It is an appeal to a holy, yet compassionate God for mercy.
If we are going to be so bold as to sound the alarm that judgment is coming… we better sound the alarm that mercy is available. You know… words about judgment are not that popular in today’s world. People think religion is all about judgment and condemnation. People condemn themselves for the evil they know they’ve done in their own hearts.
But do the people in your world know that there is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those that are in Christ Jesus?
If we would faithfully sound the second shofar… we would find more listeners. Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are called to be a people of hope.
Now where is the hope in Joel 2? Well God speaks for the first time in Joel in verse 12. What He says there reveals His heart…
12 "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." God says “Even now” I will hold back judgment… even now, I will forgive sin… God is a God of the second and the third chances and 5,258th chance… If we will turn to Him… and we are genuine about it… God will hear us…Christians are of no better stripe than anyone else… some come from shameful backgrounds. The difference IS NOT found in our ability to refrain from sinning, my friend… but in our humility to let God forgive our sin addiction. Even now, God says, I will forgive. Joel speaks after God does and says: “Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, and relenting of evil.” Can you feel the hope Joel is adding to the message of Judgment? Nothing is ever a lost cause. No judgment is ever final as long as there is God… for it is His nature to forgive. And the pardon he offers is total and complete.
Tonight is a call to repentance: As we come to the final segment of our evening. This is probably the most important of all. This is why God has called us to be here tonight. The lights will be dimmed and I ask you to get into a position physically that is most comfortable to speak with God. That may be sitting It may be standing with hands held high. It maybe with your face prostrate on the rug or on the seat of the pew you are sitting in
This is a time of Private and public confession. This is a time to pray in silence and out loud. This is a time of Repentance. It is a time of Sorrow and Joy. It is a time to shout out your praise to God who offers mercy. It is a time to cry out to God who disciplines with judgment. It is a time of giving yourself over to the God of Creation and asking him to cleanse you from top to bottom. It is a time to announce your struggle with Him, with your brother, with your neighbor … maybe just in the silence of your mind. I am not asking you to confess your sin before others if you choose not… What God is asking of you tonight is to be real. I am asking you to be real. God’s words are this: It is better to obey then to sacrifice This is not a show. This is not a stage show of who can confess more, wilder, bigger sin that their neighbor. This is a time between You and your presence in the Throne Room of the Holy God of Creation and no one else. This is a time of cleansing the Church and preparing the way for Him to come in and do a mighty work like He has never done before. The Father wants to sweep the dust and dirt out of the church, Scrub her clean so He can make her presentable----the very bride of Christ. Presentable to His Son… The Bridegroom. Does He care if you are feeling humiliated tonight? No He wants you clean. Whatever it takes…. Pure And spotless.
Lets go to the Lord and begin to be cleansed by the confession of our hearts So that he can make us bright and new again. Confess : my sin of not putting You first in my life all the time. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.[v]
Do you worry about anything? Have you failed to thank God for all the things, The seemingly bad as well as the good? Do you neglect to give thanks in the simplest things… like meal time?
Ephesians 3:20 (NIV) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, [vi] Do you ever fail to attempt things for God because you are not talented enough? How about feelings of inferiority … are they keeping you from trying to serve God? When you do accomplish something for Christ, do you fail to give him the glory?
Acts 1:8 (NIV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”[vii] How has your witness been lately for Christ? Have you felt it was enough to just live your faith And not witness with your mouth to the Lost?
Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. [viii] Do you ever use filthy language, Tell slightly off-color jokes? Do you condone others doing so in your presence, in your home? How about certain words that are not really expectable in church… Do you use them outside?
Intro to communion
When you have finally come to a place where you believe that you have confessed before the Lord what he has convicted you of, the things that you might have harbored, The things that have hurt your relationship with Him \ With your spouse/ With your children/ With your neighbor, With your boss/ With your teachers/ With your enemy.
Come to the table and break the fast you have participated in to day. Whether that fast was from the moment you awoke. Or whether it was partial meals you fasted from. Or whether you needed to fast from something other than food today due to your health. Or whether your fast simply began the moment you walked through the church building doors tonight. All are welcome to the table of the Lord. Take part in the meal he provides you tonight. In solemn quietness. Take the bread from the loaf and break it. Take a large piece. You are hungry. Don’t be shy. The Father wants to bless you. Take a cup of juice. Drink it. All of it. This bread is his body The cup is his blood
[i] [Eleanor Schmidt, in Reader’s Digest] http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=128554&libronix=1…
[ii] - Will Willimon, in his sermon "The Writing on the Wall," PreachingToday.com
[iii] - Timothy Keller (The Reason For God, pp. 80-81.)
[iv] - Jerry Sutton (The Way Back Home (Broadman & Holman)
[v] Tyndale House Publishers. (2004). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. (2nd ed.). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.
[vi] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
[vii] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
[viii] Tyndale House Publishers. (2004). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. (2nd ed.). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.