By The Rev. Father Slewion Lewis, Priest-in-Charge, Emmanuel Chapel, Marshall City
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us and fill this place with your presence. As I now speak to your people, I pray that you increase while I decrease. Take more of me Lord and give me more of you. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen!
Good morning to all, and a happy Lord’s Day. I bring you all warm Christian greetings from Emmanuel Chapel in Marshall City and St. Augustine in Kakata City, both of Margibi County where I currently serve as Priest-In-Charge and Interim-Priest respectively. I also bring you greetings from my darling wife, Reggie and our children and in my own name as your preacher this morning. I tried to avoid using the term “Guest Preacher,” because my family and I consider ourselves part and parcel of this church. And as we worship with you this morning, words are insufficient for us to express how happy we are to be back home.
For some of you who may not know, this church was where I served as Priest-In-Charge prior to my trip abroad for my Master’s degree. I want to extend a very big thank you to Fr. Woart, who succeeded me as Priest-In-Charge; Rev. Siede Williams, the current Priest-In-Charge; the Bishop’s Committee; and you, the dedicated and committed members of this church, for your sacrifices and dedication in keeping the doors of this church open. I encourage you all to continue the good work, cognizant of the fact that your labor for the Lord will not be in vain.
Today is the Seventh Sunday of Easter and the Sunday after Ascension Day and before Pentecost Sunday. For those of you who may not know, last Thursday was Ascension Day, the day Jesus ascended into heaven forty days after his resurrection; and next Sunday will be Pentecost Sunday, the day the promised Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit, descended upon the disciples fifty days after Easter. And for our reflection this morning, our Church Fathers through the Lectionary placed before us readings from the books of Ezekiel/Acts, I Peter and the Gospel of St. John. But for the purpose of this Home Coming celebration, the Organizing Committee selected Nehemiah 2:17-18 as the text for this celebration with the theme: “Let Us Build Christ Church in Totality.”
Therefore, for my sermon this morning I will speak to you on the theme and text for this program, “Let Us Build Christ Church in Totality” (Nehemiah 2:17-18). Please allow me to read it for your hearing.
The call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was made by Nehemiah upon his return to Jerusalem and having seen the walls and the city lying in ruins. Jerusalem was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and for many years the city was lying in ruins and abandoned by its people. Nehemiah, being a true son of Jerusalem and by divine sanction, mobilized the people of Jerusalem to join him in rebuilding the walls of the city. Nehemiah was successful in his campaign despite some oppositions and criticisms because he depended on God and was prayerful.
Today, like Jerusalem, our beloved Christ Church is declining and dying slowly. Like the walls of Jerusalem that was lying in ruins, the membership of our dear Christ Church is dropping and members are not active like before. Like the city of Jerusalem that was deserted and abandoned by its own people, our beloved Christ Church is being abandoned and deserted by some of its members, leaving the church with only the faithful few. Today, like the city of Jerusalem with all its noblemen that was abandoned, Christ Church is being abandoned today by its own noblemen and women, even those who are in the position to rebuild this church and do something for this church. But I stop by this morning to let you know that Christ Church will rise again. This church will grow and the devil will neither kill nor steal the dreams of this church. Whether you get on board or stay away, Christ Church will rise again because the gates of hell will not prevail over this church.
I therefore join the organizing committee of this year’s Home Coming celebration to call on you all to join the campaign and let us rebuild Christ Church in totality. We can make it and by the grace of God we will do it. The question now is, How Can We Rebuild Christ Church in Totality? I will share with you three ways in which we can do this.
- Like Nehemiah we need to depend on God and God alone: Only God can do it for us. Our big names will fail us. Our contacts and connections in the church and society will let us down.
Some of our own people who are from this church and are in the position to do for this church will disappoint us. But the God we serve will never fail us nor let us down. So let us trust him and depend on him alone as we strive to rebuild this church. For Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to always trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways we should acknowledge Him and He will make straight our paths. So total and deep dependence on God is all we need in our efforts to rebuild Christ Church. Remember, there is nothing too hard for the God we serve. He did it for other churches; He can certainly do the same for Christ Church, because with Him all things are possible.
- In addition to depending on God, we can also build Christ Church in totality if we lift Christ Church in our prayers. Prayer is the key to our problems. And when we as a church cultivate the attitude of praying faithfully for this church, God will do the impossible. So in our quest to rebuild Christ Church, we should always pray for Christ Church because our prayers offered through faith can move mountains. In our family devotions let us remember Christ Church. In our individual private prayers let us pray for Christ Church. In our corporate prayers let us lift Christ Church up and see what the Lord will do. Prayer is our weapon as Christians and by and through prayers we can do the impossible. For the Apostle Paul admonished us in Philippians 4:6 to not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and supplication and with thanksgiving, let us present our request to God. Jesus also, in St. Mark 11:24, assures us that if we pray and believe in him, whatsoever we ask for will be given to us. Therefore, in our stride to rebuild this great church, let us get on our knees and take it to the Lord in prayer. For the songwriter says, and I quote:
“Are we weak and heavy laden?
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, stay our refuge
Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
The song writer didn’t stop there but went on to say;
“Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou will find a solace there.”
III. Lastly, in our efforts to rebuild Christ Church, the commitment and involvement of all will be required. Together we can rebuild this church. It is not the work of only some of us, but all of us. The time of sitting on the fence and leaving the work with only a few has past; it is time now that all hands get on deck if we really want to rebuild Christ Church. The process of rebuilding this church will involve the men, the women, the youth, the rich and the poor; I mean every member if we indeed want to succeed. So let us stop the ‘plenty talking.’ Let us stop the too much of criticisms and backbiting.
Let us stop the too much of gossiping and blend our efforts, energies and resources in order to rebuild this church. Together we can make it.
As I conclude, may I declare and decree by faith that Christ Church will rise again. This rejected stone will one day be the chief cornerstone. This abandoned church will one day by the grace of God be the beacon of hope for other churches within the Episcopal Church of Liberia. And as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied to the nation of Israel, so I prophesy to you today that churches will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. And you the community of Christ Church will be called by a new name that the Lord himself will bestow on you.
Thank you for inviting me and my family to celebrate this day with you, and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest and abide with us all. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen!