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April 12, 2001 (Maundy Thursday)
by Tony Grant
Our scripture tonight is from the book of Hebrews, chapter 10, vs 16-25. Hear what the spirit says to us.
16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
21 And having an high priest over the house of God;
22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Amen. The Word of God. Thanks be to God.
One of the most bizarre bits of trivia from WWII is that a truck sank a German U-boat. The U-boat in question attacked a convoy in the Atlantic and then rose to see the effect. The merchant ship it sank had material strapped to its deck including a fleet of trucks, one of which was thrown in the air by the explosion. By the most improbably of chances, the truck landed on the sub, tore a whole through it and put it on the bottom. [WWII Almanac, FunTrivia.com.]
America has always had a love affair with trucks, and that love affair is about to hit the record books. We used to crave cars, and weren't so passionate about pickups. Back in the 1960s, Detroit sold a whopping 8.5 million cars for every 1 million light trucks. But check your rearview mirror today, and you can see a change. Annual sales of light trucks are at the 7 million mark and could soon surpass cars for the first time in history.
This is curious, especially given the fact that 100 years ago people had a hard time figuring out what the point of a truck was. In 1898, the Winton Motor Carriage Company produced the first American truck, a gas-powered delivery wagon. But 12 years later, there were only 11,000 trucks on the road, compared to 450,000 cars.
One reason was that business people couldn't see the advantage. A truck was often more expensive to operate than a horse-drawn wagon. Several dairies in New York City found that trucks were inferior for home milk delivery because the ordinary milk horse was a well-trained and intelligent animal, able to move unattended from door to door while the driver was delivering the bottles. Could a truck do this? No way. Another reason was that businesses already had a vast network of investments in horse-drawn transportation. They owned not only horses, but stables, wagons, tack and other gear. Businesses didn't want to chuck that investment for something unproved, and expensive.
In 1910, however, the Mack Truck Company figured out that trucks were great for hauling telephone poles, using augers to drill the holes for the poles and winches to string the wire between the poles - and the trucking revolution was on!
It's now been a couple thousand years since the church came into being. And unfortunately, you don't have to go very far to find people who will argue that the church hasn't been much good - in fact, they'll say it's done more harm than good. Like early critics of gasoline-powered delivery wagons, they'll point out that the church is expensive ... and inefficient ... and subject to breakdowns ... and noisy ... and sometimes even rather foul-smelling.
But, like the Mack Truck Company, we know what the church is good for: Carrying stuff.
Today's passage from Hebrews reveals that the essence of what the church does is carry cargo. We get this mission from Jesus Christ, the one who was the prototypical trucker - the Savior who took the heavy load of our guilt upon himself and hauled the full weight of our sins into oblivion.
Hebrews 10:12 says Christ "offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins." Because of that sacrifice, we don't have to haul that particular load any longer. We can fly past life's weigh stations and blow through its tollbooths.
But still our call is to carry cargo, in the truck called the church. Our community is not a finely tuned sports car or a luxuriously appointed sedan, but is instead a mud-flapped, roll-barred, banged-up, load-hauling truck. We're to use this vehicle to drive ourselves to God in faith and worship. Thus v25 says, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another." We are to use this truck to carry forward the full weight of our hope . V 23 says, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." We are also to use the church truck to do the hard work of helping others in love. V 24 says, "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." Our job is to perform good deeds, meet together regularly, encourage one another and do whatever we can to help each other function in love as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps it's time, on Maundy Thursday, to confess we have not been a truckin' church. We haven't carried out our responsibilities to lift up the oppressed, to bring hope to the hopeless and to bear one another's burdens. We have failed to respond to the mandate that is at the heart of Maundy Thursday - namely, the commandment of Christ to "love one another" (John 13:34).
There's nothing plush about this love. It's not a ride in a luxury sedan with stereo sound and soft leather seats. This is the down-and-dirty love that Jesus showed when he grabbed a towel, hit the floor and washed the disciples' feet.
Truckin' love is a key commandment in the New Testament concerning our behavior as a church. It involves carrying stuff, working hard and getting ourselves dirty in the process. A comfy little four-door car of a church simply won't get the job done.
Unfortunately, people miss this divine directive - both inside and outside the community of faith. Insiders are like the enthusiastic car buyers of the 1960s, folks who want their own set of wheels so they can scoot around town in their own private and personal relationship with Jesus. They fall into the trap of "neglecting to meet together" - which Hebrews warns us about in v. 25--and fail to encourage one another in the community of faith.
Outsiders don't do much better. They see the church as a cumbersome contraption and criticize it in the same language used by opponents of early trucks, saying it is expensive, inefficient and unreliable. But these critics miss what the community of faith can do.
It is in the worship of the church that we find forgiveness, being reminded on every sabbath that Christ has hauled away our sins. It is in the fellowship of the church that we find encouragement, as we "provoke one another to love and good deeds" (v. 24). It is in the mission of the church that we help others in love, reaching out to meet their physical, emotional, relational, mental and spiritual needs.
"To have a faith without any good works is no faith at all," says Patrick Morley in his best-selling book The Man in the Mirror. Faith alone is just a pleasure ride - far from the truckin' experience of Christian faith combined with good works. God didn't give us salvation for our benefit alone. God has a job description for every one of us, which includes the challenge of good works. The areas in which God wants our service are evangelism, disciple-making and caring for the poor and needy.
"This is God's agenda," insists Morley. "We try to make it more complicated, but these are the three tasks God wants us to help him with."
Evangelism, disciple-making and caring for the poor and needy. These are big jobs, jobs that only a community can do. Jobs that require a truckin' church.
Evangelism. Go back to the Mack truck of 1910. Remember that the new Mack truck was great for hauling telephone poles using augers to drill the holes for the poles, and winches to string the wire between the poles. These trucks went out on the nation's highways and dug holes. That's the truckin' dimension of evangelism - preparing the ground for something needed and new.
Disciple-making. The poles were set in the ground with a built-in crane. That's the second function of a church that's on a mission: helping others to learn about Christ and follow him. Setting and grounding disciples in a "new and living way" (v. 20).
Caring for the poor and needy. The 1910-era Mack truck also had a power winch that would string wires from pole to pole, connecting the community and enabling the entire system to perform its mission. Christians - like telephone poles - need to be tied tightly together before they can do the job they've been created to do.
Of course, both trucks and churches can do more than this. Unfortunately, they can also do less.
Think about it. Trucks used to be all about hard work, getting' the job done. You got your red 1952 Chevy with vinyl seat, 4-speed stick shift and a radio. No power steering or power brakes. That was a truck! Now you got your $40,000 pickup, a cowboy Cadillac that's fully automated with power steering, brakes, windows and what-not. It's air-conditioned with a CD player, and you sit in leather seats. You put a protector in the back so the flatbed won't get scratched. And, of course, there're a couple cup holders and a pouch for your cell phone. Girls are even driving trucks that are lavender and smell pretty. Trucks used to be all about blood, sweat and tears. Now some of them are about show and tell.
This is a fate that we in the church must avoid. We need to remember our purpose and mission. The church is a workhorse, not a show horse; a truck, not a car with pretensions of truckness.
If that's not true of us, then on this Maundy Thursday, we've got sins to confess and commandments to obey. Amen.
Evanoff, Ted. "Light trucks may soon pass cars in sales." Detroit Free Press, January 5, 1998.
Morley, Patrick. The Man in the Mirror. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1997, 212-213.
Reich, Leonard. "The dawn of the truck." Invention & Technology. Fall, 2000, 18-25
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2000 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last modified, 04/26/01